Why Only Apple Can Promise a Better Experience to Customers Every Year

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Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president, software engineering, discusses the Mountain Lion operating system

It doesn’t matter what your opinion of Apple is. It’s the only tech company in the world that can make a specific promise to its customers.

The promise is that every year, without needing to buy new hardware, your experience will get better. The way it delivers upon that promise is by releasing new software innovations for all its hardware (Macs, iPhones, iPads, etc.) on an annual basis. If you’re an Apple customer, you can expect that every single year Apple will look to solve current and future problems by making your computing products more useful and more functional through software updates.

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This is not something we can say about every company with a software platform. Google struggles immensely with this promise: even a year after its most recent software release, less than 10% of Android devices are running the latest software.

Microsoft has had a better history of getting new software into the hands of its customers at the time of release, but its software updates are released every three years or more when it comes to Windows and every two years or so when it comes to its mobile software.

For latest-generation software releases, Google and Microsoft face the same issue: since they both license their operating systems to independent third parties, it’s nearly impossible to promise that those hardware companies will be ready to support every new software release.

Because Apple controls its end-to-end user experience, it can make such promises.

Making Our Devices More Useful
What stands out to me as I look at the next Mac operating system, Mountain Lion, and the next iPad and iPhone operating system, iOS 6, is how Apple is focused on practical innovations and features. Many of the features it announced are extremely practical and useful. I believe this has a tremendous amount of value for many customers.

Take, for example, the advancements in the phone features. When a phone call comes in, you’ll be able to ignore it and automatically send a text message to the caller or set a reminder to call the person back. All with the quick touch of a button. This is extremely useful.

Or take the new feature in Safari called iCloud tabs. It allows you to bring up a website on your Mac and then move to your iPad or iPhone and pull up that same website with the touch of a button. This is an extremely useful feature and one that you’ll appreciate if you Safari on a computer and an iPad or iPhone frequently.

With these new features in Mountain Lion and iOS, Apple has demonstrated that it’s interested in solving real-world problems for its customers.

This is the fundamental reason Apple is leading when it comes to next-generation mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The company seems genuinely interested in solving problems and making devices like smart phones, tablets and computers more useful and functional for everyday customers.

Siri Gets Smarter
Think what you will of your experience with Siri, but the service is about to get a lot more useful.

The first iteration of Siri tends to be interesting and even novel — I use it mostly to set reminders and automate certain tasks — but the impeding update seems to add a lot more functionality. When I watched the updated Siri demo, I saw many things that resonated with me as features I would find useful and practical — like getting sports scores and players’ stats. Or searching for restaurants and making reservations, all from within Siri. These are the kinds of useful and functional features that Apple has been focused on for its next major software release.

With this promise that Apple is delivering upon — that every year it will improve your experience through software — it seems hard to make a strong case for why consumers shouldn’t invest in the Apple ecosystem.

Unique Innovations for Each Market
Lastly, something that I think has been largely missed is how Apple is uniquely innovating for a region like China. Solving next-generation personal-computing problems is no trivial task, let alone looking to solve them uniquely for each region. When it comes to China, this is exactly what Apple is doing.

I expect that Apple’s growth in China is not by coincidence, but because of its approach to uniquely innovate and solve region-specific problems through the use of software. This is something, again, that every Apple customer in every part of the world can be confident in. Apple will look to make your experience better through software every single year.

Time will tell how Apple’s competitors respond. My opinion is that they’re focused on other things like just getting a software release out the door or trying to get support for their latest operating systems. Apple doesn’t have those problems, so it can focus on solving current and future problems for its customers.

In the end, I believe the market will appreciate Apple’s attention to detail and its desire to bring customers the most innovative software on an annual basis.

MORE: 6 Reasons Apple Is So Successful

Bajarin is the director of consumer technology analysis and research at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley.