Why Apple Was My Company of the Decade

41 Comments

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Back on the cusp of the new century, I was one of the ThinkPad people, rarely encountering Mac machines unless you counted those used by Forbes.com’s design staff. In August 2000, when I joined Red Herring (the Jason Pontin edition), I got a Pismo Powerbook running the Mac OS 9.

As a technology journalist chronicling the world of Internet and broadband, I could see that our world was going to change. All media was going to go digital and would be distributed over this new broadband network. It was a matter of when and how.

In January 2001, when Steve Jobs spoke about his digital hub strategy, a lightbulb went off in my head. Apple was going to be the company that would lead us through the transition.

Fast-forward to today, Apple (s aapl) has done what Jobs wanted it to do. Apple and its products have done insanely amazing things: disrupted an entire industry (music), invented new product categories, and now the iPhone is reinventing not only the mobile phone business, but the very idea of computing itself.

It has survived (so far) near-death experiences of its leader, Jobs. Most importantly, the company was smart to recognize early on that commodity hardware was merely a springboard for premium user experiences. It was also smart in remembering that mass brings morass.

No one can deny Google’s (s goog) achievements, but for many reasons Apple is the company of the decade. Google’s stock performance inspires shock and awe, but pales in comparison to Apple. Look at it yourself!

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Since Google went public, the search engine giant is up nearly 500 percent. During the same time frame, Apple’s stock has climbed 1,200 percent. From 2000 to 2009, Apple’s stock was up nearly 10 times — climbing from a mere $24 a share to $211 a share at the end of 2009.

As the next decade of the 21st century rolls around, it’s becoming obvious that the battle between Google and Apple is going to dominate the headlines for years to come.

Source Apple 2.0/Fortune

41 Comments

Nick

Well in this battle I see google coming out on top they are already in the buisness of selling energy and are going to many be offering a lightning fast Internet speeds it should be interesting you have to remember thought competition is great for the customer better prices and more inovation

Sachin

I only hope that Apple’s new tablet will be as revolutionary as the iPhone is…otherwise it will the biggest flop of the decade…

Samir JALLOUL

Great post Om,

Indeed your portrayal is similar to that of mine, being an IBM ThinkPad xXX, x31, x41, tablet…etc user solely for durability and faintly mere for premium user experience!

However, few things became clearer with the introduction of the 1G ipod, followed-up with complimentary products that unified the divide between software and hardware (i.e. my Compaq MP3 player to Windows) my experience was painful and cumbersome. Apple sought after making the process of managing, organizing, purchasing as a full life cycle and not only from the perspective of an iPod.

Clearly Apple understands the underlining potential for connectivity of devices, experience beyond the device, and the cloud as a medium to enable these experiences. With the latest buzz around a (tablet) to the device family, Apple is in better position to deliver even richer content via this medium (as much of the architecture / services (Apple MobileMe, and iTunes store is already in place to achieve this feat)).

I am excited for this new device, as it will cannibalize the short comings of many NetBooks – which in my mind, was a push for Nicholas Negroponte approach at making laptop affordable – to that respect this was a great, but now comes time for someone to make everything work and Apple is ready to deliver yet again !!! I am excited and ready to cancel my order for the Kindle DX, sorry Jeff 

-Samir

Cheese

@Piyush, Om

While we are digressing from Apple and Google to Microsoft, allow me to go a few feet further…

What’s wrong /unfortunate with being (or Microsoft becoming) an IBM?

Yes IBM used to be “the” computer company, and, thanks to well known reasons, it got sidelined..up to the point of irrelevance. But then IBM is not a dinosaur that disappeared – it metamorphosed into another animal. It didn’t win gold in the race for desktop domination, but it moved on to other fields of play, where it performs reasonably well today. There are several others companies who have failed to survive much lesser challenges. IBM is not a loser, in comparison.

Coming back to Microsoft, notwithstanding the positive vibes for some of their recent products (Bing, Azure, xbox live), the best bet for Microsoft is to ensure that they don’t ape Google or Apple. Microsoft should go beyond the me-too game and start a new one. The project Natal is a great example.

Ken

Apple’s success comes primarily from two product lines: iPod and iPhone. The two products alone comprise about 2/3 of Apple’s current revenue. In this current economic state, [most] consumers will be less prone to choose expensive Apple desktop and laptop units in comparison to their more economical Windows counterparts. Mac OS X still only maintains a 5% market share in the worldwide operating system market.

The reason for Apple’s success is simply the following: people “want” their products. Consumers have decided in favor of iPod/iTunes as opposed to other digital music options, and they are quite marveled by iPhone OS and its impressive selection of apps. They are not economical options by any means. They are expensive. But, many are willing to pay the price for the experience.

Yes, it is true that Mac OS X, and iPhone OS, are clearly not as feature-filled nor capable as other software currently available. However, Apple is appealing to the average user, who in large part will sacrifice several bells and whistles in favor of convenience, simplicity and the Apple user experience.

The market for iPods is currently saturated and is experiencing much slower growth than it has in the past. iPhone, a product line that is now about 2.5 years old, will experience market saturation at some point in the near future.

The bottom line is — Apple will need to introduce a new product line, similar in revenue generation to the iPhone, in order to sustain its current growth pattern. Apple is very healthy financially at the moment, but if the i(Slate/Tablet/Pad) does not perform as expected, or (other new product line we’ve never heard of) doesn’t either, the company might head south.

Apple rolled the dice with iPhone. To the surprise of many, droves of people (40% of whom had household incomes of over $100,000) shelled out $599 for the original model.

Let’s hope Apple creates another winner.

Avro

Statistics are a bit off. The computer/other split is closer to 50/50 and the music playing iPod revenue and sales are dropping. To include the iPod Touch and iPhone in the other category is a bit silly as they are really highly mobile computers. Why should Dell count their netbooks as computer sales when they are used for email and browsing while Apple users do this with the iPhone/Touch and they get counted as “music players or mobile phones”? The 5 percent figure is only accurate if you include the 70 percent of computers that go to Enterprise. Look at consumers and you end up with 1:6 worldwide and if you look at Australasia, North America and Western Europe, it is about 1:3.

I think another winner from Apple is on the horizon.

Brian

Wow,
I didn’t realize just how much better Apple stock did over the past decade than Google.

My belief is that this decade will be all about the smartphone — everything is migrating toward being accessed, bought, managed through this device.

Who will win? On my site (www.brianshall.com) I have Android with a slight 1 point lead over the iPhone. Both are great bets!

jhn

Brett, that’s a good perspective, but Apple was considered to be worse off than a startup in the mid-to-late 1990s. Google started at zero, Apple dug out from a hole. I agree that if you start at 2000, Google should win. But turning around a huge company, dumping nearly its entire product line and changing the entire way it does business, is a pretty fantastic achievement.

Google’s success comes from one product it does well: search. Apple’s path to success has been based on execution.

Richard Jones

Apple …good company, good stock, good products …but not the Taj Mahal. 2010 the year of the Apple slurp. If you really cared we would have less “by-the-numbers” reporting, more objective reporting, and no more Tim Tebow like adulation by the so-called tech media. The Industry Standard would have been all over Jobs “back-dating” scam, instead you guys jerked him as you always do.

Brett

Google and Apple are definitely close, but I have to give this one to Google. Apple was an established company trading around $35 a share at the beginning of the decade. Google at the beginning of the decade was moving out of a garage and into its first office. Way more impressive to go from garage to international company in a decade.

Avro

Apple is a monopoly? Not in a legal sense. You mean they won’t let you run OS X on your junk? That is what is called smart business.

4% Perhaps if you include every Windows box sitting in warehouse somewhere in the world. Amongst consumers closer to 1 in 3 in North America and Western Europe.

You see more GM cars than Mercedes. That doesn’t make GM better.

Microsoft has done nothing this decade.
X Box? – Reliability Nightmare.
Windows Mobile? – The Model T of the Smartphones.
Zune? – Too little too late.
Vista – Need one say more.

Anonymous

Indeed they did and didn’t seem to mess up too much on that one. Damning with faint praise, methinks.

D

Why is Apple your company of the decade? Because they’re everyone’s company of the decade. In every market, everyone wants to be “the apple”. It doesn’t take any sort of analysis to see that. Predict next decade’s company, that takes analysis.

Chetan Conikee

Speaking of microsoft, will project natal (XBox) shine microsoft and perhaps lead the era of “no controllers” ?
What’s your take on this facet :)

gp

Apple is worst monopoly company worst than Microsoft always was and always will be a minority company..with market share globally more than 3-4% at the best (not everybody can or will pay for apple tax ) , to compare apple with anything is waste of time it just doesn’t have volumes or market share .Only they can innovate is some jazzy UI build on top of opensource unix kernel/webkit . I hope google along with open source communities will lead to market correction

Taoufik

what about Apple’s market share in the digital music business, specially the Ipod? Where’s Sony? And don’t even tell me about the Zune…

TZ

Calling Apple a monopoly and at the same time a minority player is oxymoronic. Go to the dictionary and look up the definiton of the word “monopoly”.
This makes as much sense as a tea-bagger calling Mr. Obama a communist and fascist at the same time.

netminder

gp… You start by saying Apple is a monopoly and then say it only has 3-4% globally? Think you need to head back to school and study up on what monopolies truly are. Jazzy UI? Yes if jazzy mean better. Clearly much better than open source alternatives. Problem with open source it’s like trying to herd cats. Key to Apple success is company has some clear focus and direction.

gp

monopoly definition “In economics, a monopoly (from Greek monos / μονος (alone or single) + polein / πωλειν (to sell)) exists when a specific individual or an enterprise has sufficient control over a particular product or service to determine significantly the terms on which other individuals shall have access to it.”
when you control everything from hardware to software and refuse your run OS /software system anything than your own hw/ vendor …you are exerting influence and forcing users to buy overpriced solution / hw at premium … and create a lockin …..

Anonymous

People can buy Linux and Windows hardware and software. No one forces you to buy a Mac. So no computer monopoly and Apple doesn’t try to block off the competition.

Michael

It’s unfair to make the stock comparison with a (virtually arbitrary) starting date/price of Google’s IPO. That ignores the fact that Google was valued at, probably, only a few million dollars when the decade began. Employees who started in early 2002 had option exercise prices of $0.30. Given that as a starting date/price, Google handily crushes AAPL.

Brett

I agree. Very unfair to compare Google and Apple stock prices over a decade especially since at the beginning of the comparison timeline Google was just moving out of a garage while Apple was trading stock at around $35 a share.

Shankar

Quote from his 2005 Stanford commencement speech says it all
“I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.”

Outside of the stock-price, Apple stands very tall for their innovative products, which touches people’s daily life. Quality of such products shines out of their hard-work. I don’t see a comparison between Google and Apple, to be (should I say) ‘apple to apple’ as while they may converge and/or compete in one or more areas such as mobile-phone, but again I’m sure Apple will stand out. Their history, Steve Jobs’ vision and record so far is a proof of that.

A great inspiring speech : http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

Hussein Hallak

I disagree… They have a closed structure, not a monopoly…

If they are a monopoly, they are a new type of it, and I hope every company follow their model and throw companies like Microsoft, who are the old outdated model of monopoly and market bully, out of the market.

The mac is a wonderful machine, it stays out of the way and I prefer their programs over any competitive other…

Liam Ke

For instance, blocking the access of the Palm Pre to their store, is a typical microsoft action, but this time taken by Apple.

Om Malik

Cough! Cough! I am not sure where they are but I better hope they show up in the new decade with some awesomeness.

Piyush

To be fair and just, I do think Microsoft showed up some awesomeness specially in the last couple of years of the decade — Windows 7, Natal, Xbox, Xbox Live, Bing and perhaps the admittedly-not-so-long list can go on. That leads me to believe they started finding a footing around 2008 and are positioned very well to continue the success .. and be not left-to-dust for perhaps atleast the next 3 years. By saying this, I don’t mean it will outperform Apple and Google (not that it can’t or won’t); I just mean it is not a company to be written off, that it is not an IBM. I may well be wrong but if I am, it’ll be a lesson to learn.

Cheers,
Piyush

Om Malik

Piyush

I think Xbox and XBox Live are Microsoft’s true awesome products of the decade in my opinion.

As for looking forward into the future, Microsoft will have to do amazing things to “not be an IBM.”

Avro

Positioned well? They have dropped many of their Consumer projects in 2009 and retreated to Enterprise. Windows 7 doesn’t seem to be making OEM products fly off the shelves. Zune? Windows Mobile?

Piyush

@Avro:
Sorry, I don’t know what consumer products they have dropped. Perhaps you could enlighten? Zune HD received rave, positive and surprising reviews — I won’t rule out the DNA is in place for gorgeous devices (phone, tablet, whatever) to result from those same teams. Windows Mobile certainly is where MSFT is being beaten to death and I agree the release of Mobile 7 not until 2H 2010 can cause rather significant damage to their prospects in the mobile world.

Piyush

@Avro:
Sorry, I don’t know what consumer products they have dropped. Perhaps you could enlighten? Zune HD received rave, positive and surprising reviews — I won’t rule out the DNA is in place for gorgeous devices (phone, tablet, whatever) to result from those same teams. Windows Mobile certainly is where MSFT is being beaten to death and I agree the release of Mobile 7 not until 2H 2010 can cause rather significant damage to their prospects in the mobile world.

Cheers,
Piyush

Josh Nursing

Apple and Jobs have been incredible. They are real innovators and I like the fact that they’re first to bring a scratch-resistant multi-touch screen and O.S./UI to the masses. That’s real innovation translated into public use.

However, if I approach comparing Google to Apple in a fundamental way, like Buffett, but looking at the teams and technology, I prefer Google because of the heavy reliance on Engineers and Engineering, Machine Learning, as well as the technology to do analytics both within the Enterprise and outside of it.

I have written about how both will clash in several ways as from this year:
http://www.yashlabs.com/wp/2009/12/30/clash-of-the-titans-google-vs-apple-in-2010-and-beyond/

SIPguy

Interesting. I also approach the two companies in a fundamental way and get a very different answer. Neither are perfect but Apple is about design and the user and Google is about advertising and marketing information. Apple is trusted enough by consumers to have 40 million credit cards and Google has none. In three years I can see a world without Google, but not Apple.

I am just saying Google has far more risk than Apple.

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