Strategic Management Case plus Case Answer – Apple’s Profitable but Risky Strategy
Apple’s profitable but risky strategy
When Apple’s Chief Executive – Steven Jobs – launched the Apple iPod in 2001 and the iPhone in 2007, he made a significant shift in the company’s strategy from the relatively safe market of innovative, premium-priced computers into the highly competitive markets of consumer electronics. This case explores this profitable but risky strategy.
Note that this case explores in 2008 before Nokia had major problems with smartphones – see Case 9.2 and Case 15.1 for this later situation.
To understand any company’s strategy, it is ...view middle of the document...
0 from the rival company Microsoft, whose chief executive was the well-known Bill Gates. Microsoft’s strategy was to make this software widely available to other computer manufacturers for a licence fee – quite unlike Apple. A legal dispute arose between Apple and Microsoft because Windows had many on-screen similarities to the Apple product. Eventually, Microsoft signed an agreement with Apple saying that it would not use Mac technology in Windows 1.0. Microsoft retained the right to develop its own interface software similar to the original Xerox concept.
Coupled with Microsoft’s willingness to distribute Windows freely to computer manufacturers, the legal agreement allowed Microsoft to develop alternative technology that had the same on-screen result. The result is history. By 1990, Microsoft had developed and distributed a version of Windows that would run on virtually all IBM-compatible personal computers – see Case 1.2. Apple’s strategy of keeping its software exclusive was a major strategic mistake. The company was determined to avoid the same error when it came to the launch of the iPod and, in a more subtle way, with the later introduction of the iPhone.
Apple’s innovative products
Unlike Microsoft with its focus on a software-only strategy, Apple remained a full-line computer manufacturer from that time, supplying both the hardware and the software. Apple continued to develop various innovative computers and related products. Early successes included the Mac2 and PowerBooks along with the world’s first desktop publishing programme – PageMaker. This latter remains today the leading programme of its kind. It is widely used around the world in publishing and fashion houses. It remains exclusive to Apple and means that the company has a specialist market where it has real competitive advantage and can charge higher prices.
Not all Apple’s new products were successful – the Newton personal digital assistant did not sell well. Apple’s high price policy for its products and difficulties in manufacturing also meant that innovative products like the iBook had trouble competing in the personal computer market place.
Apple’s move into consumer electronics
Around the year 2000, Apple identified a new strategic management opportunity to exploit the growing worldwide market in personal electronic devices – CD players, MP3 music players, digital cameras, etc. It would launch its own Apple versions of these products to add high-value, user-friendly software. Resulting products included iMovie for digital cameras and iDVD for DVD-players. But the product that really took off was the iPod – the personal music player that stored hundreds of CDs. And unlike the launch of its first personal computer, Apple sought industry co-operation rather than keeping the product to itself.
Launched in late 2001, the iPod was followed by the iTunes Music Store in 2003 in the USA and 2004 in Europe – the Music Store being a most important and...