Even if you could be.
I just finished reading Adam Lashinsky’s book on Apple; for the record, a much more illuminating read than that biography of Jobs. (But I’m a “systems matter” guy — much more a fan of The Wire than The Sopranos.)
What struck me is how few lessons there were to take, as someone running a company that makes a digital software service. So many of Apple’s ways seem to not be universally applicable — perfect adaptations to a hardware consumer products business working at Apple’s scale, but potentially disastrous for either a startup hardware company or any software company.
Secrecy, perfecting a product before its release, hitting a big brand campaign right on day one, etc.
No wonder Apple’s software products are generally mediocre (cf. mapping release at WWDC, Game Center, buggy operating systems, iTunes, App Store, etc.). Maybe this is one of the ways in which the culture of the company will shift over time.
And make no mistake, Tim Cook is already bringing change to the company. In a he-didn’t-say-very-much-otherwise interview at the D conference, Tim Cook did shift Apple’s stance on a meaningful market: games. He admitted that more people buy an iPod for games than for music, a statement you probably would never have heard from Steve Jobs (never much of a promoter of games as a use for his products).
Personal note: I was disappointed that Apple didn’t extend applications to Apple TV at this last WWDC; it’s time for that.
All these are little, and maybe therefore unfair, examples of how even Apple’s prowess has its limits. This is a powerful lesson: you can be the greatest in the world, by selecting the things to be great at. You can, in fact, continue to be awful at many things — even as Apple — and everything turns out OK.
As the most valuable company in the world, it’s strange to say that Apple could become more universally successful — they certainly don’t need to be, financially or otherwise. But, for the sake of the products I care about, and the example they set to others, I hope they are.