You can argue with the way Apple operates its ecosystem and question the sustainability of its closed system mindset, as I have repeatedly on this blog, but one thing you can’t question is the quality of their execution. We have all seen the iPod and then iPhone/iTouch spread to what seems like near ubiquity and been impressed with the early success of the iPad, but the best guide is their share price which is up from $38 this week five years ago to $255 today.
The two elements of execution they most excel at are probably making great product and marketing, and this description of part of their product development process from John Gruber on Macworld could, and arguably should, apply to just about any startup:
They take something small, simple, and painstakingly well considered. They ruthlessly cut features to derive the absolute minimum core product they can start with. They polish those features to a shiny intensity. At an anticipated media event, Apple reveals this core product as its Next Big Thing, and explains—no, wait, it simply shows—how painstakingly thoughtful and well designed this core product is. The company releases the product for sale.
This is another way of saying, keep it simple, do one thing really well, and the product should be good enough to speak for itself. Oh, and getting the launch right is important. All these ideas are more true in startups than large companies where there usually isn’t the resource available to develop a rich and complex product before the first release and if the product isn’t good enough to generate word of mouth marketing life is likely to be difficult.