Much has been made of Apple’s strategy, including a recent book “The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs.” Most often, the kinds of “strategic” things Apple and Jobs are praised for are innovation, design, marketing, inspiration, etc.
These are no doubt true to some extent, but there appears to be another deep component to their strategy. I think they have deliberately tuned their product cycle to Moore’s law. You know the one, the power of the computer chip doubles about every two years.
Let’s look at a few examples. The iPhone was remarkable when it came out in 2007 not because it was the first smartphone on the market, but because the design of the device was so well suited to the capabilities of the hardware at exactly the moment that the hardware came available. To be more precise, it was almost as if Apple knew exactly when the combination of processing power (Moore’s law) and touch screen capability (I’m sure someone has coined a “law” for this) would enable a truly functional device. By 2007, I had already owned 3 or 4 so called smart phones, but there was nothing like the experience of the iPhone. Four years later, with many strong entrants, it is easy to forget how far ahead they were at the time.
The most recent example of the iPad (and iPad 2) is similar. Apple and Jobs anticipated the technological capabilities that would be available in 2010 in their design of the iPad. So, when it came out, it was far ahead of the competition who are still struggling over a year later to catch Apple.
Apple seems to have enough faith in Moore’s law to base its product management strategy on it. Inside Apple today, we can bet that someone is looking at the processing capabilities that will be available in 2019 when processing power will be about 16 times what it is today. In a (probably funky looking) Apple lab, they are already designing the products that will take advantage of these capabilities. They have faith in the progress of technology.
It doesn’t appear that Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia or any of the others have figured out how to use the forecasting power of this law in their product development life cycles. Apple and Jobs have a deep understanding of the progress of technology and are using that understanding to enhance their competitive position in the market.