Tim Longhurst's Blog

Apple – harnessing technology, focusing on user experience

June 23rd, 2008 · 3 Comments

To some people, the opening of the Apple Store in Sydney this week has been a momentous occasion – worthy of camping out for hours, if not days. Reading about the chaos created by the event, I can’t help but think about how this has happened. How has one business managed to build a religion around the world, complete with high priest (Steve Jobs), festivals (Macworld Expo), millions of followers ( see Macheads movie) and temples (check this out).

The multi-million dollar Catholic-run-Australian-government-subsidised World Youth Day could do with a few lessons from Cupertino, California on how to build hype for a church event.

So what is it about Apple that makes it so lovable to so many?

There’s been plenty of column inches spent celebrating Apple, so I’ll keep my view brief:

Harnessing technology, focusing on user experience.

For all the patents Apple holds, almost all of them involve combining available, existing technology. From the iPod to the iMac to the iPhone, almost all of the parts come off-the-shelf – sure there’s a tweak here or a new part there, but inevitably when an analyst pulls out a screwdriver to work out how much money Apple is making on a new gadget, they discover a whole bunch of stuff that already exists in lots of other gadgets.

They don’t invent ingredients they just spend time coming up with new recipes they think will suit their audiences tastes…

There’s a great old video that compares Apple’s approach to communication with Microsoft’s. In the video, Apple’s beautiful, simple, uncluttered 5GB iPod box has Microsoft’s Style Guide applied to it.

Apple, with their head-office in image-conscious California, knows that simplicity and elegance sells.

In my experience of Apple products, if you want to work out how to do something, it’s straightforward. Some of the bestselling electronic devices in homes – toasters and TV’s – involve one button and you get something out of it. It’s the same with Apple products – you turn it on and something exciting is going to happen.
So how does this elegance and simplicity apply to the new Apple Store in Sydney? Well, they’ve used elements anyone could have used in a shop – glass, tiles, assistants…

And yet the user experience is dramatically different to any other store in Australia: exceptional design, plenty of staff, in this case free internet and even complimentary training and tech support from Apple’s ‘Geniuses’…

So Apple’s spent $15 million on the shop which probably represents at least $5 million in ‘unnecessary’ innovation. Well, if the store can generate anything like the $4,032/square foot in annual sales of it’s big NY brother, it’s probably money well spent.

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