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Does Apple Need To Simplify Its Offering Once More?

One of the first things Steve Jobs did on his return to Apple was to sort out the confused and somewhat chaotic range of products that 1990s Apple was offering. The cull was deep and wide ranging and when it was complete Apple offered a line of five computers, each fitting into a separate niche, divided into consumer and professional lines. Desktop iMac and PowerMac; laptop iBook and PowerBook; and a single server PowerMac.

Until the iPod launched that was Apple's basic offering. And it worked. You knew what you wanted and what you should be buying. In 2002 Apple added the education focused eMac and split iMacs into two screen sizes, before adding three screen sizes to its PowerBook and two to its iBook a year later. There were multiple iPods too.

Things have grown out of hand over the last decade though. Apple offers five physically different laptop options, four desktop variations, four iPads, five iPhones, three iPods, two Watches, a single Apple TV option and there's quite probably a partridge in a pear tree in there too, if you look hard enough.

If you add in the different memory and connectivity options it adds up to something of an inventory headache. Which is why we're seeing Apple hardware hanging around longer, leading to unsold inventory at the end of product lifecycles and resulting in large discounts on unsold stock. Usually not from Apple, which manages its inventory better than pretty much anybody else, but especially for retailers.

Would cutting back on the variety of product help here? Almost certainly. Does Apple need to do it? Probably not. The benefit of having options at multiple price points outweigh the risk of having to discount old stock. Especially as Apple is likely to retain some profit margin even at the discounted price.

Can't help but look back and think the tighter range of very focused offerings was a more Apple thing to do though.


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