With raging inflation, broken supply chains, and a tech workforce disrupted by the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, what is a smart business to do? We already know what Apple will do – it will follow founder Steve Jobs’ maxim, lower its figurative head, and “innovate” its way through uncertain times.
When the going gets tough…
Talk to CNN many years ago, Jobs explained his approach:
“We’ve had one before, when the dotcom bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the recession, that we weren’t going to lay people off. , that had taken us a lot of effort to bring them into Apple — the last thing we were going to do was fire them. And we were going to continue funding. In fact, we were going to increase our R&D budget so that we were ahead our competitors once the recession is over. And that’s exactly what we did. And it worked. And that’s exactly what we will do this time.
So, now that we know what Apple is going to do, here’s a quick look at some approaches it can take.
Rethinking the walled garden
Apple’s Walled Garden is under attack. The company will be forced to make some changes, but it will try to draw a line around customer privacy and customers’ right to choose security over competitive convenience.
Although regulators don’t seem too convinced at this time, the argument has many merits and I am convinced that while compromises will occur, concessions will be made.
Apple will simply rebalance its business proposals to work with what’s left. But it won’t happen without a fight.
We’ve all heard of how Apple’s pivot to services revenue means that this segment of its business is now a bigger company (in terms of revenue) than IBM.
We’ve also heard persistent speculation that the company intends to expand its iPhone upgrade program with some form of consumer-focused Apple-as-a-Service proposition. Under this, you will be renting, not owning, your devices for a fixed monthly fee. The idea is that Apple’s kit should become more accessible to more people, and the program will help Apple boost device recycling as EOL products are returned and consumers upgrade.
This shift to services makes the business more resilient and provides predictable, recurring revenue to help weather unpredictable economic challenges.
Research and development
Apple’s spending on research and development (R&D) continues to rise. It increased tenfold between 1999 and 2012, when it reached $3 billion. Apple in 2021 spent $21.91 billion in R&D.
The investment continues to deliver results, everything from iOS and macOS improvements, new hardware, and new families of hardware to come such as AR glasses and Apple Car are the result. But Apple is a child of its time, and I’m confident that part of what the company will explore will be solutions that answer tomorrow’s questions: How can technology drive CSR? How do you create a closed loop manufacturing process? What about augmented and remote health care?
And don’t forget the processors, software, and services that can deliver it all.
Recruit to innovate
Apple is known for occasionally buy small businesses. Sometimes it does this to acquire the inherent technology provided by the purchased entity, while at other times the company likes to invest in recruiting the teams for the expertise they hold.
We don’t always know which companies Apple bought until later (sometimes much later), but we do know this: Apple has about $200 billion in cash, which means it has the kind of financial muscle it takes to acquire innovative companies, while economic instability means that potential acquisition targets now exist in a buyer’s market. Money goes further when no one else has it ’cause VMware/Broadcom can attest.
Reveal what’s to come
Apple is always working very, very hard on new products that it has never confirmed. We believe the company recently showed off prototypes of its AR glasses to its board members.
We also believe that the company continues to make large investments in Apple Car and is now set up manufacturing and supply chains for such vehicles.
The company spends a lot of time discussing health, and we know it continues to research elsewhere, such as in wireless energy supply, ePaper, 6G and many other building blocks needed to design future products.
We can easily predict iterations into existing products, including radical overhauls over timebut we can also anticipate entirely new product families, made possible by proprietary technologies such as Apple Silicon and the impending Apple 5G modem.
[Also read: 11 business lessons from iPod father Tony Fadell]
Rethinking for the future
What is the future? Apple wasn’t looking back when it introduced the ‘digital pole concept at the beginning of the century.
This hub reflected the optimistic consumer philosophy of independence and self-reliance then prevalent; but tomorrow’s consumer is much more likely to focus on sharing and collective responsibility.
So what are the appropriate paradigms for this perspective, and how can Apple (or anyone) articulate this philosophy into new products designed to reflect the world of tomorrow, rather than the planet we plundered yesterday?
We know that Apple spends time thinking about this – just look at the work he does. Despite reactionary criticisms of these commitments, research shows that tomorrow’s consumers care deeply about these things and that they reject brands that do not share these values. Think of the criticism Nike endured when it featured NFL quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick in a marketing campaign. The reviews may have made a huge splash, but the reality was that consumer sentiment around the brand has increased dramatically and sales increased by 31%.
That’s why it’s important to hit the right philosophical message and highlight it.
What do you think?
How can you position your business to meet the needs of tomorrow’s transformed reality? How to rethink and redesign your products and services? When it comes to technology, at least Jobs may have dropped a hint of approach when he said CNN:
“Things are happening quite slowly, you know. They are coming. These waves of technology, you can see them long before they come, and you just have to choose wisely which ones you are going to ride. If you choose recklessly, then you can waste a lot of energy, but if you choose wisely, it happens quite slowly. It takes years. [years ago] was that we didn’t want to get into a business where we didn’t own or control the core technology, because you’d leave your head.
For a better future, look forward, not back, but don’t overlook history, which is always a helpful guide.
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