Apple Has Been Willing to Obsolete Its Own Products

If you haven't read Jean-Louis Gassée's post called BlackBerry: The Endgame, I'd really recommend reading it. The article talks about the missteps that Research In Motion / BlackBerry Limited took since the introduction of the iPhone that have lead to a spectatular loss in the value of their business.

.... In reality, RIM was much more than three years behind iOS (and, later, Android). Depending on whom we listen to, the 2007 iPhone didn't just didn't stand on a modern (if incomplete) OS, it stood on 3 to 5 years of development, of trial and error....

.... All other factors that are invoked in explaining BlackBerry's fall -- company culture, hardware misdirections, loss of engineering talent -- pale compared to the fundamentally unwinnable software battle....

Gasée is right. But, what I've learned over years of watching the technology industry is that Apple's current value resulted from decisions that put Apple's most successful products at risk:

  • Macintosh switching from PowerPC CPUs to Intel.
  • Macintosh switching from a proprietary operating system (OS 7/8/9) to UNIX (OS X).
  • iPhone canibalizing the iPod by incorporating the entire iPod feature set on Day 1.
  • iOS 7 completely changing its UI and abandoning the skewmorphism of iOS up to that point.
  • Apple shifting the focus of its sales and marketing to Apple Stores while computer stores and electronics retailers were still strong distribution channels.

I believe that the key difference between Apple and companies like BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm, and Microsoft has been Apple's willingness to make huge bets on new game-changing products that disrupt their own best sources of revenue at the time.