Wired explores why Apple thrives

“Google and Apple may have a friendly relationship — Google CEO Eric Schmidt sits on Apple’s board, after all — but by Google’s definition, Apple is irredeemably evil, behaving more like an old-fashioned industrial titan than a different-thinking business of the future. Apple operates with a level of secrecy that makes Thomas Pynchon look like Paris Hilton. It locks consumers into a proprietary ecosystem. And as for treating employees like gods? Yeah, Apple doesn’t do that either,” Leander Kahney writes for Wired.

“But by deliberately flouting the Google mantra, Apple has thrived. When Jobs retook the helm in 1997, the company was struggling to survive. Today it has a market cap of $105 billion, placing it ahead of Dell and behind Intel. Its iPod commands 70 percent of the MP3 player market. Four billion songs have been purchased from iTunes. The iPhone is reshaping the entire wireless industry. Even the underdog Mac operating system has begun to nibble into Windows’ once-unassailable dominance; last year, its share of the US market topped 6 percent, more than double its portion in 2003,” Kahney writes.

“It’s hard to see how any of this would have happened had Jobs hewed to the standard touchy-feely philosophies of Silicon Valley. Apple creates must-have products the old-fashioned way: by locking the doors and sweating and bleeding until something emerges perfectly formed. It’s hard to see the Mac OS and the iPhone coming out of the same design-by-committee process that produced Microsoft Vista or Dell’s Pocket DJ music player. Likewise, had Apple opened its iTunes-iPod juggernaut to outside developers, the company would have risked turning its uniquely integrated service into a hodgepodge of independent applications — kind of like the rest of the Internet, come to think of it.
And now observers, academics, and even some other companies are taking notes. Because while Apple’s tactics may seem like Industrial Revolution relics, they’ve helped the company position itself ahead of its competitors and at the forefront of the tech industry,” Kahney writes. “Sometimes, evil works.”

Kahney writes, “At most companies, the red-faced, tyrannical boss is an outdated archetype, a caricature from the life of Dagwood. Not at Apple. Whereas the rest of the tech industry may motivate employees with carrots, Jobs is known as an inveterate stick man. Even the most favored employee could find themselves on the receiving end of a tirade… But Jobs’ employees remain devoted. That’s because his autocracy is balanced by his famous charisma — he can make the task of designing a power supply feel like a mission from God. Andy Hertzfeld, lead designer of the original Macintosh OS, says Jobs imbued him and his coworkers with “messianic zeal.” And because Jobs’ approval is so hard to win, Apple staffers labor tirelessly to please him.”

Kahney writes, “No other company has proven as adept at giving customers what they want before they know they want it. Undoubtedly, this is due to Jobs’ unique creative vision. But it’s also a function of his management practices. By exerting unrelenting control over his employees, his image, and even his customers, Jobs exerts unrelenting control over his products and how they’re used. And in a consumer-focused tech industry, the products are what matter. “Everything that’s happening is playing to his values,” says Geoffrey Moore, author of the marketing tome Crossing the Chasm. ‘He’s at the absolute epicenter of the digitization of life. He’s totally in the zone.'”

Much, much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Brawndo Drinker” for the heads up.]


  1. How about the secret of Apple’s success is that they are one of the few companies in America that actually respects the customer and builds products that they can take pride in? So much of what the rest of corporate America throws our way is an insult to our intelligence, e.g., Vista, Zune, McDonald’s, most of the cars. When you throw down the money for an Apple product you don’t feel porked.

  2. “It locks consumers into a proprietary ecosystem.”
    I don’t feel locked in. My OS X can handle a whole lot (anything M$ can program) more than his MS system can. How can that be a lock in? Idiot Wired writer!

  3. one needs to look to their inner soul

    seriously, who hasn’t been flunked by dodgy mobile phones… maybe that’s what ticked Jobs off to creating one.

    We’re all happy that our USB printers work when their plugged in, hence there’s no point in making a better one. The real money comes from a device that does what other industries still scratch their heads on.

    the next step in technology is wireless HDMI

  4. You cannot formulate genius. Another tyrant would simply be a buffoon. The amazing thing is how right he is about his world; how in th zone. He has also matured greatly. He is not the jerk he once was. Read iCon (biography of Steve) for a good perspective on this.

    People think Apple has a closed system when they look at it from the hardware manufactures point of view. The miss the fact that it is pretty open from the users point of view. It is MS that tries to crush the competition by forcing everyone to use their applications if they want to use their operating system.

    It seems like Jobs is the prototypical consumer at Apple. If he wants it and it is developed to the point where he is satisfied (nearly perfect) the rest of us just love it.

  5. “At most companies, the red-faced, tyrannical boss is an outdated archetype.”

    Err, no, at most companies, it’s a current reality. And he or she is a total idiot to boot. Jobs may be a tyrant, but he’s a brilliant tyrant. So were Edison and Picasso.

  6. Since when is “locking the doors and sweating and bleeding until something emerges perfectly formed” evil? If Apple’s success is due to its “Industrial Revolution relic” way of conducting business, well, God help us all.

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