Saturday, 13 August 2011

Real economic change comes from examining companies like Apple and learning from them.



Apple Computer Inc. An example of high product utility, customer satisfaction, learning a living and thinking differently.
by Tom Thorne
OK I have a bias. But it's a good bias. I use Apple Computer products and have done so since  the Apple II came out in 1976. Today I am writing this story on my iPad 2 while my daughter is doing job applications on the iMac. 
Yes, I also refer to the Windows World as the "Dark Side" and I actively encourage others to free themselves from the grip of Microsoft. Judging by Microsoft's recent stock performance my work has been fruitful.
With my bias out of the way I want to examine Apple Computer as a model for doing business in a 24/7 world of constant change. At some time in the past a philosophy of how to do business in a customer-centred way developed at Apple.
Even in their leaner years Apple always stretched technology to the limits while retaining a commitment to their customer's needs. It has always been innovative and daring in its application of Large Scale Integration (LSI) starting in the early days when they did simple things like push floppy disk storage from a conservative 180 Kb to 400 and then 800 Kb first on a 5.25" floppy disk and then on a smaller floppy storing up to 1.4Mb. Apple always pushed the technical envelope.
Ease of use 
Their interface with the user was always at the top of the game. There was always a sense that innovation could be expected no matter what they did. Very early they went for the closed system that enabled them to develop hardware and software in complimentary tandem. 
The DOS and finally Windows way was to allow the hardware to be free and hope that the software worked with the computers that developed. Freedom is fine but when it compromises performance then it becomes simply annoying and often irritating.
How many times have I heard DOS or Windows users curse that they spent their weekend trying to get the operating system to recognize a printer or an external hard drive?  A lot I must report. In the years that I worked at a college I used both Apple and Windows computers and my observations here are based on experience not bias.
We all know the outcome of that experience and how many times the DOS Windows world faltered. Sadly Apple only had a 15-20 percent market share while the other side gobbled up the rest. The market seemed content to engage in a world of DOS Windows struggles.
Those of us who remained loyal to Apple went through all kinds of derision from the DOS Windows users who felt that their trials with that truculent system made them more worthy or somehow strengthened their character in some twisted way.
Apple always encourages learning...and learning is our living in the 24/7 instant world of the internet.
I remember a colleague at the college where I taught marketing coming to me with the following problem. He had just come from industry to teach advertising and had always lived in a world of having a secretary to do his typing. "What do I do" he said " I have no typist to do my report to the Dean and I know zip about computers." 
This former executive was unnerved by what I call cyberphobia - the fear and often loathing of computational devices. A fear compounded by Windows because he had tried a dark side machine and found it impenetrable before he came to me.
I sat him down in front of a Macintosh. In under 20 minutes he had a word-processing page up and running as he pecked out his report with one finger. His anxiety dissipated. He then went on a steep learning curve that was rewarded by Apple's intuitive operating system and word processing software at every step. 
This man is now  retired and an expert in Apple computers. He helps others make the jump from the Windows world to Mac but more importantly he calms fears of impending learning curves. He has an excellent knack getting retired people to master computing so they can stay in touch with family and grandchildren.
Why was his confidence built up when he had to do that report to the Dean?  Mainly because Apple has always taken the view that their systems hardware and software should encourage the user to get into their content and work needs instead of wrestling with rounds of boring technique. In short, his initial needs were met by a friendly useful product. 
High utility is where it is at...
In marketing we have a term for this type of product. They have "high utility" usually enhanced by excellent design and ergonomic user interfaces. Apple always provides these high utility products both in hardware and software. Add to that their penchant for innovation and it is no wonder that they have become America's largest company this week.
My iPad 2 says it best. Why is it the best selling pad? The first reason is that it was first and  truly an innovative product with obvious high utility. Apple is in to their second generation iPad already. 
Second, every other pad product is a knock off or catch-up product no matter how good it is. Third, Apple introduces a  new product line with Apps uniquely distributed from iTunes and their App store. Four, Apple always inspires confidence because their products always work, their software is impeccable and their √©lan stands out against the competition.
Apple is the model for doing business in a 24/7 speed of light environment. They have mastered the internet. They have distribution both on the ground and on-line executed in a user friendly way. In addition they have timed their  entry into new businesses such as iTunes in sync with their product releases of iPods, iPhones and iPads all linked perfectly to their lines of personal computers.  As a result they have $72 billion US  in cash reserve.
As a company they plan, do innovation quickly and well and lead market places before they are even developed in the minds of their competition.  And that is why I use Apple products. They are good news in a world of downturned markets, government debt and political indecision.
© Copyright, 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

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