Has Apple shifted their Strategic Style?
A Visionary strategy is certainly what guided Apple’s iconic device launches during the Steve Jobs years that shaped the future of the industry, Apple seemed to have insight into the future trends of these products. Apple certainly mastered “fit” with beautifully designed devices that were as much art as electronics, and were consistent with the bright modern elegant designs of their retail stores and product packaging. They also matched the fit of the devices and stores with their retail employees; premium knowledge employees to sell premium priced products. Apple’s visionary strategy instilled the reputation that Apple was able to predict that their products would be the envy of consumers in a premium priced market category.
Apple’s years since Steve Jobs death have often been categorized as a shift from truly new innovative products to more of a succession of incremental product improvements, and Apple’s potential decline as the industry leader has even been contemplated.
It seems clear that while Apple may still have a visionary strategy under the direction of Tim Cook, Apple’s actions indicate a company that is reacting to an Adaptive strategy. Apple was one of the last to shift phone size to a larger format, following the larger size phones that Samsung and other Android manufacturers introduced. Likewise, Apple was not the first company to introduce a smart watch. Apple adapted to what the majority of consumers now preferred (larger screen size). One could imagine that Apple expected to phase out their smaller phone size, until Apple realized some consumer preference for the smaller phones remained, resulting in a reported third of iPhone users that have not upgraded to the larger phones. Resulting in another phone strategy shift in releasing an upgraded model of the smaller phone.
Has Apple shifted from a “Visionary” strategy, in which they created entirely new products as with the iPod and the first smartphone, to an “Adaptive” strategy of returning to a past product version to satisfy unforeseen demand? Likewise, Apple was not the first company to introduce a smart watch. With the innovations of iPods and iPhones, Apple shaped the future with these devices and “predicted the path to realizing it” during the Steve Jobs reign.
The smartphone market has been in a state of diminishing major innovative changes, the same could be said with PCs and Macs, and a separate device for music is long in the past.
The Tim Cook years appear to be significantly aligned with an adaptive strategy, though I would venture it is not the strategy shift Apple would prefer, but rather one that is realistic strategy given the current lull in computer and smartphone innovation.