The recent news about Steve Jobs stepping down from Apple was disheartening to all of us in the information technology field.  Under the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs, Apple was transformed from a fringe computer company to the world’s leader in innovation.

A transformation like this requires passionate vision – vision that sees way beyond today, vision that paints a new future that most of us cannot imagine.  Ten years ago the idea of receiving email on mobile devices was a pipe dream; few of us even had mobile phones at that time.  And carrying our entire music collection in our pocket? Unimaginable.  Thanks to Apple, we live in a technology world that is high-touch, high-speed and without limits.

While considering the success of Apple, I have many times asked myself, “Was this an accident, or was this really the plan all along?”  Even at my own company, TechSoft Systems, we have been forced to adapt our business model to embrace Apple products.  So what is at the root of this movement?

A lot of companies out there have great products, even life-changing products, that we will never see because they lack the resources or the strategy to present those products to the general public.  Whether intentional or not, I believe the success of Apple is based on a generational marketing strategy.  Consider the iPod.  It was first embraced by then 20- and 30-somethings who sought easier accessibility to their vast music collections.  This Generation X audience can be characterized in part by an inclination for independence, control and choice; as such, traditional radio formats are less appealing. Enter the iPod, which took off like wildfire in this generation.

Witnessing the choice and control that the iPod offered, teenagers with means began embracing the Nano.  Then came the Shuffle, which provided tweens and even younger listeners with a less costly device that played the music they wanted to hear when they wanted to hear it.  The impact of the iPod cannot be overstated; it radically changed how we listen to music, and with that, irrevocably altered the entire music industry – and even the auto industry, which now includes auxiliary jacks in even base models.

The iPhone was first embraced by early adapters within that same 20- to 30-something audience.  Then it went mainstream to this generation, followed by early adapters of other generations.  Now it’s impossible to enter a doctor’s office, coffee shop, train or airline gate and not witness several iPhones in use.

Next up was the iPad, a device that was so radical that few of us could even have imagined it.  The iPad is now widely used in schools, hospitals, homes, businesses…  Even by reporters on location in hurricane-expectant cities.  This device has reshaped how we view personal computers altogether. And as the technology advances, the need for the PC as we know it diminishes.  Students accustomed to the iPad will soon be preaching its advantages to employers; eventually, they will be in a position to demand this technology by name.  This will change the office environment forever.

The question I ponder is this:  Is Apple’s success the result of an ingenious and precisely executed generationally-targeted marketing strategy?  Is it the ability of the CEO to see far beyond what we can even imagine – and make it so natural and easy to use that we forget life before it?   Or is it the result of a corporation that deliberately and continuously breaks down our very conceptions of what is possible?

I don’t believe that every success story has a formula (though some do).  In this case, I am simply in awe of a man who cast a vision that the whole world now sees.  Thank you, Steve.  Godspeed.

Clifford A. Bailey
CEO of TechSoft Systems, Inc.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 at 9:30 pm and is filed under Effectiveness, Leadership, Success, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.