One of the more interesting questions I get asked about as an industry analyst who’s followed Apple since 1981 is why Apple is so successful.
It’s an honest question because to those unfamiliar with Apple, the company’s rise and current dominance in non-PC devices is somewhat puzzling.
Most people have a working understanding of the fact that Apple lost the PC wars to Microsoft, and only nominally understand that when Apple created the iPod and then the iPhone
the company started to go in a new direction. And anyone who’s gone into an Apple store knows full well that Apple’s customer service and stores represent the gold standard for selling and supporting tech gadgets.
But beyond that, the reasons why Apple is really successful are still a mystery to many. There are plenty of books about Apple that talk about everything from Steve Jobs’ history to tenets of Apple’s business models to secrets about Apple’s internal-management ideas.
1. For any product that Apple creates, the people who create it have to want it themselves
2. The products have to be easy to use
3. Keep things simple
4. Offer great customer service and in-store experiences
5. Apple only makes a product if Apple can do it better
6. Apple stays at least two years ahead of its competitors
I was in Paris in the past two weeks and had talks with various French telecommunications officials about many mobile-computing issues.
But one conversation I had in particular emphasizes this keep-it-simple point. We were discussing how to compete with Apple — a major pastime for all Apple competitors and carriers these days — when the question of why Apple is really successful came up.
And one exec nailed it when he said he felt that the real reason Apple is successful is because it has one product; in this case the iPhone. It minimizes the decisionmaking process for the consumer by making things simple.
The person speaking was with a carrier in France, and he said that in their stores, they have to have as many as 25 different models of phones available.
That makes it hard for his staff to be really knowledgeable about all of them all of the time, and their customers just have too many options to choose from.
But Apple only has one iPhone model, and anyone who has gone into an Apple store understands that every staff member there knows a great deal about each of the four major products carried in its stores.
Apple doesn’t have five iPhone models to choose from; it has only one. While this may seem limiting given the amount of smart phones available to users, the truth is the reverse.
Our company has done consumer research for over 30 years, and consumers constantly tell us that while choice is nice, in reality they want the process of choosing a tech product to be simple and not complicated by a plethora of choices.
Yes, there are tech-savvy people who like more choices and sometimes even like complexity, but from years of experience as a market researcher
I can tell you that in the end, the majority of users are not tech-savvy, and keeping things simple for them is a plus. Apple understands this in spades and is never tempted to add multiple versions of an iPhone
iPad or even more than one or two types of iPods. This makes buying an Apple product simple. And consumers seem to appreciate this considering the huge number of iDevices that are sold each year.
I know the tech media and techies are the most vocal about this issue of choice, but in the end, while choice is good for competitive pricing, what nontechie consumers really want is simplicity.