How To Copy Apple

The day after an Apple announcement is full of articles that are office chair quarterbacking the company’s decisions and cooking up large pots of claim chowder on its future. Here is my take on what these blogs are saying is in store for the tech giant.

Some of the main criticisms I’ve seen so far are: 1) The Apple launches aren’t exciting anymore, 2) Apple is coasting with only incremental improvements (Here is a great parody video where Tim Cook releases “Nothing” to an audience applause), and finally, 3) We’re not only in a Post-PC world (that Apple kick started), we’re in a Post-Jobs world where the current product “innovation” from Apple is exhaust from his work.

I agree that most of what was shown yesterday is mostly incremental improvements, and that there is a lot of interesting momentum in other areas of technology (that Apple is not involved with… at least to this point). However, I don’t think that gives us the entire picture of what is going on.

Quest for Perfection

In the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” we follow Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master who owns a world-renowned 10-seat sushi restaurant in the basement of a Tokyo high-rise. He gets up every day with one goal: To create the perfect sushi. He leaves the restaurant each day, still not satisfied.

This obsession with perfection made me see the connection between the personalities of Jiro and Jobs. The other side of that is that they can be seen as nearly mad, consumed with their work and not having a strong family life.

Jiro’s eldest son is next in line to take over the restaurant. The problem is that no matter how good his son is, he has the legacy of his father to live up to. As one food critic in the film says: “Jiro’s son needs to be twice as good just to be equal!” See where I’m going with this?

Going forward, Apple certainly has a fight on their hands. But it’s not only because of outside competition; it’s a battle with the legacy of Jobs. Like Jiro’s son, they have to be twice as great as they were when Jobs was around, just to be considered decent.

As for their competitors, they have created hundreds of tablets and phones since the iPhone debut in 2007 and the iPad created the tablet category in 2010. There are only a handful of products that are finally coming close to what Apple introduced years ago (especially in tablets). I am not talking about specs here, because it’s easy to compare things in chart and say they both look capable of meeting a customer’s need.

That’s not the whole story. The Web traffic generated by the iPhone and iPad show us that the Apple devices are actually being used… a lot. Specs and sales matter. But that just tells us if a product has been purchased. A product loved and used all the time is quite another thing.

Copying Apple

It’s obvious that Apple is still doing something that causes consumers to desire their products and competitors to try any method they can to tap into it; even if it’s blatantly copying Apple. But that’s not the right way to copy them. Horace Dediu of Asymco says in an interview that there is a better way to copy Apple:

“When people ask me what should Samsung do, what should Nokia do, what should Microsoft do, and I tell them ‘Be more like Apple’, that doesn’t mean much. What I mean to say is, don’t copy their products, copy their way of making products. That’s very difficult, it turns out.”

Dediu goes on to conclude:

“It’s a simple formula in reality, I think, but one very few companies can do, either because they don’t have the patience, the confidence or the focus.”

Jobs built Apple. Apple lives his philosophies. Is that enough? Will the next amazing, disruptive product come from Apple? Who really knows. It’s quite possible that it won’t be from them. All I know is that if they continue to show up every day, striving for perfection and patiently focused on making great products, they will continue to be successful in some way or another.