Actually, Apple Does Have Competition on Hardware

In my last post my headline was in direct contradiction to this one. In that post I think I got the analogy right, but I got the qualifying attribute wrong.

In short, I said that Apple has no competition on hardware, and offered the analogy that Apple was like Mercedes Benz to Samsung’s, HTC’s and Microsoft’s Ford or Chevy.

The analogy presumes that Mercedes Benz doesn’t necessarily directly compete with Ford or Chevy from a brand perspective. Mercedes is an established premium brand, and consumers expect to get high end accoutrements on a C300 that they clearly wouldn’t expect on a Ford Fusion. And I believe this to be true.

But here is where I went wrong. Apple is clearly the Mercedes of the consumer technology world looking at individual product prices and total profits, but their most premium accoutrements are rarely the hardware. Other computer and mobile device manufactures provide similar if not the exact same hardware elements like processors and high-resolution screens.

What makes Apple the premium brand is the experience of the hardware, software and content working together in a seamless fashion. By owning the development, or the means of distribution in the case of content, Apple is capable of creating high quality experiences that transcend the number of pixels on a screen, or the speed of a processor. High-end hardware is table stakes in this new Apple infused marketplace. But a high-end experience is the true measure of a product.

And that is the almighty nut that relegates other companies like Amazon, Google and Samsung to the lower end of the spectrum. They are still beholden to outside entities (and even to each other in the case of Android) to provide portions of their user experience, and in my personal experience, this is often the root of some frustration or conflict.

So I was very wrong. Apple, in fact, has extensive competition on hardware, but their premium brand comes from their high quality experiences. When other companies start duplicating that, then we’ll see some real fighting going on in the marketplace. 

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