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Apple: What's Next?

lN EARTY 2015, Apple's stock market valuation reached

$775 billion, making it the most valuable public com-
pany of all time.r This made Apple twice as large as
Exxon, the number two. Not even 20 years earlier, Apple
would likely have gone bankrupt if archrival Microsoft
(which enjoyed the same position with a valuation of
$615 billion in December 1999) had nor invesred $150
million in Apple. How did Apple become so successful?
Apple became the world's most successful company
based on a powerful competitive strategy. That strategy,
conceptualized by co-founder Steve Jobs, combines
innovation in products, services, and business models.
From near-bankruptcy in 1991, Apple's revitalization
really took off in 2001 when it introduced the iPod, a
portable digital music player, the same year it opened
its first retail stores. Apple's stores now earn the high-
est sales per square foot of any retail outlets, including
luxury stores such as Tiffany & Co. jewelry or LVMH,
purveyor of fine handbags and other luxury goods.
ln 2003, Apple soared even higher when it opened
the online store iTunes. Apple didn't stop there. In200i,
the company revolutionized the smartphone market
with the introduction of the iPhone. Just three years later,
Apple created the tablet computer industry by introduc-
ing the iPad, thus beginning to reshape the publish-
ing and media industries. Further, for each of its ipod,
iPhone, and iPad lines of businesses, Apple followed up
with incremental product innovations extending each
product category. By combining tremendous brain-
power, intellectual property, and iconic brand value, Apple CE0 Tim Cook demos Apple Watch and Apple Pay
O AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Apple has enjoyed dramatic increases in revenues.
A good strategy is more than a mere goal or a com-
A Good $trategy pany slogan. A good strategy defines the competitive
challenges facing an organization through a critical
Why was Apple so successful? Why did Microsoft's
once superior market valuation evaporate? Why did
Apple's competitors such as Sony, Dell, Hewlett-Pack- Frank T. Rothaermel plepared this MiniCase I'rom public sources. This Mini-
Case is developed tbr the purposc of class discussion.It is not intended to be
ard (HP), Nokia, and BlackBerry struggle or go out of used for any kind of endorsenrcnt, source of data, or depiction of efficient
business? The short answer is: Apple had a good strat- or inefficient management. AII opinions expressed, all errors and omissions
are entirely the author's. Revised arrd updared: July 24. 2015. O Frank T.
egy. But this begs the question: What is a good strategy? Rothacrmel.

MINICASE 6 Ar:ple \'Vhat's Next'? i 411

and honest assessment of the status quo. A good strat- computer market, because people wanted to manage
egy also provides an overarching approach (policy) their music and photos on a computer that worked
on how to deal with the competitive challenges iden- seamlessly with their mobile devices. Apple then lev-
tified. Last, a good strategy requires effective imple- eraged the success of the iPod/iTunes business-model
mentation through a coherent set of actions. A good innovation, following up with product-category-
strategy, therefore, consists of three elements:' defining innovations when launching the iPhone (in
2001) and the iPad (in 2010).
l. A diagnosi.s of the competitive challenge.
2. A guiding policy to address the competitive COHEREIIT ACTI0NS. Third, Apple implemented its
guiding policy with a set of coherent actions. Apple's
3. A set of coherent actions to implement the firm's coherent actions took a two-pronged approach: It
guiding policy. drastically streamlined its product lineup through
a simple lgls-"1vs will make only one laptop and
THE C0MPETITIVE CHALTENGE. First, consider the one desktop model for each of the two markets we
diagnosis of the competitive challenge. Above, we serve, professional and consumer." It also disrupted
briefly trace Apple's renewal from the year 2001, the industry status quo through a potent combination
when it hit upon the product and business-model of product and business model innovations, executed
innovations of the iPod/iTunes combination. Prior to at planned intervals. These actions allowed Apple to
that, Apple was merely a niche player in the desktop- create a string of temporary competitive advantages
computing industry and struggling financially. Steve (see Exhibit MC6.l). Taken together, this allowed
Jobs turned the sinking company around by focusing Apple to sustain its superior performance for over a
on only two computer models (one laptop and one decade.
desktop) in each of two market segments (the profes- Past performance, however, is no guarantee of future
sional market and the consumer market) as opposed performance. Microsoft was once the most valuable
to dozens of non-differentiated products within each company in the world but has since struggled to keep
segment. This streamlining of its product lineup up with Apple. At the same time, Microsoft' as well
enhanced Apple's strategic focus. Even so, the out- as Google, Samsung, Amazon, and others, is working
look for Apple was grim. Jobs believed that Apple, hard to neutralize Apple's competitive advantage.
with less than 5 percent market share, could not win The trillion-dollar question is whether Apple can
in the personal computer industry where desktops and continue to maintain a competitive advantage in the
laptops had become commoditrzed gray boxes. In that face of increasingly strong competition and rapidly
world, Microsoft, Intel, and Dell were the star per- changing industry environments. In both mobile
formers. Jobs needed to create the "next big thing."r payment systems (Apple Pay launched in 2014) and
music streaming (Apple Music launched in 2015),
A GUIDING P0LlCY. Second, let's consider the guid- Apple was a later mover. The Apple Watch, intro-
ing policy. Apple shifted its competitive focus away duced in 2015, is the first new product category
from personal computers to mobile devices. In doing Apple launched since the iPad in 2010. Although
so, Apple disrupted several industries through its ' Apple has 55 percent market share and captures over
product and business-model innovations. Combining : 90 percent of profits in the smartphone industry (as
hardware (i.e., the iPod) with a complementary ser- , of 2015), over 60 percent of Apple's $225 billion
vice product (i.e., the iTunes Store) enabled Apple to , revenues come from the iPhone.
devise a new business model. Users could now down- :

load individual songs legally (at 99 cents) rather i DISCUSSI0N QUESTI0HS

than buying an entire CD or downloading the songs
t. Explain Apple's success over the last decade.
illegally using Napster and other file-sharing ser-
Think about which industries it has disrupted and
vices. The availability of the iTunes Store drove sales
how. Also look at Apple's main competitors.
of iPods. Along with rising sales for the new iPod
and iTunes products, demand rose for iMacs. The 2. Is Apple's success attributable to industry effects
new products helped disrupt the existing personal or firm effects, or a combination of both? Explain.
412 MINICASE 6 Apple: Whar's Nexr?

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Apple Watch
Apple Music

iPhone 6 &
iPad Mini, Apple Pay
$40 iPhone 5

iPhone 45 Tim Cook
iPhone 3GS,
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iPhone 3G
Apple ipod. iTunes, iphone
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Apple Macintosh

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3. What are the greatest challenges Apple is facing? 2 This discussion

is based on Rumelt, R. (201 l)., Good Strategy,
Detail them by internal weaknesses and external Bad Strategy (New York: Crown Business).
3 Ibio, p. t+.
threats. How can Apple transform internal weak_
nesses into strengths, and external threats into
Sources: This MiniCase is based on: 'Apple Earnings Surge 33%
opportunities? Sales," The Wall Street Journal April Zi, ZOIS;.Apple, feeting
on iphone
heat from
Spotify, to offer streaming music service," The wail itreet Jouiar,
1. Apply the three-step process for developing a June t,
2015; 'Apple's share of smartphone industry's profits soars to giVo,,,
good strategy outlined above (diagnose the com_ Wall Streer Journal luly 12,2015; .Apple's'Maiket Cap Loses
$OO gitlon
Sales Disappoint,,, The Wall Street Journai, July 22,2015;
petitive challenge, derive a guiding policy, and lf!:.]Phq":
Sull, D.,K.E. Eisenhardt (2015), Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complet

implement a set of coherent actions) to Apple,s W:il( (\:y York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourr); .Apple plans web TV'ser_
vice in fall," The Wall Street Journal, March 17, ZblS; kane, I.y. (2014),
situation today. Which recommendations would H_aunted Empire: Apple After Stete Jobs (New york: UarperCottins); .en
you have for Apple to outperform its competitors iPopping phenomenon," The Economrsl, March 24, 2012;.;From pipsqueak
to powerhouse," The Economisr, August Zl, 20 12;,,iRational?,, f-lrr'
in the future? Be specific. mist, March 24, 2012;'Apple market value hits record high,,, The
Wall Street
J,ournal, August 20, 2012;,,GiantApple,', The Economlsf, August
21, 2012;
sull' D., and K.E. Eisenhardt (2012), "Simpre rules for a coirplex world,'i
Endnotes Harvard Business Review, September; Isaacion, W (201 l), Steve (New
I Apple's valuation is in absolute dollars, not in real (inflation- York; Simon & Schuster); and Rumelt, R. (201 l), Good Strategy, "/obs
Bad itrat_
egy (New York: Crown Business).
adjusted) dollars. when adjusted for inflation since 1999, Microsofr's
record marker valuation would be roughly $g50 billion in 2015.