That Apple as a technology company has a long history of disrupting various industries and product categories is not news. Apple II, Mac, iMac, Apple Stores, iPod, iTunes, iTunes Music Store, iPhone, App Stores, iPad, and now Watch all come to mind as product categories where the disruption came from Apple.
Underlying all those product areas are other Apple instigated industry disruptions which have less public visibility, but have, nevertheless, become highly disruptive. Here’s my short list of areas where Apple has challenged the status quo and won.
CPUs – Not that many years ago Apple bought a small CPU design firm, which now is responsible for the A-series CPUs in iPhone and iPad, the latest of which, the A9, jointly manufactured by Samsung and Taiwan’s TMSC, blows away the competition on benchmarks, and even holds its own against Intel Inside the new MacBook.
Product Launch – Remember way back when, back to the days of newspapers and technology magazines, back to when it could be months after a product launched that we could read details, but still not buy the latest? Those days are gone. Apple not only sold 13-million new iPhones the past weekend, but manufactured 13-million devices before the first one was sold. That feat ties into the next one.
Supply Chain – CEO Tim Cook has the reputation of being a supply chain wizard, and apparently has cloned himself (Jeff Williams) so Apple maintains the industry’s standard for supply chain wizardry. Not only can Apple manufacture a few hundred million high quality devices each year, it can do so at less cost than competitors who dare to compete in the premium product spectrum.
Watch – Apple Watch has been on the market less than six months and the effects are enormous. Watch owns about two-thirds of the total revenue in the nascent smartwatch segment, and a greater percent of the segment’s profits. Swiss watchmaker exports have declined for the first time in years, and all major brands have plans to counter Apple’s Watch with so-called smartwatches of their own.
Video Watching – Among mobile devices, research says Apple’s devices– iPhone, iPad, Apple TV (via AirPlay)– are used to watch online videos more than all other devices combined.
Applications – Apple didn’t invent applications, of course, but Apple commands a disproportionate percentage and mindshare of the app industry, through the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad, and the Mac App Store. Coupled to that is Apple’s uncanny ability to get the customer base to upgrade to the newer OS versions. Just before iOS 9 was released, about 91-percent of all iPhones and iPads had upgraded to the previous version, iOS 8. OS upgrades are free to customers, and so is the iWork trio of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Apple’s apps have become so popular and so easy to download, use, and upgrade to the latest that Microsoft has been forced to abandon their previous upgrade policy in favor of annual subscriptions, and to give away Office apps for free on iPhone and iPad. That’s disruption.
Apple Pay – If you haven’t tried it then you’re in for a treat. It’s so simple and straightforward that Apple iPhone customers now search for Apple Pay to make purchases. Apple didn’t invent wireless payments, but Apple Pay set the standard and accounts for more than half of all mobile wireless payments in the U.S.
Upgrade Program – This is more of a prediction but one that has highly disruptive consequences for competitors who don’t have Apple’s financial or marketing muscle. iPhone Upgrade Program is a rental or lease option for the iPhone 6s line. As carriers shy away from the old fashioned subsidy-like phone-purchase-within-the-plan option, Apple has just filled the void with an amazingly easy way to get a new iPhone every year. That’s disruptive.
Those are not all the items I could put into a list, but they’re disruptions in their own right, and ride on the backs or coattails of Apple’s hardware product line.
What about Apple Music? It’s likely already disruptive to Spotify and Pandora, leaving them with a smaller slice of a growing pie, the streaming music subscription business where Apple is now a major player, but the segment is highly fragmented and without a clear leader so it didn’t make my list.
What did I miss?