The Not-Integrated Approach

Scott Francis
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There are lots of arguments for and against Apple’s integrated approach.  As I recall from economics and watching certain industries, there’s an efficiency to horizontal scaling of an industry. But, we’ve seen the design benefits of the integrated approach with Apple. But if you’re trying to put products into consumers’ hands, or customers’ hands, there’s a cost to depending on horizontal layers of industry to delivery much needed components into your end-device or product.  The risks are manifest in RIM’s reported results this quarter:
RIM just announced on its earnings call today that it won’t be ready to release new smartphones running the QNX-based BlackBerry 10 OS until late 2012.  […] Co-CEO Jim Balsillie said the company is waiting for new chips that will allow RIM to make dual-core phones with LTE. Those chips won’t be ready until late next year.
So… the phones were first late in the upgrade cycle, waiting for the work to get software ready on QNX… then they were later still waiting on dual core chips (as of early this year).  Now they’ll be an additional year late… because they’re still waiting on dual core chips. Of course, one wonders why they can’t release these phones with 3G and dual-core chips.  Seems to work okay for Apple.  Maybe it is just a smoke screen. But if it isn’t, it is a cautionary tale against building product plans against moving targets.  Don’t assume another vendor’s components will be there for you unless they already exist or can be produced in volume today.  Apple’s approach to getting deeply involved in the supply chain pays dividends by helping avoid these kinds of public delays. (So does not announcing a product release until you are, you know, actually releasing a product)  

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  • Maybe one of the ironies is that people classified RIM as “integrated”… but clearly there’s a difference between RIM’s notion of integrated, and Apple’s…