Water drops on an apple

Apple as Startup?

After Steve Jobs’ latest announcements last Wednesday, I haven’t been able to shake the thought that Apple is thinking like a startup – and in a good way.

Partly this is due to the fact that I’ve been re-reading The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki – not coincidentally a former Mac evangelist at Apple – which is a great book anyway. It’s a veritable checklist of great advice for startups, and the advice is a lot more sound than most of its kind.

Some are pretty obvious, have a first initial that’s early in the alphabet, for instance. But that’s not the stuff that struck me. Here’s some examples that seem like they could apply equally well to a startup as they do to Apple Computer right now:

  • Seize the High Ground. I think it was in another of his books, or a book by another author, but the point was made that you want to enter the market at the high end. You want to charge a lot for what you do! Being expensive is practically synonymous with Apple hardware – as is the thought that you get what you pay for. Seems to work out well for them.
  • Niche Thyself. Kawasaki gives the example that everyone wants to be Microsoft, but Microsoft didn’t start out blanketing an industry – they started out writing versions of the BASIC programming language. Apple doesn’t appear to be trying to conquer the mobile video player outright, they’re just trying to establish themselves early, and grow from there.
  • Release Early, Release Often. Okay, nowhere does Kawasaki say this! This is more attributable to the world of Open Source software, and nowadays, many Web 2.0 startups. By releasing a whole new version of iTunes one month after the last, and including features branded as beta, Apple has indicated to me that they’re willing to play by the new rules, getting their users involved with the new features as they’re developing them, and they’ll probably improve them in response to those users.

That last thought could be somewhat extended to the iPod devices themselves. Apple dropped the iPod Mini when it was probably selling at its peak, to replace it with the Nano. This kind of thing may be unsettling to shareholders, but I think it’s a brilliant move by the company. I love to see them staying one step ahead of the game, and ultimately, I think customers appreciate it too.

I’m excited by great ideas, great businesses, and certainly, by Apple Computer. Apparently they have more announcements in store for us this Wednesday. Incidentally, Time’s profile of Apple’s strategy is a great read. In the next week or two, I’ll also be comparing Apple to a local Portland business that I love – stay tuned.

Raymond Brigleb

Creative Director, dreamer, partner, father, musician, photographer. Has been known to ride the rails. Pulls one heck of a shot.