Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Clayton "innovators dilemma" Christensen: Apple will fail

Clayton Christensen, famed guru of innovation, predicting Apple's inevitable failure - in 2007. Emphases mine ...

Clayton Christensen's Innovation Brain

... Who or what do you think will disrupt Google (GOOG) or Apple (AAPL)? It's hard for me to see what will disrupt Google. I think they've got a pretty good run ahead of them. Chapters five and six of The Innovator's Solution describe how at the beginning phases of the industry, in order to play that game successfully you really need to have a proprietary, optimized, end-to-end architecture to your product.

Apple sure has that. That's why they've been successful. But just watch the [competitors'] advertisements that you hear for the ability to download music onto your mobile phone. Music on the mobile phone has to be downloaded in an open architecture way from Yahoo! Music or someplace else [other than iTunes]. Which means it's clunkier, not as good. Mobile phones don't have as much storage capacity, nor are their interfaces as intuitive [as iPods]. But for some folks, they're good enough, and the trajectories [of people using their phone as a medium for listening to music] just keep getting better and better.

So music on the mobile phone is going to disrupt the iPod? But Apple's just about to launch the iPhone. The iPhone is a sustaining technology relative to Nokia. In other words, Apple is leaping ahead on the sustaining curve [by building a better phone]. But the prediction of the theory would be that Apple won't succeed with the iPhone. They've launched an innovation that the existing players in the industry are heavily motivated to beat: It's not [truly] disruptive. History speaks pretty loudly on that, that the probability of success is going to be limited."

History is now hiding in a closet, afraid to show its face.

Years later, Christensen said - "There's just something different about those guys. They're freaks."

Exactly. Apple has been a freak. The corporation that crossed the speed and inventiveness of a private firm with the capitol and reach of a publicly traded corporation.

Now we're in the Apple 4.0 era. Without Jobs, perhaps Christensen will be right, and Apple will become a normal dismal failure. Or maybe Apple's corporate structure, and its training programs, will be Jobs last and greatest innovation. Apple 4.0 won't be Jobs Apple, but if it manages to be merely abnormal it may be the cure for the ailing American corporation.


Anonymous said...

Hmm. Apple hasn't failed exactly. But Android and the relative market gains that it has made seems to broadly support Clayton's argument. Apple can innovate in the smartphone area. But the other phone developers were on the ball and responded in such a way that Apple did not come to own the smartphone market.

Contrast this with how Apple was able to enter and then dominate the MP3 player market.

JGF said...

I agree. I think Android could very much disrupt Apple -- already has.

Apple's fat margins and carrier subsidy are not a good thing -- they are a big danger sign for Apple.

I think Jobs fury at Android is best understood as a realization of how vulnerable Apple was.

It's easy to predict the future, it's just hard to predict when the future will be.