Technology Strategy and Management The Puzzle of Apple
Given Apple’s unique characteristics, should it strive to be a platform or a product leader?
1985–1997 and returned only when Apple acquired his other company, NeXT Computer. That ﬁrm provided the basis for another hit Apple product released in 2001, the Mac OS X operating system. But Jobs created the design culture and hired or supervised the people (such as Jonathan Ive, chief designer of the iMac, the iPod, and the iPhone) most responsible for the company’s current success and historical legacy. But I have often wondered what the world would have been like if Steve Jobs had thought a bit more like his archrival, Bill Gates. Microsoft, founded in 1975, does not generally try to develop “truly great” products, although occasionally some are very good. Mostly, Microsoft tries to produce “good enough” products that can also serve as industry platforms and help bring cheap and powerful computing to the masses (and mega-proﬁts to Microsoft). MSDOS, Windows, and Ofﬁce have done this since 1981.a
a See Michael A. Cusumano and Richard W. Selby, Microsoft Secrets, Free Press/Simon &
NE OF THE greatest product development companies in history is Apple, Inc., founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976. Apple’s list of “truly great” products— Jobs’ promotional mantra for the Macintosh personal computer—is truly impressive, but the company has too often failed or chosen not to develop industrywide platforms. I will explain. The Mac, introduced in 1984, pioneered the graphical user interface (albeit copied from Xerox) for the mass market. Other great Apple products include the ﬁrst mass-market PC, the Apple II, introduced in 1977; the PowerBook, which in 1991 set the design standard for laptops; the unsuccessful though still-pioneering Newton PDA, ﬁrst sold in 1993; and the iMac all-in-one “designer” PC, released in 1998. More recently, we... [continues]
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