Apple's Creeping Product Problemhttp://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/01/28/apples-creeping-product-problem.aspx Travis Hoium
January 28, 2013
Soon after Steve Jobs took over Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) in 1997, he drew a box on a board with four squares. He wanted Apple to go from a sprawling product line to four products. Computers for work and home with only two versions -- mobile and desktop. He consolidated development into these four main products:
This simple grid became a symbol of Apple's product line in the early years of its recovery. When the iPod was introduced, it had one form factor and just a few memory sizes. The next generations of iPods included Nano, Shuffle, and Touch, but there were still only limited offerings. The iPhone and iPads started as single products with three memory options -- that's it.
Today, Apple has expanded offerings to five different iPods, three iPads, three iPhones, five different Macs, and Apple TV. Walk into an Apple Store and you could walk out with one of 17 products, not to mention size variations and any number of covers and accessories Apple makes. Plus, there's word that more variations of the iPhone are in the works -- and who knows what on the TV front. The simple table above has become a solution for everyone, losing focus on only the most important things, something we used to call product creep.
The curse of the giant company
The Mac lineup has also grown as competition added options for customers. The Macbook Air for travelers, the Retina Display for premium users, the Pro for pros. Apple is making a product to fit every possible need.
Fighting product creep
Smartphones are even more complicated. Google's operating system is being used by a number of suppliers and they can grow and shrink sizes and features with the trends of the market. Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system will allow a similar range of products for both smartphones a