Apple Confidence

1. The feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.

Confidence is a powerful feeling. It makes countries strong, athletes perform amazing feats and it allows companies, like Apple, to release products that bring a smile to faces around the world. As strong as confidence can be, lack of confidence can be absolutely devastating.

We are seeing both of these situations in the tech market these days.

Listening to analysts and the mainstream media suggest what Apple needs to do in order to maintain its success falls somewhere between amusement and frustration in the emotional scale. Reading their actual comments is as insufferable as finger nails on a chalkboard.

On of the favorite comments is “Apple needs to release a game changing product,” or some such nonsense. My reaction is always the same: Really, show me a company that doesn’t need or want to release a game changing product.

This is where Apple shows a lot of restraint in its product releases. They could release many more models of the iPhone than they currently have available. Such a move would arguably make Wall Street happier, but it would be confusing for the consumer, and quite frankly, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.

When you walk into an Apple store to buy an iPhone, you have two choices—the high-end iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c. Your choices are clear, the features for both devices are clear, even the colors are clear. Everything you need to make a decision is very clear. That’s a benefit for Apple and the consumer.

What is it that allows a company to only have two models of one of the world’s most successful product? Confidence.

It’s the same confidence that allows Apple to update its iPhone models once a year, instead of every few months. Confidence allows them to dominate the upper end of the smartphone market. It’s also that feeling that won’t let Apple release a low-end, cheap device and slap the iPhone name on it just to gain market share.

Compare that confidence with what I see as a complete lack of confidence in the industry. You could choose almost any other phone maker in the world and see how having no confidence in their product strategy affects how they sell to consumers.

Those 2-for-1 sales are classic ways to drive sales of a product, but it also indicates that the company doesn’t care much about the product or brand. When was the last time you saw Apple offer a 2-for-1 sale on any product? They don’t, because they don’t have to—they care about the brand and the products they produce, so they take the time to get it right the first time. Apple doesn’t have to continuously offer new models because the one new model they have is exactly what they want to sell.

Samsung’s tactic of releasing a dozen Galaxy S4 models to keep things fresh for consumers reeks of a lack of confidence. Throw as many products out there as you can and see what sells—that’s not a successful long term strategy.

That’s effectively what Samsung did with the Galaxy Gear too. Release a smartwatch that was uncomfortable, has poor battery life and really doesn’t do anything beyond adding a step to seeing what’s on your phone.

It’s pretty clear that if you made a list of feature you would like to see on a smartwatch, the Gear doesn’t begin to measure up. So why would Samsung release a product like that? It seems the only reason is to be first on the market, which shouldn’t be a motivating factor for a company if they want to change the way we think about a product category.

Apple hasn’t released or even announced its so-called iWatch yet, but even with the competitors releasing their products, we expect more from Apple. We expect more because we know that Apple can do better.

You don’t need to invent a product category in order to change it. Apple has proven this many times with the iPod, iPhone, iPad and even the Apple TV. Existing markets have been revolutionized because Apple relied on its confidence to change an entire market by doing things better.

Apple finds a problem, devises a way to fix the problem, and releases an easy to use product that seemingly delights users. That is the way to solve a problem and grow a successful business.

  • Odi Kosmatos


  • SockRolid

    Great post Jim.

    “That’s effectively what Samsung did with the Galaxy Gear too.”

    I think Samsung’s corporate Gear thought process went like this: 1. We hear that Apple is developing an iWatch. 2. What’s the quickest dirtiest smart watch we can bang out? 3. Let’s do it, then use it as “prior art” if and when Apple sues us. 4. Pretend that Gear is a relevant, hip, trendy product.

    You could say the same thing about Windows 8. I think this was Microsoft’s corporate Windows 8 thought process: 1. We think Apple will merge iOS and OS X into a universal OS. 2. It would make us look good to beat Apple to the punch with that. 3. Our Windows + Office code base is too fragile to merge with WP. 4. So we’ll just add a Windows Phone layer on top of legacy desktop. 5. That will fool people. They’ll love it because it’s new and “Wow-ish.” 6. Oh god we hope Windows 8 will finally kill off Windows XP.

  • Jim McPherson

    How the hell did you write all this with your LP in your hands?

  • John Barnes

    I just had basically the same conversation with a colleague of mine. The biggest issue I see is that analysts don’t seem to see that Apple doesn’t invent new markets. I can’t see any of their current products that were first. What they did was solved problems in existing markets and now they continue to improve them. That is the big problem I have with people who are screaming for an iWatch or Apple TV set. I don’t know what problem they want Apple to solve. I’m sure there are good ideas, but I haven’t heard any yet that are compelling enough to think it warrants and Apple style makeover.

    • Jim McPherson

      I would amend this, actually. Apple doesn’t invent new products – but they do, basically, invent the market for the product when they join in. Tablets, smartphones, and MP3 players were niche or commodity markets before Apple got there.

      • John Barnes

        I agree. That’s a better way of saying what I was thinking.

      • I might add the idea that the Apple game tape is rife with examples of innovation and invention within existing product categories, rather than inventing categories themselves. By nearly all accounts, this seems to be their “secret”.