From Jean-Louis Gassée’s “Apple Failure Modes,” posted March 14 on his and Frederic Filloux’s Monday Note:
The Monday Note has been on an irregular hiatus as I labor on a book chronicling my picaresque half century in the tech world. While I only spent ten of those years inside Apple, gravity exerts its pull and the book sometimes feels centered on the company that allowed me to fulfill two dreams: Coming to the US and leading a product engineering organization.
Writing about the early days at Apple led me to contemplate how the ambitious but struggling company became today’s $2T enterprise, how it avoided the “failure formulas” we’ve seen in so many grandees of the industry.
Nokia, Palm, and Blackberry followed a relatively simple failure recipe. When the first generation iPhone was announced, they dismissed the threat, impugning Apple’s ability to play in their arena. Then Android devices arrived, and the giants refused to back down: ’We know what we’re doing, just look at our numbers!’.
[Brief case histories of HP, IBM, Microsoft follow]
While these failure stories hold some lessons for Apple, some of them are actually reassuring.
For example, it takes more than one substantial mistake for a large company to begin its decline. The Apple Maps debut and “Antennagate”, as examples, were embarrassing but didn’t do any lasting harm. To be sure, two mediocre iPhone vintages in succession would have a deleterious effect on image and finances, but even that could be survived, especially in today’s quasi-saturated market. And as the Microsoft example shows us, seriously missing an industry wave (smartphones) can be overcome by jumping on a new one (the Cloud aided by the Windows/Office flywheel). This may shed light on Apple’s efforts to give more momentum to the Services business, a flywheel in its own right.
Apple’s iCloud is a different story… [more]
My take: Gassée has seen a lot, and is always insightful.
For Apple 3.0 subscribers interested in chatting with Jean-Louis, there are still a few seats available for Saturday’s ask-me-anything Zoom (3:30 p.m. Eastern, 12:30 p.m. Pacific). To reserve a space, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org with Gassée in the subject line.
UPDATE: For a taste of the book Gassée is working on, I highly recommend Part 10: Hard Landing In Cupertino. Steve Jobs Fired.
Le succès et une maîtresse mauvais.