Two short answers to your post. Your first question is really good. It gets to the heart of what makes economics and management such difficult fields.
It's fair to say that no one can say with certainty why any business firm succeeds or fails. This isn't just Apple -- it's everyone. Any number of variables govern the success or failure of a business. These range from contextual and often uncontrollable variables such as time and general economic trends to partially controllable variables such as governance or finance. To understand the reason why people can't really explain Apple's success, it's vital to have a larger sense of markets, microeconomics, and macroeconomics. It's not that some of the different ideas are wrong so much as that there are many overlapping reasonable explanations. To place this in perspective, I'd suggest three books: The Truth About Markets by economist John Kay, Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: a Story of Economic Discovery by David Warsh, and Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics by Eric D. Beinhocker.
That may seem like the long way around to explain why it's so difficult to explain Apple -- but it explains why your question is important and it explains why people seem to know so little, or to know so many different things. This afternoon, I purchased Walter Isaacson's biography about Steve Jobs. It's been highly acclaimed -- perhaps it offers some answers.
The second question is also good, and it has a pragmatic answer. Business practices and business models with respect to designed artifacts and services involve the research fields of design management and strategic design. This is a design research issue. The questions you raise are important: it seems to me that one must ask them about nearly everyone who manufactures products at the scale of Apple. The same holds true for service providers as well. To understand the market success of a company operating on that kind of scale, you must understand macroeconomic and contextual factors in the framework of long range trends. If you ask three economists, of course, you'll get at least five divergent answers.
Professor Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | University Distinguished Professor | Dean, Faculty of Design | Swinburne University of Technology | Melbourne, Australia | [log in to unmask] | Ph: +61 3 9214 6078 | Faculty www.swinburne.edu.au/design
Rosan Chow wrote:
I am currently involved in a project that necessitates the understanding of the market success of Apple under Jobs, so I am unusually interested in the conversations running on and off in January, beginning with Keith's request on case study on Apple.
Besides reading what has been said on the list, I have googled 'Apple Success' and found no shortage of opinions explaining why and, it seems to me nobody really knows for sure why. Is the conclusion fair?
Also, I have found an article 'In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad' in the series 'The iEconomy' examining 'challenges posed by increasingly globalized high-tech industries'.
Perhaps a part of the success of Apple, (as Stephanie has written), has as much to do with poor (business) practice as 'design thinking', 'vision', 'design', 'usability', etc, etc,. If it is so, is this a design (research) issue?