Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Simply Stunning

Early-on in the silicon revolution, Intel recognized that the way to build a world-beating company was to drive semiconductors to being seen as a basic domestic commodity, in the much same way as soap powder or cornflakes already were.  And it's hard to argue that they didn't succeed, at least given just how many microprocessors we are surrounded by on a daily basis.  However, with their latest set of results, Apple is now showing that it's possible to take another route to that same goal, that of affordable aspiration.

Apple just posted 1Q12 revenues in excess of $46 billion, a sales performance that yielded a profit of $13 billion.  The jaw-dropping numbers continue: 15 million iPads, 37 million iPhones, 5 million Macs. In three months. Wow.

The highly-tuned Apple ethos of making sleek, highly-capable devices that can delight users, regardless of their level of technical expertise, has changed how the world thinks about technology, and also what we now expect from all other manufacturers.  Time and again, Apple produces things we don't even know we want, but do so in such a way as to ensure that overnight the latest, greatest device somehow becomes a must-have item, rapidly becoming as close to a commodity purchase as it's possible to get, at least as far as personal discretionary spending goes.

Thanks to their canny pricing practices, we can all aspire to being connected with what the Apple brand represents: cutting edge technology married with leading edge design, and all that a price that's just within reach.  It's cool, chic, and, almost at the level of a bonus feature; hell, it's actually useful, too, and hence very easy to justify buying.  "Sure, it might be a bit of an indulgence, but go ahead.  You deserve it, and anyway it will make [insert favourite task here] easier", says the voice inside your head.  Of course, we don't need it at all, but so what?  This is all about wanting, about temptation, and you know how good we humans are at resisting that particular urge. 

There is no better place to be in terms of selling stuff.  Sure, I could aspire to owning a Ferrari, but I'm never going to be able to afford one, at least not the one I'd want.  However, the next Macbook refresh is only months away and my personal laptop is 5 years old now, so I'm already starting to think about what the specifications might look like, especially if the rumoured high-resolution displays do indeed show up.  And judging by their last quarter results, I'm not alone in playing that game.

In their own way, Apple has also achieved high-tech nirvana with their business model: they are the market leader, can command premium prices, and get to enjoy the lowest supply-chain costs in the business.  In every single segment in which they participate, they are the leaders; they lead financially, they lead in branding and image, they lead in innovation.

Today, they have (again) overtaken Exxon in terms of market capitalization, regaining top-dog status as the most valuable U.S. company.  With their momentum showing little signs of slowing, it's a position they look likely to hold for quite some time yet to come.

Apple:every home should  have one, and pretty soon they probably will.

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