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VENTURES AFRICA – As US tech giant Apple today celebrates 30 years in business, the silhouette apple-bitten brand has risen meteorically from building blue boxes out of a Silicon Valley garage to most revered brand on the planet, displacing Coca-cola in the process.
Today Apple is the world’s most valuable brand and the largest publicly traded company, with market cap exceeding $416 billion and annual revenue reaching $156 billion. The Silicon Valley giant, led by the late tech-revolutionary Steve Jobs and his partner Steve Wozniak, started what has become a pacesetter in the tech industry. Apple’s revolutionary products, i.e. iPod, iPhone, Mac PCs and the iPad, has changed consumer experience while amassing huge sales for the company.
The recent rumoured launch of iWatch confirms the firm’s undying thirst for innovation and delivering cutting edge technology, consolidating its position as a global leader even after 30 years.
As technology becomes more prominent in Africa – driven by unprecedented mobile and broadband penetration – the opportunity for indigenous tech companies is enormous. Companies like Zinox Technologies, RLG, iRoko Partners, Interswitch, VMK, MXit are evidence of this. During this phase, it could be crucial if these tech firms draw from Apple’s business philosophy as they seek to build sustainable brands.
Apple has existed three decades, yet feels like a lifetime. Its strategic business model have made consumers unable to recall what the industry offered before the firm came into the fray. As it turns 30, with today marking the launch of the first Macintosh, here are some fundamental principles African tech companies and startups can draw from its success.
Vision over visibility
Apple is today heralded as one of the most successful companies in the world, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing at the start. Its debut product, Apple Lisa, was considered a commercial failure, largely due to its high price and limited software offers. Its follow up was the Macintosh. Backed by a $1.5 million commercial that aired on the 1984 Super Bowl, it was hailed as the birth of a “masterpiece”. However, after initial promising sales figures, demand gradually dipped afterwards.
Despite these initial setbacks, Apple was not deterred. Rather it set out to correct earlier mistakes with the introduction of LaserWriter – the first postscript laser printer – to compliment the Macintosh. Along with the printer, it also released the Pagemaker – a desktop publishing program. A combination of all three is said to be foundation of desktop publishing market today.
Apple has gone on to introduce further cutting edge products, leading innovations in the mobile and personal computer markets. By focusing on passion, not sales, the company persistence and Job’s vision changed the way consumers experience computers and other products, ultimately making it the most valuable company in the world.
Charismatic. Ruthless. Perfectionist. Visionary. These are some of the words used to describe Apple’s visionary founder, Steve Jobs. His futuristic thinking led to the launch of iPod that transformed mp3 player market. The iPod was released with a 5GB memory, which was marketed to hold over 1000 songs, an incredible feat for any player at that time. It was launched just after the release of digital management software iTunes, which allowed content consumers manage albums in a refreshing format as well as provide artist a unified platform to commercialize their songs. This followed further releases of iPhone, a convergence of the music and mobile telephony (iPod and iPhone), Mac PCs and the iPad, which set the trend for a rollout of tabs by other competitors.
According to Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt, “he [Jobs] uniquely combined an artist’s touch and an engineer’s vision to build an extraordinary company, one of the greatest American leaders in history.”
The importance of his leadership was greatly felt that following his resignation due to internal politics in 1985, the company lost its way and was gradually losing to competition from Microsoft until his reinstatement as CEO in 1997. He then led the firm to unprecedented growth levels, discounting companies like Exxon Mobil on its way attaining the world’s most valuable brand.
Think Different. Create Opportunities
According to Kirby Ferguson, “every idea is a remix.” The iPod, iPhone, Mac PCs and iPad contributed hugely to the success of Apple. These products’ introduced revolutionary innovations in mobile, computers, and music delivery markets. With the iPod and iPad, the Silicon Valley giant identified gaps in the consumer space and set out to exploit the opportunities it presented, by creatively building on existing technologies to produce the ultimate product.
Apple transformed the way consumers experience music delivery with the iPod. It also built on touch screen technology, making it the very essence of its mobile products. Touch screens were already in use before Apple came into play, but it was the first to achieve mass adoption of this interface, taking it a level higher by implementing a variety of programmed touch gestures. Today it has set the trend for screen technology across the mobile industry.
Excellence takes a second to achieve, but a lifetime to sustain. Since 2001, when the first iPod was introduced, Apple has continuously pushed innovative limits to satisfy its consumers.
Apple has positioned itself in the minds of consumers as the perfect brand, with a combination of innovative product delivery and effective marketing strategies, which gives users the ultimate experience.
“With his passion for minimalist design and marketing genius, Mr Jobs changed the course of personal computing during two stints with Apple and transformed the mobile phone market,” explains UK’s Daily Mail. Catch phrases such ‘Think Differently’ and ‘iThink, therefore iMac’ coined during the early parts of Jobs’ second stint, effectively communicated the premium image of the brand. Even after Jobs, Apple has managed to maintain this culture.
The company today has a brand loyalty like no other, with an army of followers “Apple Evangelists”, which it constantly engages at meetings, Expos and conferences to strengthen relationships and develop strategies to attract newer groups.