Operators like Tim Cook focus the whole org on the “Big to Bigger” picture. That is, how do we take an existing business and scale it?
Instead, Cook should focus the company on discovering new customer problems and new businesses. For that, he needs talent and capital that run in tandem with the company’s established business. This new arm should be tasked with discovering and validating new customer problems worth solving, so the company is always analyzing the Total Addressable Problem (TAP) in a new area before it ever considers a Total Address Market (TAM). The latter is about what is today. The former is about what could be.
There is a morsel of truth in this article on VentureBeat, but if you told me this was written by Microsoft PR then I’d believe you. This piece goes on and on about about Microsoft has been able to find new avenues of revenue by figuring out what new problems they can solve for customers. Meanwhile, they say, Apple has simply been trying to find ways to make their biggest products bigger and nickel and dime their customers along the way.
While the increase in prices for Apple hardware, as well as their continuing push into services are very real things, I think it’s intentionally daft to suggest they are not addressing “new consumer problems and new businesses.”
Consider the Apple Watch, which launched in 2015 and has since become a bigger product than the iPod at it’s height. No one will argue the iPod was a transformative product that was a phenomenon. The Apple Watch solves tons of real problems people have including literally saving lives:
- Apple Watch saves the life of woman trapped in a submerged car
- Apple Watch may have saved yet another person’s life
- Teen's Apple Watch may have saved her life
- Apple Watch user discovers A-fib heart issue with new ECG app, ‘this probably saved you,’ says doctor
- This Apple Watch Feature Helped Save a Man’s Life
- An Apple Watch told a 46-year-old man he had an irregular heartbeat. It was right.
Then consider AirPods, which are the first truly adored wireless earbuds out there, which too have become a phenomenon since they released in late 2016. And we should remember this is a product so good that Apple went almost 2.5 years before updating them, and when they did all the really did was give it wireless charging and “Hey Siri” support, yet consumers were basically all like “yeah, that’s enough.” How many tech products, especially first generation tech products, last over 2 years without an update and nobody can top them in that time?
Moving to the software side, Apple News has been a major success with more people using it all the time. It solves a very real consumer problem of finding accurate news in a world where Facebook and Twitter perpetuate conspiracy theories and junk news on a massive scale. They did this with human curation paired with clever algorithms when the rest of the tech industry was saying “just algorithm all the things!”
This is a smaller thing, but they took the feedback from customers about iOS 11 seriously and made iOS 12 a “speed and stability” release since that was that was demanded. Now no one is talking about how buggy iOS is, which is all people could talk about this time last year.
You can surely bring up other comments about how iPhones cost more than ever and this squeezes consumers’ wallets too much. Or that MacBook Pros are too expensive and have too many compromises for what they offer. Or how iPad software has not evolved as fast as the hardware that runs it, all while those products also get more expensive. These are all valid things to be upset about, but I think that looking at things like services revenue and increased prices for hardware as proof that Apple doesn’t look to solve new consumer problems.