What Makes Apple Different? Is the question that was posed to me recently. My short answer is macroeconomics.
1/ Apple technology is proprietary, all the way
Apple is creating a premium computing platform rather than an open and commoditized one. Premium markets precede open markets and dish up much higher profit margins. Proprietary environments also allow Apple to control the differentiated customer experience.
2/ Apple is focused on lifestyle computing
Apple is focused on creating solutions to support our lifestyle – a massive addressable market – that consists of music, photography, video, etc., rather than esoteric office software for people with lots of technical expertise.
3/ Apple is building an ecosystem
Apple is focused on supporting a differentiated ecosystem, rather than building competitive technology silos. The sum of all lifestyle components interacting with each other makes it unique. The iPod remains competitive because of the iTunes store that is accessible through a (Mac) computer and vice versa. Their capabilities are tied to each other.
4/ Apple is building a unique customer experience
The experience of purchasing, innovative design, excellent product quality, and unique (in-store) customer support provides the evidence of a company that wants to please you.
There are many other differences, some of which also lie in a fundamentally different product development strategy. But top-level differentiation drives micro-economics.
Other companies face an uphill battle if they don’t compete with Apple at the macro level first.