APPLE’S journey back from the abyss is the stuff of legend, a truly American tale of ingenuity and success in the face of adversity. Now it has overtaken Microsoft as the US’s second largest company in terms of market capitalisation, its place in history is assured.
The recovery can be credited to one man: Steve Jobs, the prodigal son exiled in 1985, only to return ten years later when the firm was moments from bankruptcy. Along with an incredibly tight-knit team, including British-born vice president of design Jony Ive, Jobs has built Apple’s reputation on a handful of products. The iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad (out in the UK today), and variations of these: that’s all there is.
He has also transformed the PC market, the mobile phone space and the music industry. With the iPad launch, he has the news media, publishing and Hollywood in his sights.
And he has done all this by breaking every rule in business.
Companies we are told, should be open; in the 21st Century customers and investors demand transparency. Not Apple. Outside of its cabal of executives, few know anything of its plans. Its product launches are shrouded in secrecy, making them blockbuster events in their own right.
The customer always knows best. Not according to Jobs, who thinks the customer doesn’t know what they want. Apple must be the one of the only consumer businesses that doesn’t use focus-groups. Jobs and his team think it was focus groups that kept the PC beige, boxy and bland for so long.
This supreme arrogance, this belief that Apple alone knows how to design and engineer perfection, is there to see in every product. That is why they’re so beautiful, why they work so well, and why they’re nearly always the best in their class.
But Apple shouldn’t dine out for too long on its trumping of Microsoft. Bill Gates’ firm is old news. The new front is the war against Google. Let battle commence.