Apple’s slick product development strategy consists of permanently avoiding the maturity phase of its products by spreading the deployment of their existing innovations over time. This ensures consumers will keep upgrading their devices and flourish the company’s cash flow with minimum R&D. Perhaps what they didn’t realise is that this strategy is, today, leading the company itself to its maturity phase, as they are seen as lacking innovation as a whole.
Is Apple getting tired? The fact that this happened when Steve Jobs left the Earth is a mere coincidence to me. This trend had already started before he left. Maybe the answer simply relies in the fact that competition managed to catch up. Apple’s current trial with Samsung – the company behind the development of the iPhone’s nemesis – unveiled an interesting letter that says it all about Samsung’s threat on Apple.
These two companies are differentiated by a key aspect of their marketing. Samsung never really had a strong brand equity, nor vision. If they have one, it is nowhere near the one of Apple (I wouldn’t wear a Samsung T-shirt – would you?). But they embraced Android like no other and managed to create a simple yet innovative and powerful product line in the name of the Galaxy range, which has quickly matched the appeal of the iPhone. Apple on the other hand, have established one of the strongest brands ever and have been challenging the status quo since releasing the first Mac with an ad to remember in 1984. That said, the recent releases of their products have been disappointing to say the least, with some little evolution that has been beaten by Samsung and other players in the market. A focus on a strong brand vs. a focus on a strong product.
What did go wrong for a company that was seen untouchable 5 years ago? Any new technologies they proudly launched have been matched by the competition, be it Siri or Face Time. They released a new iOS, which, to me, seems to take some hints from both Windows Mobile (design) and Android (functionality). Just like they seem to align on their competitors, with the rumoured launch of a bigger screen size after resisting it with the argument that you could reach the whole of your iPhone 5 screen with your thumb. And their anticipated attempt to release a cheaper version of the iPhone – the iPhone 5c, which is basically the iPhone 5 with a plastic colour cover reminiscent of the relaunch of the iPod Nano range – failed to deliver with a hefty price of around £450.
Maybe that last point is the beginning of the answer. When Apple released what everyone expected as an entry-level iPhone, they were actually never going to trade off their premiumness which is what their brand stands for and simply released a colour range rather than compromising on who they are. Can focusing on their brand keep them out of the water for long? The launch of the iPhone 6 at the end of this year is still fuelling conversations and will definitely be a turning point should they fail to deliver ground-breaking innovation. Their activeness on the patent front might be reassuring. There are also new battlefields this year, such as the wearable tech, with Google and Samsung being key players. So let’s not list them as dead just yet. After all, maybe that mind-blowing ad (and the way it was launched at the back of the Super Bowl storm) is reminding everyone of who they are. The question, though, is not about who they are but about what they will do.