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Did Apple lose its chance to capitalize on Vista?

by Philip Sellers

I read a Digg for an article over at macworld.com entitled Apple has squandered the gift that was Vista.  I’m not sure I agree with the author’s perspective.  In fact, I think what Apple did might have been a very smart play.  After reading the piece, the author’s view seems to be that because Apple still has less than 10% of the market share and that it didn’t introduce a netbook or business laptop (??) that they somehow failed to capitalize on the opportunity left by Vista.  Let me offer a different perspective.

Apple grew and their market share expanded during the Vista years.  They didn’t explode with growth, though I have to say 30%, 60% and 90% increases in year-over-year product shipments sounds pretty close to explosive.  Apple seemingly did the expansion in a controlled way, meaning that they were able to maintain their high level of service, quality and ensure that the customer’s experience was superb, something that has helped them grow steadily since Steve Job’s return in 1997 (well, in the 2000’s at least).

“Capitalizing” [using the macworld.com author’s implied definition] on Vista’s opportunity could have been really detrimental to Apple.  Had it grown with 500% increases year over year, there would have been no way to control many factors and growing that fast would cause quality issues and support issues.  That would have tarnished the brand and all it has come to represent and quickly moved Apple into a simliar category with Microsoft.

Speaking of the early 2000’s, it wasn’t very long ago that the tables were turned and Apple was struggling.  Dell on the other hand was exploding and was the tech darling for many in the industry.  Fast forward a decade and it is Apple who has woo’d all the attention and Dell who is now struggling against its small margins and stiff competition (IBM, HP, etc.).  When companies lose their core focus and branch out into peripheral areas (like Gateway and Dell both did), outsource their support and let their quality slip, they get into problems.

The support issue alone is a really difficult to accomplish, regardless of who is answering the phone (and from what country).  This is a point that Apple consistently ranks high on with customer satisfaction surveys.  A tech company must have competent people on the other end of the line, or else the customer loses.  After a while, the company loses because the customers will find a more reliable source.  Customers have choice, even with a vendor who is the only to manufacture their operating system.

And that seems to be another of Apple’s strongest points – the focus on customer experience.  The thing they understand best, from the top down, is that a customer will pay for a superior experience – something that works better, works smarter and is more intuitive to use.  A lot of us, myself included, lose sight of that in our day to day jobs.  That’s my two cents, anyways.

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