Apple is now the biggest, most successful technology company in the world, by revenue, profit, and market capitalization. How did it achieve this amazing feat and in such a short space of time?
Is it one or two individuals who made all the difference? Or the products and how they’re presented to the public?
The most obvious candidate as the true genius behind Apple’s rise to the top is Steve Jobs. Jobs co-founded the company alongside Steve Wozniak in 1976, and helped build it up before being ousted in 1985. Apple quickly rose and then fell back again to its low point in 1997, which was when Jobs regained control and completely changed the structure of the company and its product line-up.
The iMac, Mac OS X, the iPod, the MacBook, the iPad, the iPhone, Apple retail stores, and iTunes then followed over the next decade, all under the ultimate guidance of Jobs as CEO. Jobs eventually stepped down in August 2011 due to ill health, and passed away just six weeks later, on Oct. 5, 2011.
Jobs had an innate ability to see where the market was headed and arrive there before the rest of the world, which is why all of Apple’s products released over the last years of his life were so innovative and influential.
The only other individual who can claim to be the main reason behind Apple’s success of late is Jonathan Ive, an Englishman who is now the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at the company. He has led the design team responsible for the iMac, MacBook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, amongst others.
If the reason Apple has built such a loyal fanbase is because of the aesthetics of its products then Ive is the man responsible. Jobs determines the direction the product line is headed in, and Ive determines how the product line is going to look.
Apple’s products have a certain look to them and it’s a look that has undoubtedly added to the company’s appeal.
Whether you like Apple’s products or not, you cannot possibly deny they have a certain quality to them. They look great, they feel fantastic, and they just work. Very seldom has an Apple product been released with a major bug that immediately needs fixing.
The user interface is always intuitive, and everything works seamlessly. This is where Apple’s proprietary software and over-the-top control of everything that exists on it comes into its own.
Last, but definitely not least, is Apple’s marketing. It’s generally masterful. Knowledge of the products is kept under wraps until the day it is ready to be revealed to the public. This builds incredible buzz around each new product launch, with the rumor mill meaning Apple is the main focus of technology blogs in the weeks before the existence of a new device is even revealed.
After the announcement comes the ads. Simple, to the point, and able to sell someone on the idea within 30 seconds. These are the final weapons in Apple’s considerable war-chest.
One thing I’m completely convinced on is that the genius of Apple isn’t present in the ‘Geniuses’ who hang around looking smug at the ‘Genius Bar’ in every Apple Store. No, they’re just geeks who chose to specialize in Apple rather than Microsoft, but then ended up working in retail.
It may be something of a cop out but I think the true genius behind Apple’s success is a combination of all of the above. It’s as though the planets aligned in 1997, and Apple has been reaping the benefits of that alignment ever since. Steve Jobs may have now sadly departed, but with all the other components still intact, and a millions-strong army of fanboys to rely upon, I cannot see Apple going in any direction other than up for the foreseeable future. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t own even one Apple product. Yet.
Updated to note Steve Jobs passing on Oct. 5, 2011.