Integration wins again.

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Editor’s note: The successful use of a differentiation strategy can establish an effective defense in the industry and win excess profits. If the differentiation of a company’s product is valuable and perceived to customers, customers may become loyal buyers of the product. As loyalty increases, sensitivity to prices will decrease, so that companies can be in a favorable position. This can also explain why every time Apple has a new product, even if the price is expensive, customers still line up to buy the first time. The author of this article summarized the changes in Apple’s differentiation strategy at various stages and how the latest Apple Silicon has affected this. Original title “Apple’s Shifting Differentiation”

If you ask Apple or watch a series of press conferences that Apple seems to never stop, they will be happy to tell you what the company’s differentiation is based on.

Integration is at the core of Apple’s incredibly successful business model: most of the money the company earns comes from selling hardware, but in theory, other vendors can Building similar hardware should result in lower commodity prices, but only Apple’s hardware runs its unique operating system.

Of course, software is more commercial than hardware: once the software is written, it can be copied endlessly, which means that its marginal production cost is zero. This is why many software-based companies focus on serving the largest possible market in order to make the most of their original hits software investment. However, zero marginal cost is not the only inherent quality of software: it can also be infinitely customized, which means that Apple can create A truly unique thing, and by binding the software and hardware, the hardware has the same uniqueness, so that it can charge a sustainable premium.

To be sure, this is a simplistic view of Apple: Many aspects of its software are commercialized, which is often beneficial to Apple. And many aspects of its hardware are differentiated. It is intriguing that although Apple is now characterized by the integration of software and hardware, the balance of differentiation between the two has changed over time. This change has been recently announced on the new Mac that uses Apple Silicon chips. Reached a climax.

Apple 1.0: Software is better than hardware

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, it was well known that the company’s financial situation was bad; not surprisingly, the company’s computer product line was also bad: too many models were unobtrusive . The only difference with the PC is that the Mac has a different operating system, but it is technically obsolete. The Apple PowerPC processor lags behind the x86 architecture PC and is more expensive. It’s not a perfect combination.

Jobs made a series of changes in a short period of time: he cancelled the product line imitating Macintosh and re-established Apple’s integrated business model; he greatly simplified The product category; he found Jony Ive, a promising young designer who was already working at Apple, and put all the company’s energy into iMac. This is a real hardware-carrying software product; iMac has become a cultural phenomenon, not because of the ease of use of the classic Mac OS, of course not because of its lack of memory protection, but simply because the hardware is so simple and so popular .

OS X pushes the software to the forefront. It not only provides a technically complete operating system, but also provides an Unix operating system, which makes it particularly attractive to developers. On the consumer side, Apple released iLife, a set of applications that make Mac attractive to ordinary users. I myself bought the first Mac at this time because I wanted to use GarageBand; 16 years later, my Music The dream no longer, but my habit of using Mac is still there.

When I bought a Mac for the first time, even though its hardware was attractive enough: Although my iBook (a laptop produced by Apple Computer) ) It’s attractive enough, but its processor is Motorola G4, which is not competitive with Intel’s x86 processors; later that year, Jobs made a shocking decision at the time but obvious in retrospect. Switch Mac to Intel processor. Under this circumstance, having the same hardware as everyone else in the industry is a big victory for Apple, and it will make their booming software differentiation shine.

Apple 2.0: The pinnacle of integration

At the same time, Apple’s iPod has also achieved explosive success. It combines beautiful hardware and super storage capacity with iTunes. iTunes software transfers the complexity of managing music to a more powerful Mac. , Starting in 2003, also handed over to your PC; it is worth noting that Apple avoided the trap of integrating hardware (iPod) with hardware (Mac), because doing so would weaken the former’s support for the latter . Instead, the company used the flexibility of the software to port iTunes to Windows.

The iPhone follows the path pioneered by the iPod: Although previous generations of iPhone have very limited user-oriented software features, this is acceptable because most Complex functions are handed over to the PC or Mac. At this point, a lot of software work is to make iPhone is used on barely enough hardware; RIM believes that Jobs exaggerated the iPhone’s performance when it launched the iPhone.

Over time, the iPhone will gradually depart from iTunes and the need to synchronize with PC or Mac, making itself an independent computer; it is also becoming history The most valuable product on the market. This is the culmination of integration, whether it is in terms of the way the product operates, or the business model opened by the integration.

Apple 3.0: Hardware is more important than software

16 years have passed since the transition from PowerPC to Intel, and Apple’s software differentiation is the smallest since the birth of OS X. Windows has a Linux subsystem, coupled with the company’s attention to developers, making Microsoft products increasingly attractive to software development. At the same time, most customers use web applications on their computers, PCs or Macs. There has been explosive growth in creativity, but this explosive growth has occurred on smartphones, and it revolves around distribution channels, rather than a person’s personal photo or movie library.

These distribution channels and various applications used by customers to create and consume are available on the two leading platforms, iOS and Android. I personally feel that the iPhone retains its advantages in terms of the smoothness of the interface and the quality of the application, but Android is more flexible and more suitable for more capable users, and the native Android integrates better with Google’s excellent network services; these two ecosystems The system has strong strength.

The real differentiation of the iPhone lies in the hardware. Apple has the best camera system currently and the best chip system for many years. These two differences are related: the smartphone camera is not a simple lens and sensor, but also involves how to process the generated image; this involves software and processor, and it is worth noting that the smartphone camera is Google Photo processing software is generally considered better. However, what makes the iPhone a better camera is its chip.

Apple Silicon and App Ecology

It’s hard to overstate the lead of Apple’s A-series smartphone chips relative to competitors; AnandTech found that under the same power, the performance of A14It can almost double that of the closest competitor. In fact, the only real competitor of A14 is last year’s A13. At least, as far as mobile devices are concerned; the most notable chart in the AnandTech article is about the comparison of the A14 with the Intel chips that power the Mac.

In the past 5 years, Intel has successfully increased its best single-threaded performance by about 28%, and Apple has successfully improved their design 198%, which is 2.98 times (let’s call it 3 times) the performance of the Apple A9 at the end of 2015.

Apple’s performance improvements and unquestioned execution power over the years have made today’s Apple chips. Anyone who looks at this picture will realize that Apple has come out to abandon Intel and x86 and adopt its own internal micro-architecture. There is no other choice. If you continue to follow the steps, it means stagnation and worse products.

The recent conference only covers Apple’s laptop-grade Apple chips, although we don’t know the details, compared with the current Intel MacBook lineup, Apple’s The huge power efficiency advantage means that the new chip will be able to provide or greatly increase battery life and greatly improve performance.

From Apple’s point of view, the timing of the release of Apple Silicon is ideal not only because this year is the year when the A-series chips surpassed Intel, but also because of the Mac Software differentiation. Sketch, the developer of vector graphics applications, wrote a hymn to Mac applications on the occasion of its tenth anniversary:

“Ten years after Sketch was first released, many things have changed. The field of design tools has grown and expanded. Our amazing community has also happened Change. Even macOS itself is constantly evolving. But one thing remains the same: our love of developing true native Mac apps. Native apps bringThere are many benefits, from personalization and performance to familiarity and flexibility. Although we have been working hard to build the cloud into an amazing collaboration space, we still believe that the Mac is the perfect place for your ideas and imagination to flourish. ”

The frustrating sentence at Sketch’s celebration banquet is “even macOS itself is evolving”; the fact is that most of the macOS changes in Sketch’s life , Starting with Snow Leopard, which many people (including yourself) regard as the best version of OS X, is only a superficial article at best, and at worst, clumsy attempts to protect novice users, and these attempts often hinder The development of advanced users.

At the same time, the cloud is the real problem Sketch faces. Figma, as a collaborative web application, built from scratch, is sweeping the design world, because for the team, a rock-solid collaboration with a good enough web application is more than traditional collaboration with native software built for the platform. important.

To be sure, Sketch takes the most responsibility for its own struggles; frankly speaking, the native app article reads like refusing to face itself fate. However, Apple also has a great responsibility: imagine if Apple had not effectively forced Sketch out of the App Store in a safe way, but had evolved the MacOS application construction framework AppKit, which provided collaboration and real-time editing. With built-in support, the situation will be different.

On the contrary, the future is network applications, and all the performance barriers they bring, which is why from Apple’s point of view, the A series chips come at the right time . The Figma in Electron may damage your battery, but if there is an A series chip inside, the damage time will be doubled or even more!

Integration wins again

Please note this sentence: “How can we take the iPad one step further?” Cook’s assumption is that the iPad’s problem is Apple’s problem, given that Apple is a company For a company that produces hardware products, Cook’s solution is a new product.

But my point is that Apple’s product development efforts are not enough for the iPad. Cook described the iPad as “a simple multi-touch glass that can be transformed into almost anything you want in an instant”; the glass transformation is what happens when you open an application. One moment, your iPad is a music studio, the next moment is a canvas, the next moment is a spreadsheet, and the next moment is a game. However, most of these applications are made by third-party developers, which means that third-party developers are even more important to the success of the iPad than Apple itself. The glass provided by Apple, the experience provided by the developer.

Since then, iPad sales have recovered from the trough in 2017, but they seem to be locked at about 8% of Apple’s revenue, compared with 20% of the first year. The market share is very different. At the time, it seemed to compete with the iPhone; I still believe that the iPad lacks a thriving productivity software market. This phenomenon is caused by treating the iPad as a unique device that Jobs considers rather than a substitute for laptops. The biggest reason.

Maybe the introduction of Apple Silicon in the Mac will have better results: Apple’s chip team may be far ahead of the competition, not only in 2020, Especially when it develops a more powerful version of the Apple Silicon chip, the commoditization of inherent software in network applications will be beneficial to Apple, just as Apple turned to Intel to commoditize hardware, highlighting Apple’s software advantages in the 2000s. .

Apple’s pricing for the new Mac seems to be like this: the price of the M1 is about $75 (educed guess), which is more expensive than the Intel chip it replaces To be low, but Apple’s prices are mostly the same (the new Mac Mini is $100 cheaper, but I/O is also much less). This shows that the company believes that it can win both share and profit margins. From my perspective, this is a reasonable bet. The company has the best chips in the world, and you have to buy the entire product to get the benefits of the chips.

(Translator: Ti Kewei)