Pop quiz: Who buys product from Facebook and Google? Your answer should be advertisers. Who buys Apple products? Overwhelmingly consumers.
Perhaps the biggest, most important point of difference between the three companies.
For Google and Facebook the big question isn’t where’s their next product coming from, it’s how they can ensure that they see the next market disruption before it arrives. It’s why Facebook repeatedly buys up and coming services that seem to have caught the zeitgeist; and Google is continually launching and researching new services and products. Because if someone comes along who’s doing a better job of attracting consumer eyeballs, advertisers will jump ship faster than you can say ‘so, whatever happened to Friends Reunited?’
Apple faces a very different challenge. Right now it has found itself a very profitable position at the head of the smartphone table. Its a position that Nokia and Blackberry occupied a decade ago. Until Apple came along with a product that was so radically better than what was on offer, and so difficult for their inertia driven organisations to compete with that it drove both to the brink of bankruptcy.
How about Microsoft. It wasn’t a major player in the phone market when the iPhone arrived. However it managed to completely miss the link between smartphones and its core business.
Ever since the iPhone arrived it has been obvious that it would become the most important device in a consumer or enterprise’s armoury. HTC even ran a phenomenally successful campaign based on the very idea: the phone that gets you. A culture of arrogance, blindness or perhaps the delusional belief that Microsoft would continue to carry all before it, meant that Microsoft failed to respond to the iPhone and also failed to realise what its success was going to do to the PC and Office software markets.
Microsoft was just so used to winning that it lacked the corporate will and direction to handle losing.
Apple is currently like a pre-2007 Microsoft. King of the Hill and riding high on profits and revenues that almost defy belief. And entirely at risk of being blind-sided by the next iPhone-sized big thing.
I don’t think that next big thing has arrived yet. It’s certainly not the smartwatch or the tablet. When it does turn up though, I fancy Apple’s response will be somewhat more robust than any of those major players managed nearly ten years ago.