Apple Faster Than You

Someone is Coming to Eat You

One of my favorite Apple product announcements happened on September 7, 2005. In an Apple music event announcement, Steve Jobs got on stage, gave the usual state of the business update, and then he did something I’d never seen before. He killed a wildly successful product.

The iPod Mini was one of the most popular consumer electronic devices of the time. iPod market share was skyrocketing and the Mini was leading the charge of segmenting the market with a variety of consumer-friendly price points. The Mini, with its size, sleek metal enclosure and variety of colors was loved, and Apple killed it. They completely redesigned around flash memory and shit-canned the Mini’s name and design.

The Mini had a worthy replacement – the flash-based iPod Nano – and it was likely that favorable price points for flash memory were a driving force in the new product. But why not milk it? The Mini had been on the market a year and a half and Apple was still having difficulty keeping the Mini in stock. Why kill a best-selling product? I think the reason, and, more importantly, an emerging Apple strategy, was announced as part of the keynote. Steve spent multiple slides showing off the Mini’s competition, and, not surprisingly, it looked a lot like the Mini. So rather than letting them catch up, he changed the game.

If there was ever a moment where Steve Jobs tipped his hand regarding what drives him, it was this moment.

Faster Than You

You have a hit. Congratulations, you’ve built something that is perceived as being best of class. Seminal moment – go you. What’s your next move?

Well, we’ve been busting our collective asses for a good long time and I think it’s high time that we all take a break and catch our collective breath.

If your goal is this solo win, if you have achieved everything that you want to achieve with this hit, here’s to you – the first round is on me. If your goal is growth, if you want to turn this win into more success, taking the time to catch your breath is the wrong strategy. Like, really wrong.

Your success is a battle plan for your competition. Your success is a public acknowledgement of a strategy that works, and while I appreciate that you and your team are tired, I’m going to be a buzz kill. Your success is your worst enemy. Your success, while hard earned, is a curse.

Your success is delicious. Others look at your success and think, “Well, duh, it’s so obvious what they did there – anyone can do that” and, frustratingly so, they’re right. Your success has given others a blueprint for what success looks like, and while, yes, the devil’s in the details, you have performed a lot of initial legwork for your competition in the process of becoming successful.

More bad news via metaphors. Your enticing success has your competition chasing you, and that means that, by definition, that they need to run harder and faster than you so they can catch up. Yes, many potential competitors are going to bungle the execution and vanish before they pose a legitimate threat but there’s a chance someone will catch up, and when they do, what’s their velocity? Faster than yours.


The reward for winning is the perception that you’ve won. In your celebration of your awesomeness, you are no longer focused on the finish line, you now lack a clear next goal, and while you sit there comfortably monetizing eyeballs, you’re becoming strategically dull. You’ve forgotten that someone is coming to eat you and if you wait until you can see them coming, you’re too late. Just ask Nokia or RIM.

The Devil in the Details

Apple’s current biggest competitor is itself, and I think Steve Jobs learned this the hard way – from the sidelines. When he returned, one of his first hires was a gentlemen named Tim Cook, and while Tim Cook holds a degree in industrial engineering, he is not an engineer, a designer, or a poet. Tim Cook is an execution machine and he exists at Apple to enable them to pull off one thing – the iPod Mini moment.

By initially focusing on getting Apple out of manufacturing and streamlining the supply chain, yes, he dramatically improved margins and it’s a lot easer to kill a bestseller under the warm blanket of an attractive balance sheet. But Cook’s larger contribution is an operations team that enables them to build and ship new products with increasingly ferocious regularity.

The reason you’ll see new iPhone hardware in the fall and yet another iPad come spring is because Steve Jobs knew that he didn’t just need to out-design his competition, he needed to out-execute them. Apple is an ambidextrous organization that is equally adept at designing products as they are at making sure millions of them are ready the moment you want them.

If you think nothing revolutionary was announced at the recent WWDC event, if you think you’ve heard it all, I ask you to think about what they’re not talking about. I was thinking about the iPod Mini as I watched the announcement of the MacBook Pro. While it is certainly one of the sexiest pieces of metal on the planet, it also represents painfully consistent execution by Apple.

Yes, you’ve heard it all before – Retina display, thinner, faster, and more, but I trust Apple when they say they re-imagined everything in the design. I fully expect there is design work in the MacBook Pro that you’ve never heard of that will give the next iPhone or iPad a competitive edge and I believe the experience they’ve gained executing this design will allow them to not only maintain, but increase momentum.

How long can they keep it up? I don’t know, but I do know that Apple believes the future is invented by the people who don’t give a shit about the past.

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51 Responses

  1. “…don’t give a shit about the past.”

    Reminds me of Las Vegas – tear down the old casinos, make way for new, bigger, better in every way.

    I’m not a fanboy, but long live Apple.

  2. Another great post, but I think you nearly buried one of your most important points. Building on success requires ambidexterity, where you can both optimize the success you’ve found while also finding something new the competition isn’t even chasing yet.

    The iPod Mini EOL was a luxury Apple could afford because they were killing it with the normal iPod, too.

    That said, your core advice is spot-on: use the glow of success primarily for the confidence it gives you to go forward seriously, not for comfort.

  3. Looking back, I’ve figured the iPod Nano was a test bed for other devices, particularly the iPhone. It was Apple getting better at miniaturization. Learning how to do an all-flash product. Building scale of flash memory. The iPod Nano has gone through, seemingly, the most design iterations, and I’ve wondered if it’s a real-world test bed for them.

    There has to be some reason for the “fat” Nano, right?

  4. I disagree. It’s not that Apple doesn’t give a shit about the past, it’s that they understand how the future actually works. Part of understanding the future is understanding the proper role of the past in shaping that future.

    Clearly, understanding the past has enabled Apple (particularly Jobs) to learn from its mistakes–though that is but small reason for the company’s success. The larger piece goes to what Jobs said in his Stanford address in 2005:

    “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

    If you can understand what Jobs was getting at, you will understand why Apple has, and continues to be, successful.

  5. Klaus 12 years ago

    Great article, just a small typo:

    “if you want until you can see them coming, you’re too late.” should likely read: “if you *wait*…”

  6. Grimlock 12 years ago

    I’m reminded of a comedian’s comment I recently read (was it Louis CK I think?) about making a point to trash all the old material every year, and forcing yourself to come up with new material.

    One of George Carlin’s great moments was ranting on “Stuff”, where “a house is just a bunch of stuff with a cover on it… it’s where you lock up and protect your stuff, while you go out and… get *more* stuff!” (paraphrasing). It was funny and true. But if that was all it was, Carlin would have been a blip in comedic history. But he wasn’t.

  7. Rich M 12 years ago

    Great piece. I’d add that in addition to changing the game by canning the hard drive-based iPod mini, Apple achieved another, longer-term goal.

    Apple began, in earnest, to corner the flash memory market. They quietly succeeded, and their purchasing power has helped them maintain high margins on all their products that use flash memory. Including, of course, the new Retina MacBook Pro.

  8. Scott 12 years ago

    I’ve heard this story of Apple “killing” the Mini over the years and I’ve honestly never understood it. It’s told as if Apple took some risk in getting rid of one popular product line and replacing it with something very different and new. I remember watching this keynote and thinking, “Hey, it’s the new Mini with a new name”. They iterated and added a name change, basically making their small iPod smaller and with newer technology. Everything from the UI to the familiar click wheel was still there, just smaller. In fact, I’d say that there have been much larger changes in the Nano line itself than the difference between the Mini and the first Nano. Did Apple kill the skinny Nano to birth the fat Nano? How about the new sHuffleNano?

    I understand and completely agree with the point of this post, but it’s just always confused me why this particular transition is called out as different than Apple’s otherwise consistently aggressive iteration across most of its other product lines.

  9. Oliver Michalak 12 years ago

    One other problem with the “re-inventing approach” is that the current state of Apple is not perfect: as much as Apple products seems polished, the creators are humans after all and new trends they couldn’t foresee have impact on the products. Apple is poor at catching up and they leave a lot wholes behind:

    Siri API, Notification Center API, keyboard gestures, smarter sensor daily usage, networked clipboard, AppleTV SDK, iOS Joypad etcetc…

  10. George Phillips 12 years ago

    I agree with Scott – the transition from Mini to Nano was hardly killing a product, just renaming it. It’s just marketing!

  11. I have to disagree with the idea they killed a product. They merely renamed one. The Nano was the direct sucessor to the Mini in every way that Apple counts as important for consumer product experience. The change from HDD to Flash storage was the mere technological facilitator of the important progress (size, durability, battery life, etc). That progress was an iterative step.

  12. Like others have said, I don’t think it’s the case that Apple doesn’t care about the past. They just avoid attaching sentiment to the past. Most companies fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy, whereas (new) Apple has consistently demonstrated a commitment to look at costs going forward rather than worrying about what has already been spent.

  13. Niklas 12 years ago

    Stay hungry.

  14. Other 12 years ago

    Apple (or Jobs) is very clear about a vision, and will iterate on that vision until it becomes better and better. Take the G4 Cube – many would say it was a flop. But the vision of a computing cube lived on right to this day in the mac mini.

    The same goes for the Air. Although not a thorough flop, it was underpowered, expensive and not very connectable. But by the 2011 iteration, it is one of Apple’s best selling notebook, if not, THE reference design even for Ultrabooks.

    Apple may “kill” a product, but it doesn’t kill the vision of what that particular product is suppose to do, or fulfill.

  15. Hamranhansenhansen 12 years ago

    You are so right, except I don’t think it is that rare at Apple since the comeback began.

    They also killed the plastic MacBook when it was literally the most popular Mac on the planet. And replaced it with a smaller, flash-based version, made out of metal — same as mini to nano.

    They killed the original iPad when it was the most popular tablet PC on the planet. Could have sold millions at $399.

    The “PowerBook” brand — most desirable notebook on the planet for 15 years — killed it. Sure, they were moving on from PowerPC, but PowerBook predates PowerPC.

    They tried so aggressively to murder (their own) FireWire, they took it off the 13-inch MacBook Pro in 2008 and then put it back on next generation because that is the music Mac and musicians use FireWire. Even today that is still true.

    The killing of the CRT iMac was so unpopular, they had to do eMac.

    There is a verb for killing obsolete and/or unfocused products: “Steved.”

  16. last line is epic, as another gentleman pointed out.

    we see this in a lot of one-off startup/entrepreneur successes… they never get back on the horse after the first win.

  17. I’ve used this example myself. It really is a stunning example of superb execution.

    Most corporations would never have killed the Mini. Daring corporations would have introduced the Nano, but kept the Mini in the line-up. Doing so would likely have diffused the success of the iPod line.

    A truly gutsy move — killing off a successful product to introduce a better product.

    And if Jobs was anything, he was NEVER nostalgic. He never looked back. He was always looking forward.

  18. Michael 12 years ago

    For the people that don’t believe Apple killed a product: The mini and nano were in fact two different products that each existed to fill the same slot (or product category). Apple could’ve kept the mini going and released the nano along side it, but they didn’t. They knew they had to keep pushing forward. They abandoned one very successful model to move towards something new and different.

    I’d also like to point out Apple’s ability to pull one product line into another more successful line: the transition from the iPod as media player to the iPhone. The iPhone came out at a time when the iPod was at the top of its game, but the market was starting to hit a saturation point. The timing of the release of the iPhone was absolutely perfect. Apple knew convergent devices (smart phones) would eventually start eating into the portable media player market, in fact I think Steve Jobs brought it up at one of the “All Things Digital” conferences a year or two before the iPhone. In an absolutely masterful move, they didn’t release a new media player or even a smart phone, what was released was basically a handheld computer that fit in your pocket with a brilliant new user interface for direct interaction. The significance of the iPhone is that it didn’t just change the smartphone market, it forced the phone companies into its own playground; the computer business.

    Apple knew the iPhone would cannibalize iPod sales, but so what? Here was a product with a higher price point and higher margins. In Q1 2007 Apple sold over 21 million iPods that accounted for about $3.5 billion in revenue. Q2 2011 Apple sold almost 19 million iPhones which accounted for over $12 billion in revenue. Apple saw the writing on the wall in 2004 or 2005 and decided that they were going to be the ones that wrote it.

    This is the gist of the article, that Apple is not afraid to supplant one product for another if they feel it will make more sense in the long run. Most companies would never allow their #1 product to be threatened by something else even from within itself. This is why Microsoft is in the trouble they’re in now; they absolutely will not threaten their cash cows; Windows or Office for Windows.

  19. To all the people who say Apple didn’t change much between the Mini and the Nano: it’s easy to say that in hindsight. But look, their Mini was already smaller than a lot of the competition, so they could have rested on their laurels there. It’s about innovation, and in this case, there wasn’t a risk from consumer’s side, but there is a lot of R&D effort that goes into a complete redesign, particularly from the supply chain aspect. And the smaller sized iPods probably did start to be used more for fitness around that time, which is a new job-to-be-done. It reminds me of people who said the iPad is just a big iPod touch, which is somewhat accurate, but misses the point.

  20. Reminds me of… – success is like a new cage. Gotta get out of that cage and burn down the barn before you get eaten!

  21. I think people underestimate the degree to which Buddhism shaped Jobs’ thinking. This is a lesson in impermanence. Everything undergoes change. Nothing lasts. We’re all always in motion just to stay where we are (we metabolise even as we sleep). What you said about the fleeting nature of having “won” is particularly resonate with the concept of impermanence. As a serious Buddhist, Jobs would have attempted to be mindful of the impermanent nature of things. This sounds a little bit hokey, but he obviously took it seriously, and it got results.

  22. juneo 12 years ago

    One of the comments consumers made when first meeting the Ipod Nano was that it was too small. Many thought its thinness meant fragility. The consumer taste for the Mini was the friction against which the Nano had to prove itself. The Mini is very comfortable in the hand, the Nano is really a finger device. Its true that they did have similar prices and functions, but considering that Apples competitors had the Mini form duplicated and available, Apples risk was that consumers would choose the device that was familiar.

    New can sometimes be risky.

  23. I’ve always thought the Mini > Nano transition was one of Apple’s greatest moves, too. To those who argue that the Mini wasn’t really “killed” because the Nano was a similar device, I disagree:

    1. The Mini’s branding was ditched

    2. The Mini’s colors weren’t carried over to the Nano (initially)

    3. The Mini was taken off the market

    Those are three very bold moves to make with *your most successful product!* #3 especially; they didn’t even give themselves a “safety net” by continuing to sell the Mini in case the Nano didn’t quickly assume its place.

    I totally agree with your line that Apple’s biggest competitor is itself. That’s what enables them to make big moves like this. They know that if they don’t do so, eventually someone else will – so why not just disrupt themselves instead of letting all the benefits go to a competitor?

  24. Dark Helmet 12 years ago

    “Apple believes the future is invented by the people who don’t give a shit about the past.”

    Some people at Apple believe this. Unfortunately the people designing their most recent user interfaces seem not to, e.g. the analog tape imagery in the new (and poor) Podcasts app, the tear-away calendar imagery in iCal. I’m expecting gramophone imagery (or at least old-fashioned turntables) in the new iTunes. This is all such nonsense, even to 39 year olds like me but especially to the teenagers and twentysomethings that make up so many of Apple’s customers.

  25. @James, was just about to make that exact point.

    Add to it that Jobs clearly said they “killed” it – which was as much marketing as philosophy. By claiming to “kill” a product (that was being copiously copied) they were realigning consumer expectations in a direction that the competition didn’t expect. So all the “clone” vendors now had what consumers would consider iterations of the “old” technology in the pipeline while Apple changed the perceived direction.

    In the respects that Apple needed at the time, they killed the product: brand, marketing image, etc.

  26. The primary reason the replacement of the iPod mini with the nano was so controversial was price vs. capacity.

    $200 would have bought you a 4GB mini but only a 2GB nano!

    $250 would have bought you a 6GB mini but only a 4GB nano!

    The lack of colors was also seen as a negative by many consumers.

  27. One possible reason for Apple to kill the ipod mini early is the failure rate for that tiny hard drive. Back then, every kid I saw had one of them and the device must have hard a “hard life”. We rarely see statistics from Apple for return rates or failure rates for any product. No question that the move to flash reduced the return rates substantially.

  28. CuJoYYC 12 years ago

    In a sense, Scott is correct in suggesting that the nano was simply an updated mini but both Scott and George miss the significance of killing the iPod mini and replacing it with the iPod nano. (BTW, touch, nano, mini, classic et cetera are never to be capitalized folks. See Most companies would continue to milk the iPod mini until they had maximized their ROI to the last penny. See Walkman for an example of resting on your corporate laurels while wringing every possible penny from an aging product investment. Apple simply killed the mini off at the apex of its market dominance and replaced it with the, at that time, unproven iPod nano. Most companies simply don’t have the cojones to do that. The corporate bean counters would claim that they had years left to wring out every penny in a mature product so why risk replacing it with something new and unproven. That, Scott and George, is the crux of the issue.

  29. Markus 12 years ago

    first of all, trashing the ipod mini emphasized the gap between ipod nano and the competition.

  30. Eric Schatz 12 years ago

    Small isn’t always more beautiful. I remember when the iPhone 4 was shown off Saturday Night Live mocked Jobs demonstrating smaller and smaller versions (till he was just pinching two fingers together). There are two competing technologies going on in iPhone – Siri could make an iPhone that evolves into something you implant under a fingernail while the Retina Display wants to be an immersive experience (Apple Glass anyone?). Of course the optimal solution would be to implant retina displays in front of your retinas with a mic under the palm of your hand and speakers in your cochleas, but I don’t think Apple is quite there yet…they will have to free up engineers currently designing campus 2.0.

  31. Thorntondw 12 years ago

    “Well, we’ve been busting our collective asses for a good long time and I think it’s high time that we all take a break and catch our collective breath.”

    This is where great companies start to die, e.g., Microsoft, RIMM, Nokia, etc., they decide to start enjoying their success rather than striving even harder for more.

  32. kibbles 12 years ago

    those thay say they didnt “kill” it, only “changed” it are quite missing the point. the point — apple didnt sit on its laurels by continuing to sell an absolute hit. most companies would have done…nothing. continue cranking it out and selling it as-is.

    but apple didnt do this. they invested work & capital to forget about it and build something new. thats the risk. thats the guts & glory.

    thats the point.

  33. Please. There’s no company in the world which would discontinue their most successful product and introduce something new instead. Except Apple.

    It’s bold, and it’s usually a recipe for disaster.

    Of course Apple had very good, very specific reasons to do it even apart from their usual glee in killing off things. The Nano was out of this world when it arrived, it looked like a device from the future. I remember thinking WTF?? How in the world did they pull this off, this teeny-tiny thing with a beautiful color LCD….

  34. Steve Cotner 12 years ago

    One commenter has suggested that Apple is slow at catching up and leaves holes, like the current lack of a Siri API.

    I am surprised by how few people recognize that Apple leaves these holes in your heart — even developers’ hearts — deliberately. Apple creates desires that did not exist before, then fulfills them grandly.

    On the developer side, you’ll remember that Apple created the desire to program native apps on the iPhone long before they allowed it. If they’d been another company, begging developers from the start to move to their platform, there would have been crickets in the room.

    That’s the chess Apple’s playing with your heart and mind. Some commenters see a hole to the queen and think they’ve spotted weakness, not realizing the queen’s about to move.

  35. Scott 12 years ago

    I said I agreed with the point of the article, which is that Apple aggressively iterates like none of it’s competitors or most other companies in the CE industry. Other companies would have rested on their laurels, yada yada. Yes, I 100% agree there! This is just no different than many of the other product line transitions Apple has pushed forward before and after the introduction of the Nano.

    As others have pointed out, this “killing” and renaming was more marketing genius than actually risking the killing of a popular product line. iPod is by far the more known brand, with Mini and Nano just subbrands and both synonyms for… small. Was there really any risk of Apple making their small iPod smaller and with better technology? I would assume the vast majority of people wanted “the small iPod”, and Apple made it smaller and better with the Nano, so why would any confusion exist.

    If there’s any specific thing that can be taken from this particular transition, it’s the marketing angle. Other than that, it’s one in a long line of similar examples.

  36. “but I do know that Apple believes the future is invented by the people who don’t give a shit about the past.”

    Until this changes Apple will always be an incestuous closed ecosystem used by fanboys and not a platform that you can build the future upon.

  37. Scott 12 years ago

    To Michael’s point, obviously they were different products or versions of products, but why on earth would they keep both going at the same time? As you said, they served the exact same product niche, which reinforces my point that they just changed the line name as part of a marketing/technology push to keep their competitors in the rear view mirror.

    Wouldn’t a more interesting angle to this Keynote be that Apple convinced a ton of people that they actually killed their most popular product, when all they did was change the name? As others have said, “Killing” their product was much more dramatic, and hurt their competitors’ mindshare (who were struggling to compete with the Mini).

    I can see a scenario where the Nano was in fact just a new version of the Mini, and then a strategy meeting prior to launch, someone suggested, “Hey, if we change the name and tell everyone we’re killing the Mini, it will hurt our competitors way more than if we just introduce this as the new Mini.”

  38. Scott 12 years ago

    @Tim Haha. The future is already passing you by, you just don’t realize it yet.

  39. I think Steve explained the reason for killing the iPod Mini numerous times with a single quote:

    “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

    Wayne Gretzky

    Like others mentioned, flash memory was where the puck was going, there was where they needed to be

  40. When competitors announce similar specs to the retina MacBook..Apple will announce that by having a head start, they are now shipping a new line of MacBooks, all of which have retina. Apple’s $999 retina MacBook will sweep the entire market for non iPad computing.

    The line of MacBooks after that will not have hinges.


  41. Don Montalvo 12 years ago

    There is a HUGE difference between “Not giving a shit about the past” and “Learning from the past and making truely awesome products”.

    Don Montalvo, TX

  42. Matt Johnston 12 years ago

    I prefer the saying: Someone is going to kill your cash cow. It’s better that you do it than your competitor

    Milking your cash cow until it does is a sure-fire way to discover that you’ve lost the market. Apple have done very well by adding single new major feature every year with iPhone and then iterating on it.


    IPhone in 2007

    Added 3G in 2008.

    Added Speed in 2009

    Added Retina in 2010

    Added Siri in 2011

    Looks like the super secret thing in 2012 is NFC with a use-case

    It’s lovely that the 2009 iPhone model is now selling for more than the 2011 Lumia 800 in local stores. That’s how to retire a product.

  43. @Tim – 600,000+ iOS apps, tens of millions of iPhones and iPads sold every quarter, Apple itself becoming the most valuable company in the world…exactly how many other milestones does Apple have to cross before you will attribute their success to something other than “fanboys”?

  44. “On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions who at the dawn of victory lay down to rest, and in resting died.” – Adlai E. Stevenson

  45. airmanchairman 12 years ago

    Yes, I too, while reading this article, could hear the hallowed words of poets and sages of years gone by:

    “And ye all know Security is Mortal’s chiefest Enemy” – William Shakespeare.

    “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same” – Rudyard Kipling

    I contend that quite opposite to the writers closing statement, the future is created by those with a healthy respect for the past, not disdain.

  46. Fabian Galon 12 years ago

    This is an interesting theory and all, but if this were true then why haven’t they changed their UIs since the early 00’s? Apple doesn’t change ANYTHING just for the sake of change. If something works they stick with it.

    Change isn’t always the best thing for profit:

  47. Joe KiNG 12 years ago

    @Fabian Gallon

    Wait you say why havent they drastically redone UI (which I think OS X is good besides the skeuomorphic crap, Im think iOS needs to catch up to WP7 and Android as far as ambient data and some deeper organization of the home screen). But then you link some called “The Disaster of Redesign”? Hahaha.

    Anyway, great article – this is why Apple is such a clever company. Not because they make things that “look cool” or whatever BS PC master race people say(not trying to sound like a dick, use a PC for games and stuff), not because it is subversive (what is this 2004? no who has an Apple product thinks that, that is like a Beatles fan thinking they listen to obscure music), nor because they are expensive, Apple does not make the most expensive/luxury stuff besides the Retina MBP anyway.

    This approach is always entertaining and best for the market at large, and why Apple always is at the forefront of so many markets, like with the iPad and Macbook Air, which at first may seem novelty, but once the tech and competition get there, you realize it is a whole new ball game.

  48. One of the best article I have read this year

  49. Brian 12 years ago

    Not to wax on about theory of constraints, but Apple really learned its lessons from the Sculley/Amelio years. I ask, in lieu of the development of the Nano and the evolution of iPod technology, where was the Mini brand to go? At what point would Nano and Mini R&D, not to mention parts procurement and manufacturing, going to be redundant, considering that they likely would ultimately compete in the same market?

    When understanding Apple, I try to separate their aggregate brand value from their subordinate brands. Why not excise the MacBook from the lineup, when Apple established it could offer better machines at the same price point? They’ve established their rhythm; the entry level MacBook could only nip at sales of the Airs and 13″ Pro. It may be viscerally appealing from the units moved, but say you could move the same volume of your other product, why incur the overhead of maintaining both in the marketplace?

    That said, I don’t know that the move imparts as much moxie as it does at first blush, or if its indicative of organizational hubris. There’s no axiom like “the good is the enemy of the better” or Buddhist philosophy at work here…I really think Apple is an organization that has learned a few lessons form the 1980s forward, particularly the excesses in R&D and the channel stuffing of the Sculley years. This is extremely calculated business. Will it come at a cost of brand loyalty? Quite possibly.

  50. The late Steve Jobs was impressed by ‘The Innovators Dilemma,’ a book by Clayton Christensen, and he took the central lesson – success can kill you by making you deaf to the sound of change or risk-averse and hostage to positive cash flow. Apple’s willful disregard of what works, now, for what will (they expect) work tomorrow is courage institutionalized. I don’t always care for their decisions, but I believe that I understand why, and it’s hard to second-guess their continued success.

  51. I always was interested in this topic and still am, thanks for putting up.