Apple Innovation


At the end of the day, I know it’s a cliche, but people are our most important asset in the world by far. It’s people who deliver innovation. We are the most focused company that I know of or have read of or have any knowledge of. We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose.

Apple COO Tim Cook

Excerpt from Dan Frommer’s full interview with Tim Cook at the Goldman Tech conference February 2010.

Why you should care about business models

Most consumers don’t know and don’t care about the business models underlying the products they buy because, let’s face it, life is complicated enough and bottom line what really matters to most people is just the availability, quality, and price of the product they buy. People should care about business models, however, because they affect the profitability of different enterprises in the supply chain and their ability to provide value or even exist. This eventually does impact availability, quality, and price if the enterprises affected were providing value.

Charlie Stross provides a book publishing business model supply chain explanation on his blog. It explains what is behind the fight between Amazon and MacMillan that casts a light on who are the good guys and bad guys in this dispute. Without being informed, consumers might tend to side with Amazon who positions the fight as Amazon standing up for consumers to bring a consistent low price for products. Once there is an understanding the business model and supply chain a different perspective can emerge that the battle is really about roles, control, and who gets what portion of the profit. It also exposes what is at stake in the ability for market forces to operate vs. an enterprise exercising monopoly like control. Consumers might actually have an opinion over which enterprises can provide best value in a role and would like choice with free competition. Even if an enterprise professes to be a benevolent dictator (e.g. do no evil) my vote is for the distributed power of letting the market decide availability, quality, and price by consumers voting democratically with their dollars. There may be a temptation for just going for the lowest offered price but without understanding the business model implications there is a real danger of creating unforeseen consequences by putting portions of the value chain out of business.

In Canada, another example of a business model battle that has gone public, is the TV distributors vs. the local TV content providers. The content providers business model has changed and they can no longer remain profitable with advertising so they want payments for their content from TV distributors. The TV distributors (e.g. Bell ExpressVu and Rogers cable) pay for other content from the US but don’t want to pay for local content. They are positioning these proposed local content payments as a tax that has to be passed through to consumers. A public relations battle is taking place to see if and how the business model will be changed.

Business models are also important for workers who are increasingly concerned about the viability of their jobs. It may be tempting to think that viability of a company’s business model can be left to the CEO or marketing department but ultimately workers need to make informed decisions about where they work and the industry where they earn their livelihood. This needs to be based on an “eyes wide open” view of where their employer and industry fits into the supply chain, what value they provide, and is the business model structured to reward that value. The world is getting more complicated by the emergence of innovative and complex business models but this is the reality of the brave new world of opportunities and risks.

Microsoft Innovation

Dick Bass on Microsoft’s lack of Innovation

A critique from a former Microsoft VP about Microsoft issues with innovation shows that even with huge resources, talented people, and world class research, cultural roadblocks and internal competition can severely impede successful delivery of innovation.

Official Microsoft Response

Surprisingly, as John Gruber noted, Microsoft officially responded without refuting any of the points made. Their main arguments are that their objective is success on a large scale, that it is difficult, and it takes time sound like excuses that don’t give you the feeling that the problems are going to be addressed.

Scott Berkun former Microsoft manager and Innovation Author

Good to see Scott Berkun offering his opinion on Microsoft creative destruction since after all he has the background to speak authoritatively on the subject of Microsoft and innovation. His list of reasons for the problems:

  • Design by Committee
  • Design by management rank
  • Management bureaucracy
  • Lack of accountability of unprofitable divisions
  • Not learning from failures (innovation can not be done without risking failure but it is important to learn from it)
  • The key thing here is not to bash Microsoft – they have had some successes too – but to highlight issues that could be holding your organization back from innovative market success.