Apple Business Strategy Illustrates Customer Friction


You know the power of the Apple brand. You’ve seen innovation that transformed how we work, live and communicate. What if the Apple business strategy requires an update? What if the current business strategy leads to a smaller yet still highly-profitable fan base? What if Apple’s closed strategy starts to get holes and customers start to test other approaches.

The article by Emily Ferron is bang on. See here: “Apple Alienation”  and the challenges go deeper than these device issues. As a long-time Apple advocate who converted many, I’m now doubting the customer strategy of Apple.

Take music – I cannot share my own music in my house through Apple TV without buying Apple Music. Then when I buy Apple Music, I don’t have access to all my music on my devices without wifi. Yet the Amazon Fire allows me to plug into the back because it is more open and allows the user to add their music, movies and photos. Closed stifles customer innovation in my case. And I worked really hard to make it work. I can’t use my Apple Airport Extreme… my computer must be on… lots of customer unfriendly experience to protect the closed system.

Take Personal Assistants – Siri really struggles to understand me. Even simple and somewhat obvious requests because she is closed. I expect her to be able to do more and expect her to develop and get better. Yet Alexa has learned 2000+ new commands in 7 months because she is artificial intelligence and she integrates with the other aspects in my house. Alexa is open and learning. The users are shaping her and she is evolving.

Take TV – Apple TV is simple and elegant. Yet when I get an Amazon Fire I get literally 100x more options for search, apps, movies, music, expansion… open again wins. Plus Fire supports 4K. And Apple doesn’t – why – because Apple doesn’t. When you tell people that their netflix on AppleTV won’t play 4K on their new TV they don’t believe me… until they do. I was the same – shocked.

Take Virtual Reality – Apple’s not there. At all. Yes there are plans. And now worth buying a Samsung phone or HTC just to experience the past/current state of VR. I’m sure Apple’s solution will be great yet their strategy of nothing to everything may mean a lot of customers start leaving the closed solution. When you experience greener grass you wonder why Apple has not gone forward. Amazon is emerging as a real competitor in some ways.

Take notebooks. I drool with envy when others touch their screens. Its faster, better user interface is blocked from notebooks and computers. And Apple created that technology yet refuses to provide it to the world. Microsoft is gaining steam as many professionals no longer want to have to work on a tablet and a computer when they can have both. I’m seeing more and more MS Surfaces in our consultant and practitioner pools. I had to buy an MSI computer to run VR since Apple is now behind in graphics processing.

The strategy of closed worked for years for Apple. And now it is coming into question. I trust the Board and Executive Leadership Team are examining this closed strategy closely. Leakage of customers is happening. And brand advocate customers like me are experiencing the benefits of leaving the Apple universe. What happens if Apple continues to lock-down the functionality desired by its customers to drive its strategy? What happens when Apple pushes even diehard fans to test and experiment with other providers.

I sucked it up on VR so I got an iPhone7S. I almost stepped out. Yet the camera really, really is amazing. The Apple TV vs Fire at 3x the price with 1/100th the capability opened the door. The shine is now off the Apple. I perhaps have been blinded by the light. The contrast makes me rethink what I’m buying. Yet I don’t like to pay and want more freedom so maybe I am not a target Apple customer.

Business strategy matters. Customer experience matters. Apple gets that. If we were working with the executive team or board, we’d want to perform an analysis of the friction points for customers. How many are because of Apple’s closed strategy? How could they be resolved? How much friction is there? When you search you find a lot of frustrated Apple lovers like me.

We’d want the leadership to understand that drag is a coefficient. To say this simply, friction increases exponentially. And it may no longer be squared, it may be cubed or even greater when you add up the friction across all products.

What do you think about Apple’s closed strategy? What are your friction points? What are the benefits like virus/harm reduction? As a strategist, I LOVE to support others creating a strategy and engaging leaders and their teams to implement a strategy. Come on Apple – reduce friction! The heat hurts!



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