Apple’s Process and the Announcement Tomorrow

Scott Francis
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Back in January 2009, we published Apple and Business Process Management, in which I wrote:

However, as I was reading a blog entry titled “How Apple could sell 77 million iPhones in 2013″ by Philip Elmer-DeWitt on his “Apple 2.0″ blog, I think there is a bit of method to Apple’s innovation madness.  One might even call it process.

I didn’t realize how fantastically low that 77 million iPhones estimate would turn out to be.  Apple sold 125M iPhones… and 58M iPads in 2012.  I also didn’t realize that I was publishing our most-read post of all time on our blog.

In the blog post, I wrote out a list of common “turns” Apple could do on its iPhones based on what had previously worked with iPods, in order to capture more demand:

  • Lower the price on the existing units
  • Release a new, improved unit with the old (high) price
  • Release more varied looks with approximately current technical specs (e.g. the colored iPod Nanos, for example)
  • Create new pricepoints with low-cost components – e.g. RAM.
  • Improve the platform by adding new services or functions
  • Change the pricing of services on the platform

And six months later, I write that Apple had executed on several points with the 3GS:

  1. Lowered price
  2. Released new improved unit with the old price
  3. New pricepoint of 32Gb storage was created
  4. In that release, find my iPhone was created, along with video recording and editing, voice activation, etc.

In subsequent years’ iPhone releases, all the check boxes but one have been ticked off.  What went missing all this time, until perhaps tomorrow morning, was color choice.  Quite a few reports cite the likelihood of the iPhone 5S having a gold color option, as well as an iPhone 5C in a seeming rainbow of colors.  We’ll find out in less than 24 hours if that is correct – but interesting to me that it took 4.5 years to get to the point where color options made sense as the “next step” in the evolution of the iPhone.

Totally different form factors are harder for the iPhone than the old iPods because it is a platform, not just a device.  Changes to platforms are fraught with more landmines because the changes can break the apps that make the platform so popular and necessary.

Apple Orchard has their predictions for tomorrow:

Subsidy Land (Countries where phones are subsidized by mobile carriers)

$199 – iPhone 5S with a 128GB option, “gold” color option, fingerprint scanner, improved camera, faster processor. (95% confidence)

$99 – iPhone 5C available in various colors. (75% confidence)

$0 – iPhone 4S (51% confidence)

If he’s right, colors will get a nice roll-out, alongside fingerprint sensors and a new iOS version 7.  Looks like we’ll finally get to check off that third box.