The App Store

Back in June, Horace Dediu took a look at 9 years of numbers for the App Store:

The App Store is almost 9 years old. In that time it has generated about $100 billion in revenues, of which about $70 billion has been passed on to developers and $30 billion was kept by Apple. It’s very likely that running the App Store for 9 years did not cost $30 billion so, if it were an independent “business unit” it would probably have been and still be quite profitable.

But Apple does not run “business units” with separate Profit and Loss statements. The App Store is a part of Services which is an amalgamation of non-hardware sources of revenues but that does not mean it’s a business. The purpose of Services isn’t to turn a profit or define its value through some metric of financial performance.

The purpose of Services is to make the experience for the Apple user better. The combination of good experiences allows Apple to be perceived as a valuable brand and that allows it to obtain consistently above-average profitability through pricing power. I like to emphasize that the iPhone at over $600 in average price is more than twice the average price of all the other smartphones and captures over 90% of all available profits.

The fact that Apple doesn’t have business units is important and it’s what makes the company so hard for analysts to define and for competitors to compete with.

At the end of the day, yes, Apple is a company that manufactures physical gadgets but like Dediu points out, if you take away software or services from the equation, Apple falls apart.

It’s all connected.


Business, Technology

Compete Asymmetrically

Horace Dediu on the potential to disrupt the automotive industry:

Executives at car companies have suddenly had to answer questions about potential entrants into their business. This is a big change. I don’t recall a time when this was necessary for over 30 years. For decades the questions have been about labor relations, health care costs, regulation, recalls and competition from other car makers. To ask questions about facing challengers posing existential questions must seem terribly impertinent.

For this reason, Bob Lutz, in his dismissal of Apple’s entry is not alone. The industry, with a century of history and has seen little disruption in the classic sense. I wrote a long piece on the fundamentals of the industry titled “The Entrant’s Guide to the Automobile Industry” which explained why this industry has been so resistant to disruptive change. At best a massive effort over multiple decades usually leads in a small shift in market share.

However, one should read that post as a thinly veiled threat. Just because disruption seems hard does not mean it isn’t possible. Indeed, the better you understand the industry the more easily you can observe its vulnerability and the more rigid the industry seems the more vulnerable it may be to dramatic change.

The formula for successful entry is the same for all industries: compete asymmetrically. This means introduce products which change the basis of competition and deter competitive responses by making your goals dissimilar from those of the incumbents. This is classic “ju-jitsu” of disruptive competition.

Here’s how it would work.

Apple has succeeded in disrupting:

  • the music industry
  • the (smart)phone industry
  • the PC (and post-PC) industry

And while the Apple Watch is still very young they’re beginning to chip away at the watch industry.

Why would anyone think it’s not possible they eat up the automotive industry too?

Apple’s success in any new industry is far from guaranteed but to count them out seems extremely short-sighted.



Participating In Your Own Vision

Horace Dediu: iOS v. Windows and Immunity to Disruption:

Which reminds me. This week Microsoft just wrote off the acquisition of Nokia’s mobile phone business. The growth of mobile as an alternative to desktop/laptop computing was foreseen by Microsoft a decade before the the data in the graphs above. It began in 1994 with Windows CE development, proceeded with a PDA operating system by 1998 and the Pocket PC brand in 2001 and Windows Mobile in 2004 and Windows Phone in 2009.

After anticipating, predicting and dedicating decades of work why didn’t Microsoft participate in its own vision?

The curious thing about disruption is that predictability does not result in immunity. If the new trajectory threatens the current profit formula, the trajectory is not joined with enthusiasm. There is an uncanny unwillingness to self-disrupt.

Just because you were first to market doesn’t mean you had the right vision.