Why Nobody Can Copy Apple

February 28th, 2013 § 0 comments

Harace Dediu recently wondered why Apple’s competitors are not moving quickly to mimic the vertical integration that has served them so well over the past decade1. For the first two decades of the PC revolution Microsoft was largely successful because they let OEM’s fight over who could build the cheapest hardware while they collected Windows licensing fees from all of them. Economists call this commoditization and while it steadily drove the price of computers down it doesn’t always produce the best devices. By controlling both the hardware and software Apple has been able to produce products that are more stable and have a higher degree of polish. Clearly it has worked out well for them.

While it would certainly be a big undertaking for Microsoft or Google to take full control of their hardware it’s not a task that requires the company to pivot away from its core focus. In the 80’s IBM had to pivot away from building computers and start focusing on software to save itself from obsolescence. Instead Google and Microsoft can continue to make software while a new division starts to make hardware2. The Nexus and Surface product lines show that these companies are capable of making hardware just not very committed to it.

Charlie Kindel posits that this has more to do with Apple’s focus on the consumer than anything else.

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.

  1. Meaning that they not only build the software but they also design and build the hardware that uses their software. []
  2. One could even argue that doing so will make software developers lives a little easier as they will be able to spend less time worrying about the myriad of hardware configurations that plague the Windows & Android ecosystems. []

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