Fast Company article on Apple and Steve Jobs

Posted by Pierre Igot in: iTunes, Music, Technology
December 27th, 2003 • 2:18 am

The 2004 issue of Fast Company has an interesting article on Apple, Steve Jobs and the “limits of innovation.”

In spite of the annoying hyphenation left-over from the printed version and the badly encoded accented characters, it’s a good read that highlights how Apple has failed to transform their on-going innovative prowess into market dominance.

It labels iTunes and the iPod as “Apple’s first foray into business-model innovation” (as opposed to purely technological innovation). I’m not entirely convinced: the original iMac itself was little more than a re-packaged Macintosh computer with USB ports and no diskette drive (and a round mouse). It was more of a “business-model” kind of innovation than technological innovation—and fortunately it was the business move that enabled Steve Jobs to save Apple.

But I agree with the author’s concern that Apple could quickly lose its edge in the digital music market, much as it has lost it in the general computing market. I am not sure how long Apple can continue without supporting the Microsoft-based file formats used by other online music stores.

4 Responses to “Fast Company article on Apple and Steve Jobs”

  1. Paul Ingraham says:

    Apple probably will lose its edge in digital music, and I don’t mind. The last thing I want is for Apple to become THE purveyor of digital music and playback, with the inevitably grim consequences for the Mac platform. No, I’d be quite pleased if Apple’s iPod/iTunes team becomes and remains, like the Mac itself, respected and admired but underdoggish.

    Things tastefully designed and built well never consistently dominate a market. It’s a natural law, I think; let’s call it the Walmart Principle. As long as iTunes/iPod are really good, and relatively expensive, there will be hordes of cheap imitations that will hog most consumer dollars.

    So let’s not mourn the loss of something (a market share edge) that Apple has never really had much of anyway. As long as Apple keeps innovating technologically, they will continue to hog a share of the market that no other manufacturer can touch. They will be trendsetters, and their products will generally be best-of-breed, and they will always enough customers to power the next great thing.

  2. Paul Ingraham says:

    Aye, MS dominating music distribution is a scary thought. I still don’t know if I want Apple to try to put on that hat, though… it would change them forever, and perhaps not for the better. But it’s a good topic for discussion. Okay, mini-poll for anyone reading…

    If Apple were to successfully dominate the future of digital music distribution (and therefore the entire industry), what would happen to the Mac platform? Would it (a) become a neglected and vestigial technology, or (b) would Apple’s good fortune translate into a golden era for Macs, no longer the only but forever the best platform for iTunes?


  3. Pierre Igot says:

    That would amount to maintaining the status quo. However, that would also mean Microsoft taking over yet another chunk of modern life (recorded music). I’m not sure I really want that.

    Your “Walmart Principle” applies to fairly complex things. For simpler devices, it’s not necessarily true. I know very few people who buy cheap imitations of good telephone sets.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Sorry I don’t have polling software installed here :-). I honestly don’t think anyone knows, so this might not be the best poll subject… All I know is that the value of the recording industry as a whole is dwarfed by the value of the technology industry as a whole. So success as a music distribution venture doesn’t necessarily mean that too many resources would have to be devoted to it.

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