Apple’s ecosystem is healthier than ever: here’s why

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Apple is not about the hardware, it’s also not about the software, it’s all about perception of leadership and quality. No other company in recent history has created quite the perception of leadership that Apple has managed to establish and maintain. Steve Jobs is gone, his legacy however lives on, and Tim Cook and his team are making changes that will ultimately solidify Apple as the tech leader in today’s connected world.

At the recent launch held in San Jose, California on 23 October 2012, Apple unleashed more than its fair share of big changes. In a big bang style approach, the company refreshed almost its entire line of products and introduced a significant new one. The iPad Mini. Love it or hate it, the new iPad Mini will be a rip-roaring success. The pricing of the iPad Mini had analysts frothing that it is US$50 to US$100 too expensive. Cook hit back, reminding everyone that the device is an Apple and it is worth it as customer recognise the quality. He may well be right.

There is no one-single factor that highlights Apple’s success. The Apple reality distortion field really exists, and is hugely effective as a marketing tool. From a technical standpoint, many products meet or beat anything Apple has produced to date. What no other manufacturer gets quiet right is that Apple products are always far more than the sum of their parts.

With industrial design that is innovative, fresh, and most importantly cutting edge, Apple always sets the trends. Look at the huge range of knockoffs and copies out there. The copies may not even be direct, although there are tons of these, from places like China, but reflect in small design cues, such as colour, shape, or materials, that set new trends in design, across all areas, from electronics to cars. The impact of Apple design is massive and far more pervasive than you would imagine at first. Look around and see what I mean.

Another key factor is one of focus, coupled with flawless execution. Yes, the number of Apple products on the shelf has multiplied in the past few years, and yes, this created confusion in some areas. Look again, and look critically at the product line up, and it is clear that there is considered method behind all the madness, and each product has a space and place.

Of critical importance to the gadget landscape going forward is how bright the future looks for Apple post-Jobs. Apple as a company is changing and changing fast. We had all become used to the bi-annual product rollouts and staggered refreshes. The massive refresh and announcements across software, mobile, and computer devices, is in part Tim Cook stamping his mark on Apple and represents a massive show of force highlighting Apple’s ability to innovate and execute better than almost any company in technology today.

With the exception of the iPad Mini, which rolls out globally in the next month, all the other new products are available for sale, in most major territories as of announcement date, and will spread rapidly to where ever Apple is sold in the next few weeks. The scale and supply chain logistics of this are staggering, and another indication of how much Apple has changed in the last year. The sheer scope of this product refresh, and global rollout is a logistical tour de force.

Apple has not had it all its own way. The market is maturing and competitive products are making huge strides. The iPad Mini is a case in point. It is a reactive product, even if very carefully pitched as a concentration of the iPad and not a reduction, Apple’s words. However Apple spins this; it is now big enough, and global enough, to be affected by market forces. Apple could previously ignore the competitive environment, but is many ways it has caught up with it.

The growth of sub 10-inch devices, especially tablets, had to be taken seriously by Apple. It took a long hard look, and out came the iPad Mini with enough differentiation to make it stand out in the ever-crowded tablet market.

For me the key element of all Apple products that few, if any producers, today get so right is sheer quality. Apple products, all Apple products, have a high-end fit, finish, and aura of quality, that was traditionally the preserve of hand crafted bespoke tailoring or product creation.

The attention to detail in every Apple device is way beyond the norms of mass-produced product. The proof of this is that people simply just love their Apple gear, some to the point of religious fervour. Who does not like to own a piece of high-end technological art, and when this is coupled to an ecosystem that is pretty much in the same league, in terms of ease of use, and seamless integration across all linked components, it becomes a really hard act to follow.

Apple under Tim Cook just drew a new line in the sand, way ahead of where its competitors currently are. In mobile, it covers all bases, and form factors from the 4-inch iPhone 5 to the 9.7-inch iPad, in laptops, it leads the field in screen resolution and form factors, and in computers, it undoubtedly make the best looking desktop in town. Apple has firmly transitioned from the Jobs era, and the future looks brighter than ever.

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