(Every Tuesday, Kyle St. Romain will talk about the business and legal side of the app world. While his opinions don’t always reflect those of Rocksauce Studios, you should hear him out…the guy knows his stuff!)
A brilliant man once said, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” That man was Steve Jobs, and his quote came on the back of his announcement in September of 2005 that Apple would no longer sell its wildly successful iPod mini. What?! The iPod Mini was killing it then. Why would he do such a thing? Yes, the iPod Mini was executed, but that market segment was not left void; Steve also announced the release of the iPod Nano that day. The meaning of all this is quite simple actually: Apple is smarter, faster and more innovative than you, and has no problem sacrificing its own to stay that way.
What was so brilliant about this move has to do with the nature of technology. See, you probably didn’t need to trade in your iPod mini for a Nano at that time. However, the prospect of having something newer and better made you want to. It is exactly this constant supply of new and exciting products is the core of the technology business. They build hype, and it’s often not about necessity as it is getting a new toy.
While it is nothing new to note that tech enthusiasts have a constant need for the latest and greatest new gadget, Apple pushed this inclination to the extreme. Unlike almost every other tech company, Apple has a way of maintaining a cult following who have no problem sleeping on the street, and spending a week’s pay check just to have the newest iPhone before their friends do. Personally, I cannot wait for the iPhone 5….
In stark contrast to Apple is Microsoft. While they have been doing a better job lately of ramping up their product line, it’s hardly as sexy as we personify Apple to be. Microsoft had a much different approach and got its start in a much different competitive environment. It had a bread and butter businesses: Windows OS and later its Office Suite. Instead of worrying about making hardware, Microsoft was able to sell the software for a ridiculous price. For the longest time, this was extremely successful because there weren’t that many options.
Fast forward a few years and in comes Apple. At first, Microsoft didn’t even bother to acknowledge the competition. Then came its commercials geared at humiliating Apple – “Im a PC…” (since when was that cool). However, Microsoft has done little to actually address this problem. In fact, for the last couple reports I can remember Microsoft’s biggest profit center is Microsoft Office, which it has had to develop for Max OS to remain competitive. I digress.
The point is: don’t rest on your laurels. Change the game before your competitors have the chance. It will make them furious. Just like Lance Armstrong had to keep training harder to remain competitive in the Tour de France (even after he had already won it), you need to keep pushing your projects to new limits. So what if you have to scrap thousands of line of code that you spend six months writing for last year’s top download? That was last year. To keep your customers engaged, you need to make it better this year. If you have to eat yourself to make it happen, then so be it. When you get to the point where the only thing standing in the way of your success is your success, you’ll know you’ve made it.