Apples Competitive Strategy

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When Steve Jobs launched the iMac in 1998, he was quoted as saying, "these new product lines give people what they want most, a lightning fast laptop and a striking new consumer Macintosh." Is Jobs correct in this assessment? Is speed, look, and brand really the main drivers for consumers? Did Jobs' strategy to capture market share in the personal computer industry focus on the right aspects? This paper will venture to say no and suggest the following alternative strategy: Apple should build a new business in "Wintel" PCs, while continuing to sell Macs to the design and publishing segment of the market. In order to support this conclusion, Apple's competitive advantages and industry forces must be analyzed.

Apple has been in business since 1976, and has built a number of competitive advantages along the way. Four such differentiations are brand loyalty, innovative hardware design, dedicated market shares, and ease of use. What Jobs recognized in 1998 is that consumers did want a Macintosh. Apple's brand commitment is strong, and has been since the 1970's when Apple user communities were founded to bond enthusiasts. A key component to this is Apple's ease of use. "Adding extra hardware and software to a Mac was almost as easy as plugging speakers into a stereo system." Because of this loyalty, Apple was able to form a tight knit relationship with its customers, particularly within the education and design & publishing industries, which accounted for 80% of Apple's market position in 1998 (Exhibit A). Furthermore, the 1998 "Think Different" campaign propagated Apple's image as inventive and trendy. It enabled Apple to become a substitute based on design alone, giving it a particular edge over its khaki-clad competitors.

Albeit these advantages, Apple still managed to lose a large amount of profit, and its market share dwindled from 8% to 3.4% from 1995 - 1998 (Exhibit B). The company also slipped in the education sector during this time by as much as 14%...
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