The reward for winning is the perception that you’ve won. In your celebration of your awesomeness, you are no longer focused on the finish line, you now lack a clear next goal, and while you sit there comfortably monetizing eyeballs, you’re becoming strategically dull. You’ve forgotten that someone is coming to eat you and if you wait until you can see them coming, you’re too late. Just ask Nokia or RIM.
The Devil in the Details
Apple’s current biggest competitor is itself, and I think Steve Jobs learned this the hard way – from the sidelines. When he returned, one of his first hires was a gentlemen named Tim Cook, and while Tim Cook holds a degree in industrial engineering, he is not an engineer, a designer, or a poet. Tim Cook is an execution machine and he exists at Apple to enable them to pull off one thing – the iPod Mini moment.
By initially focusing on getting Apple out of manufacturing and streamlining the supply chain, yes, he dramatically improved margins and it’s a lot easer to kill a bestseller under the warm blanket of an attractive balance sheet. But Cook’s larger contribution is an operations team that enables them to build and ship new products with increasingly ferocious regularity.
The reason you’ll see new iPhone hardware in the fall and yet another iPad come spring is because Steve Jobs knew that he didn’t just need to out-design his competition, he needed to out-execute them. Apple is an ambidextrous organization that is equally adept at designing products as they are at making sure millions of them are ready the moment you want them.
If you think nothing revolutionary was announced at the recent WWDC event, if you think you’ve heard it all, I ask you to think about what they’re not talking about. I was thinking about the iPod Mini as I watched the announcement of the MacBook Pro. While it is certainly one of the sexiest pieces of metal on the planet, it also represents painfully consistent execution by Apple.
Yes, you’ve heard it all before – Retina display, thinner, faster, and more, but I trust Apple when they say they re-imagined everything in the design. I fully expect there is design work in the MacBook Pro that you’ve never heard of that will give the next iPhone or iPad a competitive edge and I believe the experience they’ve gained executing this design will allow them to not only maintain, but increase momentum.
How long can they keep it up? I don’t know, but I do know that Apple believes the future is invented by the people who don’t give a shit about the past.