Think Different, Unless You’re Apple
On January 22nd, 1984, during Super Bowl XVIII, a fledgling company known as Apple Computer released their infamous 1984 commercial, itself a take to George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It features a dystopian society of mindless humans obeying a computer screen known as Big Brother. However, in the commercial, while Big Brother is giving a rousing speech, a heroine hurls a hammer at the screen, freeing the people, while the screen cuts to black and reads “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like 1984”. In this ad, Big Brother is supposed to represent IBM (also nicknamed Big Blue) as a mindless, conformist, stationary force imposing his will on the people, while Apple is supposed to represent the heroine, as a force of freedom, expression, and ideas. This commercial was lauded with praise and is known as one of the best advertisements of all time. However, it’s subtext is still relevant today, as Apple, once the free-spirited expressive heroine, is now the stagnant and conformist Big Brother.
Ever since the death of Steve Jobs in 2011, Apple never really regained the spark, imagination, and charisma he brought to the company. Most importantly, Apple lacks true innovation. Granted, they did introduce a couple of new product categories since 2011, such as the Apple Watch and AirPods, but these type of products have been released by other companies before Apple came out with their refinement. So, if Apple isn’t really innovating anymore, how are they still the most successful company in the world?
Among the multitude of reasons Apple continues to turn a profit, brand loyalty is first and foremost. Apple possesses one of the largest fan bases, who will, unconditionally, pay top dollar to have an Apple logo on their phones and computers. Come September, the month of the iPhone launch, Apple Stores nationwide will have lines that are multiple blocks long for days before the devices go on sale, and Apple’s website usually doesn’t have items in stock for at least two weeks after their reveal to the public.
Services and subscriptions are also one of Apple’s burgeoning product categories in the last two to three years. Services such as Apple Music, their $10/month music streaming service, Apple Care, which is a protection plan sold alongside new purchases, and Apple’s rumored video streaming service, most likely to be revealed next year, continually perform for Apple.
Thirdly, what's colloquially known as the Apple ecosystem entices those who already have Apple products to buy more Apple products. Apple’s ideology that keeping their software and services only on their own hardware, unlike Android and Windows, which license their platforms to other manufacturers, as well as Apple’s software integration between platforms, such as between the iPhone and the Apple Watch, make those who enter the Apple ecosystem much less likely to leave.
And, one of the most obvious reasons of Apple’s success is the fact that they are inherently a luxury brand. Three years ago, people scoffed at the idea that a company could charge $1,000 for a phone. With mid-range phones (those roughly between $300 and $500) getting more powerful and more efficient for their price, surely there could be no way a phone with that high a price could survive, right? Releasing the iPhone X, and now the XS, with that high a price actually benefited Apple greatly, and helped Apple become the first ever $1 Trillion company. And this strategy not only works for the iPhone, but for other products like the Apple Watch, which had its price go up $100 this past year, and the MacBook, whose least expensive model, the 12-inch MacBook, which is far less powerful than most sub-$1000 laptops, has a starting price of $1299, and, due to the factors listed above, they can get away with it.
So, while Apple may be lacking in innovation, they make up for it in a plethora of ways. For better or for worse, Apple, in the foreseeable future, will continue to release incremental updates to their products, continue to charge top-dollar for them, and dominate the tech world for years to come.