What is Apple?

October 24th 2017

What is Apple ?

If someone asked me what is Apple as a company, I'd be in trouble. Is it a hardware group, a software enterprise, a media provider?  They're doing so much stuff that the Cupertino-based giant does not seem focused anymore. But it certainly seems to be a great business.

In 2007, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang came back to the head of the company. He was in charge of putting back together its failing business. Yang organized a meeting gathering the 200 top Yahoo executives and invited Steve Jobs to share his experience. After all, he also came back to a failing Apple business at the beginning of the 2000s.

As Adam Lashinsky reports in his book Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired - and Secretive - Company Really Works

Jobs treated Yang and his executives to some Apple-style honesty. "Yahoo seems interesting," he said. "Yahoo can be anything you want. Seriously. You have talented people and more money than you could possibly need," he continued. "I can't figure out, though, if you're a content company or a technology company. Just pick one. I know which I'd pick.

The funny thing is that I can't really determine what Apple is as a company today. I mean, of course, you'd say they're focused on hardware. But are they really?

Yahoo! had some technology-advanced products, like Mail, and tried to create bridges to their news websites. Well, it seems Apple is doing the same thing.

From the Mac, the iPhone or the Apple TV, you can subscribe to a streaming Music service, rent TV shows or download movies. Apple has some Web applications, enables you to buy various kinds of prints from their Photo app and also gathers several news publishers in on a dedicated application. And most importantly a vast portion of their revenues actually comes from the App Stores should it be on iOS, Mac or TV. One day they unveil a smart speaker and the following day they insist on their R&D in artifical intelligence...

So what is Apple really? A hardware company? A media company? A software company? I guess you could ask the same question about Microsoft and Google. By opposition a pure hardware company like ASUS, Acer or Dell don't manage app stores, neither do they offer music, TV shows or news content.

In Steve Jobs' words, Yahoo! had to focus like a startup does and stick to their choice. But in the end, they were a software company. That's all. You know what Dropbox, Evernote or Spotify do. But we've come to the point where Apple does not seem very focused.

But the thing is: that's OK. Apple has few hundreds billion dollars ready to spend in the bank. And they're on the verge of becoming the first ever trillion dollar company. So it seems to be working great for Tim Cook.

In the end, Steve Jobs' piece of advice might not have been totally relevant.