Color me a little worried about Apple’s product strategy and implementation in recent years. There are times that I wonder what’s going on in Cupertino. Are Apple’s executives preoccupied with cashing in bonus checks? Are they too busy driving their Ferrari’s around looking for expensive real estate? Is there no time to get a new Apple product out the door on time?
Think about it. Nearly every product Apple has launched in the past few years has launched late and incomplete. iMac with 5K Retina display. MacBook Pro. Watch. Apple Music. AirPod. Apple TV 4K. iPhone X. HomePod.
What’s going on? Those are examples of Apple’s new product strategy.
Shawn Blanc explains:
Ship when it’s useful, not when it’s done
Wait. What? That doesn’t sound right, right? Yet, it sounds familiar. Many of Apple’s products over the past few years have shipped to customers in a somewhat useful but definitely not done stage.
Watch was useful, but wasn’t really good until Watch 2.0 a year or so later. Apple Music? Lame, initially, but it has improved and is catching up to Spotify. Why has Apple adopted this new product strategy?
Because Apple is a hardware company that differentiates products via software. The nature of technology is such that products are never really done. Both hardware and software are ongoing iterative improvements, but you have to start somewhere and that’s hardware.
Shipping a product when it’s useful is a far more tangible metric for creating things and putting them out there. Because — and let’s be honest — in the mind of the creator, a project is never done. There is always one more detail or element or idea that needs to be fine tuned or figured out.
In essence, in recent years, Apple made sure the hardware is right and the software is at least useful. Then it ships a product.
HomePod might be the perfect example but Apple has many items on the list from the past few years. What do HomePod users like most? The sound. That says the hardware is right and ready to go. What do HomePod users like least? The software. Siri isn’t ready. AirPlay 2 isn’t ready.
But it will be ready.
Instead of waiting until you’re done, step back and look at what you’re working on and ask yourself, Is this useful to others right now? If the answer is yes, then ship it. If the answer is no, fix it.
That, in essence, is Apple’s new product strategy.
We may not like it. But we endure it because the first products in a launch are still useful and will improve quickly so the danger of being an early adopter pioneer is minimized, Apple gains experience from real customer usage, and software updates make life better for the masses who follow the pioneers into the new territory.
Yes, we might want a new product to be perfect, but the nature of hardware and software is obvious. They are never perfect. They are always being tweaked. So, why not ship a good piece of hardware with software that makes it useful, then make it better?
That’s Apple’s new product strategy.