Cocoa and Objective-C: Up and Running (by me) is now available from O'Reilly.

Apple's Secret Ingredient

If you look at what Apple's done over the last few years, there's an almost absurd amount of fresh thinking and major leaps forward. At some points along the timeline, things just seem to magically click together at the right places.

I'm not the only one who's spent some time thinking about how you orchestrate this sort of thing, but every time I tried to reduce it to some formula or strategy, it would just fall apart. There was some major conceptual leap missing.

There are some concrete elements. Apple's good at starting with something simple and gradually building on that base to create something great. You can see that in the hardware, the OS, the apps, the frameworks, even the retail stores. This isn't the whole story, though. If anything, these are just shadows of some more fundamental idea.

Then, by accident, I had a moment of clarity.

I was listening to Steve Jobs's commencement speech at Stanford from last year. In the speech, he describes three events from his life: dropping out of college, being fired from Apple, and facing death.

The message in each of these is tune into your intuition, tune out all the noise from everyone else, and trust that something is pulling you in the right direction. It's not an entirely new idea, but it's put very bluntly.

The Secret

Apple's biggest successes in the last few years weren't sure things at the start. They were not the first in town to do a music app or a portable music player. When Apple's music products did show up, they were Mac-only for a while.

Mac OS X was so radically different than Mac OS 9 that some thought the whole project was nuts. I mean, who tries to base a consumer computer on Unix? Taking on Avid directly with Final Cut Pro? Switching to Intel? Opening a chain of retail stores? These guys are insane! Somehow, though, all of this paid off.

So what's the secret? Why is Apple zooming along at full speed when others are stuck in the parking lot? I think the key is, simply, fearlessness. Over and over again, they choose something that feels right and they pursue until it either succeeds or is no longer interesting. It's intuition.

In Practice

I don't think Apple had any idea if selling TV shows on iTunes was going to work, but they didn't seem to worry too much about it. They released a video-capable iPod, some video content, and let things come together.

Fearlessness is what has allowed Apple to ship five major versions of Mac OS X since 2001, countless major versions of desktop apps, and engineer a complete revolution in the music industry.

The iMac had no floppy drive, no ADB, no serial port. If Apple had caved to concerns of what people would think, we might still be using all of these things. For that matter, if Apple gave up entirely ten years ago, most of us would probably be using Windows.

Remember when the industry consensus was that the desktop computer's death was imminent, and was going to be replaced by a series of specialized devices? Instead of being reactive, Apple responded with iLife, which put the computer at the center of all of these devices.

Watching a WWDC feedback session can be pretty interesting case study of all of this. Audience members stand up and talk about what they think is right or wrong about the Mac (usually, what they think is wrong). The Apple employees often answer with "thanks for the feedback," or "it's fixed but not in the version you have," but occasionally, they'll actually stand there tell you why they think the approach they decided on is right.

Even if you disagree with it, you often have to respect the fact that somebody sat down to try to make things better, even if it meant defending the idea to critics.

Bottom Line

Fearlessness allows you set aside all ideas of what people might think and focus on what feels right instinctively. Without that sort of conviction, there wouldn't be Mac OS X, the iPod, or even the Mac.

Google is one of the few other large companies that really gets this. They have different priorities and techniques, but they have the same spirit as Apple.

People drive themselves crazy trying to figure out why Google does the various things it does. While I'm sure the folks at Google have a fundamental idea of what the company should be, I don't think they always have a precise, calculated reason for each step they take. It just seems right, so they take a chance.

All of this comes easily to small companies because there's just not much to lose. It's harder to keep that culture in big organizations, where it seems like there is something to lose. Maybe that's the real trap. Apple and Google seem to get it. And that is why the other big guys so nervous.

(By the way, this post was written with WriteRoom. I'm officially a fan.)
Design Element
Apple's Secret Ingredient
Posted Sep 02, 2006 — 48 comments below




 

Carl — Sep 02, 06 1690

I too am a big fan of WriteRoom. Everybody should use that thing. I bought Mori just out of appreciation for it.

Joe — Sep 02, 06 1691

The one big problem I see with this write-up is that you claim Apple has put out 'five' major upgrades to MacOS X. Now it is all fine and dandy to put out a couple of minor updates, call it a major version, and charge your customers for that... but in all honestly it really isn't something to brag about.

Microsoft alone has put out nearly 14 major versions of the various windows operating systems and all along has offered all of the changes and updates that Apple would charge you for.

Now I'm not Microsoft lover and I actually use both MacOS and Windows, but I have to say that point in your article makes you sound out of the loop and buying into their whole marketing scheme completely.

Scott Stevenson — Sep 02, 06 1692 Scotty the Leopard

Microsoft alone has put out nearly 14 major versions of the various windows operating systems and all along has offered all of the changes and updates that Apple would charge you for

Either we're talking about different things or we simply disagree. Panther was a major upgrade from Jaguar, Tiger was a major upgrade from Panther, and it looks as if Leopard will continue the tradition.

I've heard the argument that Microsoft gives service packs away for free, but these aren't service packs. Major new features, major new frameworks, and so on. Just because it's ".3" or ".4" doesn't mean it's minor.

paul — Sep 02, 06 1693

I just wanted to say - stunning design on the blog. Absolutely beautiful.

Christian Machmeier — Sep 03, 06 1694

I think the key is, simply, fearlessness.
True that! :D That precisely fits in my observations. It just seems as if the company has "only" the right people, working for them.

Joe — Sep 03, 06 1697

Scott can you explain to me how those were major versions? I'm just wondering because they have even less content than a Microsoft service pack.

And yes MS has put out many major versions and I'll list a couple but could easily go on: Windows Server 2003, Windows Professional x64, Windows Tablet Edition 2005 (if you try to claim this is not a huge difference than I'll have to laugh), Windows Media Center 2005... and the list goes on.

I love apple, I am an apple developer and use them at work a lot. The one thing that I don't like is how Steve Jobs gets up and spends almost his whole time talking at the conference bashing Microsoft while showing the most piss-poor update MacOS has seen. I was really hoping to see some revolutionary stuff at the conference but all I got was Microsoft bashing (especially the pure lies like how many Windows versions have come out, that Vista has stole key parts from Apple, etc)

Seriously.. RSS in an email client is a major 'OPERATING SYSTEM' feature. Give me a break this is a service pack that consumers have to pay for with a couple of application updates. The only thing that was actually any good on his list was that bootcamp will be built in.

Scott Stevenson — Sep 03, 06 1698 Scotty the Leopard

I'm just wondering because they have even less content than a Microsoft service pack.

Joe, it sounds like you've already made up your mind. Please don't take this as an insult, but it's not important to me to convince you.

The one thing that I don't like is how Steve Jobs gets up and spends almost his whole time talking at the conference bashing Microsoft

I think that's intended as fun jabs, not serious malice. You have to see it in the context of the whole history of Apple and Microsoft.

mynameistudor — Sep 03, 06 1699

Joe, which Windows XP service pack implemented anything as 'new feature'-like as the Dashboard? or iChat? or Bonjour (rendezvous)? or Exposé? or Xcode? or Spotlight? or Automator?

Micheal J — Sep 03, 06 1700

http://ianhenderson.org/megazoomer.html

This is a hack that allows you to make any Cocoa app full screen, it's a bit buggy with some apps but works great for me.

Billy K — Sep 03, 06 1701

It's true - Apple does what Apple thinks is best and they let the chips fall where they may. I think this has always been true, even in the 90s, and it hasn't always been successful. One word: Newton. OK, another word: QuickTake. They were right, and they follwed their gut, but these ones didn't quite work out.

Fred — Sep 03, 06 1702

Joe,
Maybe if Microsoft actually made money when they released a service pack, they would fix more bugs than they solve?
Apple charges for updates because they are worth it. We are willing to pay for it because they are great updates.
When you sit down at a XP SP0 machine, does it aggravate you because you are try to do something that is different in SP2? Because, I can barely stand to use 10.3 because I keep trying to use spotlight, dashboard or automator.

Fred — Sep 03, 06 1703

Joe,
Maybe if Microsoft actually made money when they released a service pack, they would fix more bugs than they solve?
Apple charges for updates because they are worth it. We are willing to pay for it because they are great updates.
When you sit down at a XP SP0 machine, does it aggravate you because you are try to do something that is different in SP2? Because, I can barely stand to use 10.3 because I keep trying to use spotlight, dashboard or automator.

Dan Price — Sep 03, 06 1706

Scott can you explain to me how those were major versions? I'm just wondering because they have even less content than a Microsoft service pack

Since the release of XP, we've had SP1 & SP2 and they were largely security patches owing to the rushed-nature of XP. Windows 2003 is XP Pro but without the crippling. The x64-versions cannot be described as a 'major' releases as they add no new functionality and the uptake has been very poor. Tablet and Media Center are versions of XP shoe-horned to work on hardware never intended to run a full OS. The other upgrades you mention were security patches. MS is very good at marketing multiple versions of a product, but it's still Windows. Vista is a fiasco.

Since 2001, Apple has given us WebKit, Rendezvous, Exposé, Fast User Switching, iChat AV video conferencing, Automator, Core Data, Core Animation, Core Audio, Core Image, Core Video, the iLife Suite, a much enhanced Safari, a whole bunch of new apps that come bundled on every Mac, Dashboard, BootCamp, Rosetta, Spotlight (WinFS eat-your-heart-out)...the list goes on. That's not to mention that fact that within a year they've ported EVERYTHING to a new architecture and completely revamped their product line.

If you used Jaguar, then Panther was a pretty major upgrade, as was Tiger. At least on par with the upgrade from NT to 2000, or 2000 to XP.

showing the most piss-poor update MacOS has seen

Time Machine, Spaces, full (and importantly transparent) 64bit support throughout the OS, Core Animation, Objective-C 2.0, Dashcode...what planet are you from? WWDC is about developer resources, not wizz-bang user features. And the upgrade cost is likely to be a mere £80 for the whole thing, next to the hundreds expected to be charged by MS for the 'home' version of Vista.

All we get from Microsoft is yet more 'critical' security patches, buggy beta-versions of far-off releases (Office '07, Vista), un-innovative and sprawling development frameworks (.Net) and the long-awaited upgrade for SQL Server. That's not to mention the half-hearted Origami and Zune.

In 5 years Apple has completely reinvented itself.

Steve-o — Sep 03, 06 1707

Did a post get deleted? I'm confused by these seemingly contextless comments.
Personally, I think the most important thing in Apple and indeed in every company (or individual) is the ability to

1. recognize a good idea

and

2. turn an idea into a reality ASAP.

I 'ave quite a few ideas worth a billion dollars, and I can say that without bravado or self-consciousness
not because I'm brilliant (or an egomaniac - Ed) *cough* yes, thank you Ed, but because I may not be good for much, but one of the things (if the only thing -Ed) I'm very good at is: introspection.

Particularly instropection of my conscious and subconscious desires.

(which everyone ought be good at to some degree, since all it really requires is understanding yourself and trusting that means you understand human beings)

To give you an example, when I was BBSing (pre-Web telecommunicating/playing games/downloading pics and programs with a modem)

BEGIN ASIDE: those that tell you the military/university Internet was the forerunner to the Web are full of it, The Web was based 100% on the BBS scene's elements (Gaming, Downloading and Communicating by modem)
END ASIDE.

Anyway, back then while BBSing I thought "this is the future - I want to chat on here, play games on here, DL programs, and ..I want to listen to music and watch TV on here"

You could chat, dl programs and play games already on the BBS scene.

so I talked to a friends father who was an inventor and he shot down the TV idea saying it was impossible because a TV signal couldn't be carried by telephone lines.

Too high a signal load or something like that he told me.

I was a kid so I trusted he knew what he was talking about; reluctantly dropped it after arguing with him for a bit, and eventually moved on.

Though I never forgot it because it was frustrating, I *knew* I had a good idea, I just couldn't figure out how to move on it.

but Flash forward to today and of course using _compression_ and _encoding_ we can indeed transfer TV shows over modems. Even Dialup.

Which means it could have been done on the BBS scene LONG ago.

Not only that but it's now a huge industry on its way to becoming a multi-billion dollar biz. And I thought of it first. or at least I was the first in my neighborhood. But it means nothing because you don't know my name nor will you in conjunction with that idea.

Today I have about 5 multi-billion dollar ideas derived from introspection, but essentially the same problem, I don't have the people around me (programmers or engineers for example) who can take one of my ideas and turn it into a working alpha virtually immediately.

I know I could try to do one of my ideas myself, you're thinking, just spend some time researching engineering or programming - but the problem as anyone who is either creative or highly logical will tell you is that it's very difficult to be both a creative person, and also be a highly trained logical/organized person. The best you can do at being both creative and logical in a linear fashion is to organize your desk by tossing everything into clearly labelled bins.

(or sweeping it off into the drawers or under the carpet - Ed)

*cough* Yes, thank you Ed. Go Away Ed.

My point being, I think Jobs and co at Apple's 'secret' is really twofold.

1. he has a high degree of introspective capability and looks for people with the same. (and as you say spot on above imo, he trusts himself/his instinct/his introspective capabilities)

COMBINED WITH

2. he has figured out that once you have introspected a good concept, what you really need is the people with the ability to turn it into reality ASAP.

Imo those are Apple/Job's 2 secret ingrediants.

***The symbiotic relationship between the creative team and the application-development team is spot on***

Here's the bit that will stun *some* people to 'ear said (aloud -Ed) I suspect:

Bill Gates' approach is almost identical to Steve Jobs'

but with an notable (and yet in terms of the bottom line) almost irrelevant exception:

MS have virtually no creative team, your witness: they almost exclusively unabashedly base their products on ideas from other people's products (IE from Mosaic/Netscape, Windows from Apple, et cetera)

BUT notice again, that creative bankruptcy doesn't correlate to Chapter 11 bankruptcy for Microsoft, why?

imo what Microsoft has that makes it a success is the same as Apple: the ability to

1. _recognize_ a good idea,

and

2. take that idea (whomever's idea) and turn it around into a product, ASAP.

That is the big secret trick of the big guys imo.

Setting your business up so that you can turn recognized-as-good ideas into products ASAP.

The trick in my observation is: the best companies respective head-honchos have figured out that optimally, you need to focus on having the creative and development departments working together as proficiently/symiotically as possible.

And that's my view.

Michael Maelstrom.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Earth, Sometimes.

Dan Price — Sep 03, 06 1709

Did a post get deleted? I'm confused by these seemingly contextless comments

Hmm! Looks like it. Did you do that Scott?

( sorry for that formating btw, I forget the /b )

Mr. Crane — Sep 03, 06 1710

Having worked for both Apple and Microsoft, I can tell you that the most direct difference between the two is leadership clarity. In the 80s and 90s at Microsoft, BillG = God ( Douglas Coupland did such a great job depicting in Microserfs). Microsoft lost that in clarity in 2000 when Bill stepped aside and left a massive leadership (clarity) vaccum.

Inversely Apple suffered from a leadership crisis until the return of Steve Jobs. Prior to his return, the company suffered from exactly the same issues Microsoft suffers from now. Since Steve's return, there is a total clarity ("Steve says so...") that keeps things flowing briliantly.

While it's a bit dictorial having Steve (or Bill) in charge, it does make things happen (without comittees, infinite focus groups or legal review) and "that has made all the difference".

As an employee, the secret ingrediant is clarity, especially in confusing and risky times.

Anonymous Coward — Sep 03, 06 1712

Maelstrom: you are a driveling idiot. You make no sense. _Encoding_ and _Compression_? RTFM.

2006

John — Sep 03, 06 1713

Wow, great arcticle. Your right, they have done crazy stuff, and that IS what's making them successful!

Jack Sparr — Sep 03, 06 1714

ANONYMOUS COWARD, Please go back to AOL or Myspace or AICN or whatever ass-rock you crawled out from you trolling flame-bait kiddie.

Good article, good insight.

Dot Dash — Sep 03, 06 1715

I hear Anonymous Coward thinks TV is broadcast directly onto the interTube.
Jack: Thanks 'mate! (for putting the garbage out)

Dot: HAHAHAHA! Love that "Tubes" reference.

Mr. Crane: That's an excellent point you make re the all important "Clarity" in leadership.

OK, so perhaps the secret is that there are a few secret ingrediants? :)

(and if you all knew what they ALL were, you'd all be running multi-billion-dollar businesses - Ed)

*cough* Yes, thank you Ed.

Ed would you step on the spot marked X and pull on this rope please.

(oh, I'm not falling for that AGAIN - Ed)

Pity.

As an aside, love Microserfs Mr. C - despite that at the time I was particularly NOT-enamoured with MS for their business tactics, it felt like I was there while reading it.

und dichotomously I wouldn't 'ave minded working there (though largely to meet the sort of _employees_ depicted in the book)

Have yet to check out J-Pod, I'm looking forward to it.

Michael.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Earth, Sometimes.

Derek — Sep 03, 06 1719

Walt Disney was the same way. When he started to put together Snow White, the first full-length animated feature, people thought he was nuts and called it "Walt's Folly." He bet the business on it because he thought it was time, and it paid off. Similarly, when he founded Disneyland 50 years ago, he faced lots of critics, mortgaged EVERYTHING (including his house if I remember correctly) to build it. By the time it opened, they were labeling the weeds because they ran out of money to complete the landscaping. But again, fearless, risk-taker Walt knew it was a good idea, and followed through.

There need to be more Walt's & Steve's out there that know what the public wants and gives it to them.

Scott Stevenson — Sep 03, 06 1722 Scotty the Leopard

Did a post get deleted? I'm confused by these seemingly contextless comments.

Not sure what happened but it's fixed now.

ronsta — Sep 03, 06 1724

hrm, fearlessness is good when it's calculated risk, which is apparently what Apple had the smarts to do this time.

don't forget, fearlessness led them to develop the Apple Newton too. innovative? sure. but companies aren't tasked with just inventing great products; they have to be introduced at the right time, with the right approach, to garner market share aware from competitors, or (as was the case with the ipod) lead the market for years to come.

so, no, it's not just fearlessness. it's calculated risk.

VTMuslim — Sep 03, 06 1725

Fearlessness??? Ok, I get it that Apple is willing to take risks while others are not. But the achievements you cite (such as 5 revisions of Mac OS X, video on iPod content, etc) are certainly not successes because a company has intuition and is willing to take risk! Apple does indeed do that, but well beyond that is its' ability to deliver complex products at high standards - and this is achieved by no less than hard-science practices such as following strict engineering practices, thorough qualification techniques, excellent management decisions, thorough market research and understanding, etc. "Fearlessness", "intuition" are fuzzy concepts that are worthless unless well executed and delivered... good shot, but no cigar...

bketchum — Sep 03, 06 1726

Scott Stevenson, well written, beautiful web site; Michael Maelstrom of Montreal, nicely added; and Mr. Crane, nice addition as well. This all has been the best Mac-related read in some time. Thank you.

lofi — Sep 04, 06 1727

is this an attempt to get Jobs to slip it to you or something?

JennyZ — Sep 04, 06 1728

The "secret" of their success is nothing of the sort of which you protest.

The truth is that they are a niche computer company selling a solid product to a small but dedicated audience with more than a gram of marketing flair.

The reason why windows cannot replicate the vast [and good!] changes from Apple computer is that they are too large. Microsoft have a *much* larger audience than Apple and are limited with what they can do to their systems. Apple's users will simply adjust to whatever changes come out of Cupertino.

Terry — Sep 04, 06 1730

Joe you say you are an Apple developer but I seriously doubt that. Other wise you would know what each upgrade provided in terms of features both above and below the hood but you obviously have no idea. On top of that you claim Microsoft has put out major upgrades which is laughable.

Dan Price — Sep 04, 06 1732

Jack, what's that about MySpace being an 'Ass Rock'? Hmm. I might have to kick your, erm, MySpace :P

Darby — Apr 19, 91 1733

I think the secret lies in the fact that Steve is the CEO of a tech company, and he's not a geek, he's a user, a true user.

I get the impression, that with all Apple's output there's SJ in the background, saying:

"No, don't put that feature in, keep it simple."
"You're losing sight of what [insert product] is used for, keep it simple."
"The user will never use that function, don't put it in."

Whereas at Microsoft, they come up with reasonable idea, and then a boat load of geeks jump on board and put as many features in as possible, and make said product as configurable as possible, thinking that more features = better product. What they end up with is a morass of features, cluttering up the product, making it confusing and difficult to use.

What Apple has is someone (SJ) who constantly reminds the software & hardware engineers who they are creating their product for, and keeps them in check by pulling them back from being to 'geeky'.

Allan Siew — Sep 04, 06 1734

Nice analysis!

Dan Price — Sep 04, 06 1735

Darby, it's not that MS are overkeen to add 'geeky' features through mindset; their business model depends on it. Apple is a product company - they design largely for the end user. But MS is a platform company and they design so that 3rd parties and their partners can take their products and add to them, creating an 'ecosystem'. Cramming they're 'base' products (example, Analysis Services 2k5) with functionality increases the likelyhood that some other company will come along and build their specialized product on top.

MS make their millions through licencing this technology to 3rd parties. It's a large and complex market that dwarfs Apple and it's developers and as such, it's slow to innovate and take risks. This above all else is the reason MS have such a hard time 'keep up' with Apple and Google.

Anonymous Bot — Sep 04, 06 1736

. . . Don't forget Quartz Extreme, for goodness sake! And filesystem journaling. And auto filesystem defrag. And X11. And xGrid, and xSan

When people say, "This is a piss poor update," it's obvious they don't have much appreciation for practical, helpful features like journaling and use of the 3d card to improve graphics draw speed. They're looking for features from the 24th century. Even Microsloth doesn't have these.

I'd like a holodeck too, but we're a few decades off yet.

Here's an idea for people who wince at having to pay $130 to Apple every couple years: stay one version back. 10.3 sells for $30 right now.

Bot

Blain — Sep 04, 06 1737

Good article, "amusing" flame war, but this secret ingredient seems to be more than fearlessness.

I'm going to punt in regards to declaring minor and major releases. I will note that Win2K is NT5.0, and XP is NT5.1, according to system versions. I will also note that MacOS 7.7 was renamed MacOS 8.0. I will finally note that I still have an advertisement CD for Copland, and it plays in Classic on 10.4 just fine.

Microsoft is fearless in its own right, as its attitude in the US antitrust trial is any indication, or in Xbox, or Zune, etc. This is not always a good thing or a bad thing.

Apple *has* had missteps due to fearlessness, and was able to admit fault in these. Cube cracks. Lack of CDR drives. The great G4 speed dump.

My theory is that Jobs did say it outright: he experienced life. He went the road less travelled. Calligraphy. Travelling. Being fired. He quoted the Whole Earth Catalog (I'm unable to get the exact quote) to "Stay hungry". A hungry life is not a complacent and well-sheltered one.

Look at the big names at Microsoft, and you'll notice that they're all management, and possibly software. That's it. Look at Apple past and present, and you'll see not only that, but artists and researchers. Atkinson. Kare. Kay. Raskin. Ive. Tevanian.

True, I know more Apple than MS in terms of people, but there is an artistic element, signs of varied backgrounds and viewpoints. More importantly, that those in Apple that have not programmed but designed toilet seats are listened to and are influential in the process.

Microsoft does have a R&D division. One of the finest in the world. But I'd wager almost nothing from there is ever payed attention to. They could even make a great, new, OS that would be suited to a small device. But it won't happen.

Microsoft's leadership has been raised with only the Dos/windows hammer, and have not been varied enough to try other things. All the world's a nail.

That, in my view, is the difference.

Scott Stevenson — Sep 04, 06 1738 Scotty the Leopard

Microsoft is fearless in its own right, as its attitude in the US antitrust trial is any indication, or in Xbox, or Zune, etc.

It's to talk about Zune since it's not out yet, and the antitrust trial is hard to classify, but certainly in terms of Xbox, their strategy has been to spend immense amounts of money. I'm not sure that's the same as being fearless.

Apple *has* had missteps due to fearlessness, and was able to admit fault in these. Cube cracks. Lack of CDR drives. The great G4 speed dump.

In terms of the CDR thing, Apple did admit to the oversight. Steve said something about it in an interview around the time iTunes starting taking off. He flatly admitted they messed up.

(I'm unable to get the exact quote) to "Stay hungry"

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Dan Miguel — Sep 05, 06 1739

Anyone who argues on a Mac developer blog that the Mac OS X revisions were somehow 'minor' should be immediately excluded from any argument, as such a person is laughably and sadly clueless about the Macintosh operating system, and cannot be taken seriously. Sorry to put it bluntly. Thought is free, and so is expression, but please don't waste space with totally uneducated opinions.

Samo Korosec — Sep 05, 06 1741

Comparing Microsoft's "upgrades" to Apple's upgrades without extrapolating for Microsoft's size and money they have at their disposal is a bit simplistic.

"Microsoft have a *much* larger audience than Apple and are limited with what they can do to their systems. Apple's users will simply adjust to whatever changes come out of Cupertino."

Microsoft's problem are not the customers, the customers adapt. Microsofts problem, imo, is the middle management that is basing their decisions on buzzwords and bad taste. As such, they don't attract the right kind of employees that can make something special. Microsoft is not a place that someone who has good ideas and is able to implement them wants to work. And even if they do, their ideas rarely make it past middle management.

teszeract — Sep 06, 06 1754

those who have studied some marketing will remember one of the (maybe simplistic, but true) classifications of companies.

You have market leaders & market followers.

This is not to say one is better than the other, because business success is the prime measure. If Sony can be considerd a market leader i.e. one who brings products to mass market first, then a company like Transonic is a market follower. Transonic also makes a lot of money from selling their products cheaper, not having taken the chanches on R&D and market research, and Sony can charge a premium on being first to market.

With MS, we have the more unusual situation of a market follower being more succesful in market penetration. MS folowed Sony's Playstation lead with the XBox.

Just my 2c.

Dewei — Sep 06, 06 1756

Great article and greater comments from u guys. Learnt a lot :) Keep up the good work!

Josh Schoenwald — Sep 07, 06 1760

I think Derek and Blain said it best:

derek:
There need to be more Walt's & Steve's out there that know what the public wants and gives it to them.

blain:
More importantly, that those in Apple that have not programmed but designed toilet seats are listened to and are influential in the process.

The secret to Apple's success is not fearlessness or aptitude for following intuition, it's understanding "the how" of people on a very fundamental level. it's understanding how they work. how they play. how they listen to music. how they take photos, etc. and by understanding I mean on a cognitive level, not a functional level.

It's easy to say things like, 'Most people who use a digital camera do this." Or, "These are the most popular features of most music players." You have to go way beyond that to understand how people use these products in their lives. That is to say, understanding how people are coping with complexities, because these coping mechanisms will point to generic patterns which spell out what's necessary to be successtul with a design.

To put is simply, Apple understands how people work (play, etc), and designs products which are centered around that understanding. Blain's comment is right on the money in that not only does Apple have such ability, but the authority of someone high up in the company (the CEO, no less!) to make sure these values are upheld.

Hubert J. CAMPAN — Sep 07, 06 1761

How interresting !

I have as a job to drive people to more self-efficiency. Meanning : helping others to help themselves. We call it a coach.

What comes up very often is the fact people in their journey to a better themselves tend to simplify their neighborhood.

Next step is about finding tools to drive one's better life. And there comes Apple. Nearly all my coachees are willing or already work on Macintosh. This must mean something.

Simplcity, ease of use. Turnkey features. Like a car : you turn the key and it just works.

I also love Macintosh for it's simplicity. I do zen méditation and find using OSX a stressless action. At the end of the day (litteraly) you feel the difference between a Mac and a PC. And I know what I'm talking about as a former IT infrastructure manager.

Simplicity, clarity, beauty... zen experience.

How refreshing it is in those hard social and work times !

Sheers !

Hubert CAMPAN - World Citizen - France

Scott Stevenson — Sep 07, 06 1768 Scotty the Leopard

Josh Schoenwald said: 

The secret to Apple's success is not fearlessness or aptitude for following intuition, it's understanding "the how" of people on a very fundamental level

I agree that this is a big factor, but I don't think it replaces the other stuff I've talked about.

Jan Peters — Sep 07, 06 1770

No matter how much I love all updates for Leopard, I have the feeling that the major changes have been much sparser in every version since Panther. I hope we are not converging?

Scott Stevenson — Sep 07, 06 1771 Scotty the Leopard

I have the feeling that the major changes have been much sparser in every version since Panther

By every version, you mean... Tiger? I don't think Tiger was sparse. Spotlight, Dashboard, Automator, Quartz Composer, Core Data, and so on.

We don't know what Leopard's full feature set is yet.

Tawky Tawny — Sep 09, 06 1777

The secret to Apple's success is to stick to the business plan: ensure high margins, fight commodization. The price points must be smart to upsell the customer to the better/more expansive product (little iPod to bigger iPod, Mac mini to iMac…) and they'll try to make people drool with bigger screens (17-inch PowerBook, 20-inch iMac G4, 24-inch Intel iMac) or anything they can think of (PowerBook with backlit keyboard, black MacBook, weird form factors for the iMac). Every product must be stylish, impossibly thin, sometime you may think they put form over function.

When necessary Apple will bend the rules to reduce costs (no screen for the iPod shuffle, no monitor, keyboard and mouse for the Mac mini, no antiquated floppy, no fricking modem…).

They try to find new revenue streams (iTunes+iPod, frequent OS X upgrades, iLife, dotMac), Apple online and retail stores can generate a higher level of direct sales. They play with secrecy to generate hype and develop the brand to build user loyalty, etc. It has nothing to do with intuition IMO, it's all hard work in every part of the organisation, sweat and chutzpah. :-D

Scott Stevenson — Sep 09, 06 1778 Scotty the Leopard

The secret to Apple's success is to stick to the business plan: ensure high margins, fight commodization

Those are just mechanics. They don't tell you where to go.




 

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