Apple is an interesting corporation. Some love it, some hate it, but the fact is, Apple has become the biggest technology company in the world. An interesting turn of events, from a company that nearly went bankrupt a few decades ago, to a player that we know today. Looks like Steve Jobs really is one of the greatest visionaries of our time, as his comeback in 1996 together with the introduction of the iMac and the iPod managed to turn things around for Apple.
Looking at these facts in 2010, the iPod may turn out to be even more important than it seems, creating a digital music revolution and providing the foundation for Apple's strategy of becoming the world's dominant commercial content provider.
Apple was always known as the great innovator, and all of its products and services(!) strive towards perfection. This vision of making things people want and need (or don't need but still want anyways) has moved beyond hardware and software, towards a new direction – providing both free and payable content in any form. And because of the loyalty and fanaticism of their customers, they are one of the few that are actually able to make this work on a global scale. And be aware content is more than just actual news, it's multimedia (music, videos), it's software, it's books, it's just about everything, and Apple was the first to notice this potential and put it into action.
It all started with the iPod (2001) and its biggest sister, the iTunes. Today, iTunes is the largest music retailer in the US, with over 10 billion songs purchased. With the introduction of the iPhone (2007), its biggest sister, the App Store became one of the largest software marketplaces in the world, selling more that 6 billion applications in two years. The next gadget, the iPad (2010), was launched with a bigger sister too, the iBooks, which is currently messing up Amazon's Kindle operation, even though the success of this story is still hard to estimate. A few weeks ago, Apple also introduced the new cloud powered Apple TV (2010), which will enable selling (actually renting) fresh HD movies and TV shows using the iTunes platform. And to complete the circle, there are rumors Apple will also provide a subscription service for newspapers, supposedly the iNewsstand, which could actually become the biggest of them all.
So, how did a "personal computer" company come to this position? If you ask me, the answer is simple – Steve Jobs. This visionary was able to predict where the future will go and if you look at the situation today, when this business model is proven to work, it's really trivial. When personal computers were on the rise, it was obvious business and sales will be in hardware and software. But in the present information era, where billions have access to the web, overloaded with information, it's almost obvious that business and sales will be in providing content: data and information in all forms.
Besides Apple TV, Ping, a social network on top of iTunes, was also introduced on Apple's last "mass". I won't speculate on how cool it is, because I haven't tried it and am not sure if I will. But the fact is that iTunes has 160 million users and generates a lot of revenue. Ping actually represents a first integrated wide scale social market place, which probably is the future of social electronic commerce, so it will be interesting to see what will happen. No matter how cool, adding a Facebook Like button on Amazon simply isn't real social commerce.
That's Apple, once a computer manufacturer, today a diversified technology and media corporation with great know-how in electronic commerce and providing content, while pioneering (again) in social commerce. Besides owning a complete set of platforms for providing and selling different types of content, many of them market leaders, they also offer beautiful hardware and software infrastructure for their implementation. Something we will be seeing in most living rooms of the future?