The Key to Apple’s Success

Thu, Apr 2, 2009

Analysis, News

John Gruber over at DaringFireball has a must-read article discussing the secret sauce behind Apple’s success: Evolution.

If there’s a formula to Apple’s success over the past 10 years, that’s it. Start with something simple and build it, grow it, improve it, steadily over time. Evolve it.

The iPhone exemplifies this strategy. There’s a long list of features many experts and pundits claimed the original 1.0 iPhone needed but lacked. Ends up it didn’t need any of them. Nice to have is not the same thing as necessary. But things the iPhone did have, which other phones lacked, truly were necessary in terms of providing the sort of great leap forward in the overall experience that Apple was shooting for.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.  One of the hallmarks of Apple post the return of Jobs has been its ability to look at the big picture while slowly but surely adding features and utility to both its software and hardware. The iPod is a perfect example.  At first, the iPod was a Mac only device with 5GB capacity.  As it evolved, Apple methodically added PC support, introduced new models, increased storage capacities, added color, added video support etc.  In a way, the iPhone is the culmination of all the previous iPod models that came before it.  Put in the context of “The Evolution of Man”, the iPhone is the upright walking Human.  

While pundits like to toss around the cliched phrase “revolutionary vs. evolutionary”, they tend to forget that more frequently than not, the biggest changes are the result of a few evolutionary cycles, rather than one gigantic revolutionary leap.

Gruber writes about this concept in regards to the iPhone:

The iPhone was not conceived merely as a single device or a one-time creation. It’s a platform. A framework engineered for the long-run. The iPhone didn’t and doesn’t need MMS or a better camera or a video camera or more storage or cut/copy/paste or GPS mapping or note syncing, because the framework was in place so that Apple could add these things, and much more, later — either through software updates or through new hardware designs. The way to build a complex device with all the features you want is not to start by trying to build a device with all those features, but rather to start with the fundamentals, and then iterate and evolve.

The scary thing is that in a few years, we might well look at the original iPhone in the same we look at the original iPod. 

Check out the rest of Gruber’s article over here.


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