Winning Without Competing

April 24, 2011 by Gabe | [mmd] |

By now, it has become fairly obvious that the latest round of iPad competition has made little impact on the public mindshare that Apple occupies. One thing that I have heard repeatedly from Apple supporters is that Apple needs competition to push their products. I have generally taken this for granted, but I have now changed my opinion.

Looking over the Apple product line, it is evident that they are only competing with themselves. From the Macintosh computer, to the iPod to the iPad, Apple has not chased competitors in their designs but rather iterated over a long term design plan. The closest early iPod competitors were the Rio player and the Creative Labs devices. Both companies went with large format players with a litany of features. The iPod remained true to the design until the iPod touch merged the line with the iPhone design. The iPod stayed simple and perfected a basic feature set and did not chase the competition.

The same can be argued for the current iPhone development. Apple started with a specific vision and has not deviated significantly from the original trajectory. The iPhone is a four button piece of hardware (home, power, mute, volume) that relies on a touch interface. Apple has not added additional “features” to compete. Instead of talking about how the iPhone competes with Android specifications, Apple has changed the conversation. Rather than increasing the screen size, Apple increased the resolution. They didn’t add a 3D camera. They added a high quality digital camera that rivals many point-and-shoots. They didn’t push out an LTE device, they increased the battery life instead.

The same story is playing out with the iPad. Apple is ignoring their competition and following their own agenda. There is no 7” iPad. There is a faster iPad 2. Again, they chose to improve the core feature set: speed, battery life and graphics performance. Apple is playing a different game than everyone else. Apple wins by not competing and they don’t need competition to push them to make their products better. They have vision for that.

Note: I am only referring to the Apple before and after Sculley, Spindler and Amelio. The Jobs Apple.