Copying Apple

  • March 5, 2013
  • Scott

Two great blogs about why nobody copies Apple – one by Horace Dediu, and another by Charlie Kindel.

Horace asks the question – why doesn’t anyone copy Apple?

Put another way: Why is it that everyone wants to copy Apple’s products but nobody wants to copy being Apple?

As he put it elsewhere in his blog:

But what I wonder is why there isn’t a desire to copy Apple’s product creation process. Why isn’t the catalyst for a new category or disruption put forward by another company? More precisely, why isn’t there another company which consistently re-defines categories and repeatedly, predictably even, re-defines how technology is used.

Well this is the key question, isn’t it.  Why don’t these other firms try to copy the process, rather than just the end-result (product)?  I find it interesting that Apple plays coy with how it accomplishes its product creation.  Apple’s executives don’t want you to think of it as anything more or less than magic.  Tim Cook even said, once, that innovation “isn’t a process”.   Well, it isn’t a formula:

“Now if you look at some essentials for innovation, there is no formula.
If there was a formula, there would be a lot of companies that have a lot of money that would gone out and bought their ability to innovate.”

But there’s a big difference between a formula and a process.  And we know from long study of Apple that there’s a process (method) behind the madness.

Turning to Charlie’s post, he agrees with Horace’s premise but then posits why nobody can copy Apple:

Apple’s products are unique not on their feature merits, but because of the way they are conceived, designed, built, sourced, manufactured, shipped, marketed, sold, opened, held, and used. This is integration taken to the extreme and it would be difficult for any company to replicate.

True, but Charlie doesn’t stop there:

I assert there’s something else that makes Apple is unique amongst its (asymmetric) competitors (e.g. Google, MS, Samsung):

It only focuses on one customer: The Consumer.

In my experience, the behaviors and culture of an organization (large or small) that focuses on the Consumer as a customer is diametrically incompatible with the behaviors and culture of an organization that focuses on Business as a customer.

I feel strongly that this is a key reason Microsoft’s products are often good, but not excellent; the consumer ones and the business ones. This is why Google will never be able to beat Apple at Apple’s game: Google’s customer focus is split between the advertiser and consumer.

This is such a great insight.  Apple is serving one master for almost all of its products: the consumer.  Very rarely does it get caught serving two masters at once.  And so while this doesn’t make Apple more altruistic, it means that Apple is less likely to compromise on things that the consumer isn’t likely to want compromised (e.g. selling personal information to advertisers, or allowing bloatware to be installed with the operating system).

This is the insight I’d like to have BP3 keep close:  focus on our customers, first, second, and third.  I think we’ve done a really good job of that, historically, but it is up to us to keep that focus up.  And to continue to develop internal process that supports both product creation and customer-focus.

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  • heard a funny quote tonight from a “lean” practitioner quoting a client, “we love your results, but we don’t love your process.”

    ah, humans

    • hah! that could have been a veiled way of saying that they don’t love the person 😉

      sometimes people don’t want to know how the sausage gets made, i guess!

      • I think it’s more that lean is uncomfortable. They want the results without the work. Building a fantasy is so much easier (until you hit the market). It’s like folks who dream of losing 40lbs but they’ll never change their eating habits or exercise.

        • Very true – can’t you just read my mind rather that collect feedback on this iteration? Can’t we just do everything instead of all the little steps along the way that prove out the value? 🙂