Very good post at Computerworld from Mike Elgan about Apple, though I’d venture that a lot of you already know this:

Tech watchers love the horse race aspect of technology industry competition. Apple competes with Microsoft. Apple competes with Google. Apple competes with companies like HP. But Apple doesn’t see it that way.

Industry titans like Microsoft, Google and HP instinctively “fill out” their product lines to dominate huge areas of technology. Microsoft, for example, wants Microsoft software running on wristwatches, supercomputers and everything in between. Google wants to offer every conceivable service that can be squeezed through an internet connection. HP’s massive product line runs the gamut from consumer digital cameras sold at Best Buy to entire data centers filled with enterprise systems.

Apple doesn’t want to dominate like this. It has no interest in this kind of imperialist expansion. Apple is interested only in surgical strikes into this business or that product category, where they can solve design problems others have failed to solve.

Understanding this about Apple helps explain otherwise inexplicable decisions, such as why Apple got into the mobile phone handset business, and why the company is so ambivalent about business products.

To Apple, the mobile phone industry proved clueless at how to offer a compelling user experience with a phone, with its history of cramped buttons and claustrophobic user interfaces. They believed, correctly it turns out, that their designers could drop a game-changing phone into the market and “change the world” again. But when Apple casts its gaze at the enterprise space, it doesn’t see sufficiently compelling design problems that will emotionally affect users. So why bother?

Apple’s choices in markets it gets into make no sense, unless you understand that they don’t want to dominate industries, or even maximize revenues. They just want to design and sell better products that will affect user experience in markets where that’s an achievable goal.

Of course, business success is great. But Apple sees that as only a means to the end of shipping thrilling designs.

Steve Jobs was recently named CEO of the Decade by Fortune Magazine. I’m sure Jobs’ ego was pleased by the designation. But ultimately, he doesn’t care about this sort of thing as much as you might expect. Jobs doesn’t want to be viewed by history as a Lee Iacocca or a Henry Ford. He wants posterity to look at him as a Mozart or a Da Vinci. He wants to be seen as a builder of beautiful things, not a builder of business empires.

Next time Apple does something that infuriates you, or makes you go “huh?” remember that Apple has its own unique world view. And only by understanding that perspective can you understand why Apple does what it does.

This is just the 4th part of the post, read the whole article here.

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