Who would have thought 10 years ago that Apple would be worth more than Microsoft and Intel combined (not many based on an article on The Register)? It happened last week, and won’t change soon based on Steve Jobs’ announcement yesterday about the new Apple iCloud service which ties Apple customers even closer to the brand for the long-haul.
So how did Apple do it? How did a brand that catered strictly to designers move from a niche brand to a global powerhouse?
I think there are three key parts to the answer to that question:
Let’s face it. Over the past decade, the Apple brand has been all about launching innovative products that meet the needs of changing consumer lifestyles (or become catalysts for changing consumer lifestyles). Remember when Bill Gates said he envisioned a day when everyone would have a computer on their desks? That’s exactly the kind of thinking Apple has done over the past decade. The brand moved from being all about designers’ cliques to being the brand that catapulted the mobile market from phone calls to — everything!
Let me make something clear. I want Microsoft to succeed. I want to see the innovation the company was known for 20 years ago back in the game. However, this is a brand that got complacent — a common trap for the market leader and pioneer. In the article from The Register that I reference at the beginning of this post, writer Rik Myslewski offers a quote from Bill Gates that demonstrates the beginning of Microsoft’s period of complacency that they’re regretting today. Rik wrote, “Then there’s the quote from a recently unearthed unpublished 1998 interview with Bill Gates that MacDailyNews reminded us of on Friday: ‘What I can’t figure out is why [Steve Jobs] is even trying [to be the CEO of Apple]?’ Gates said. ‘He knows he can’t win.'”
Consumers a decade ago were very different from consumers today. Microsoft made the mistake of thinking what they’d been doing would continue to work for years to come. On the other hand, Apple looked for ways to change products, to change markets, to change consumers, and to change the game.
To sum this all up in a sentence: Innovative Apple stole the title of “Game-Changer” from complacent Microsoft over the past 10 years. It’s Microsoft’s time to make a play that puts the brand back into the game and into a position to regain its leadership position. The question is whether or not the company can do it under its current leadership. What do you think?
I’m rooting for you Microsoft. It’s time for a comeback before the clock runs out!
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