"Friends say he has a gift for delaying gratification."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is noted for attributing a non-trivial chunk of his success to delaying gratification. Where he could have monetized Facebook sooner, at the cost of building a bigger audience, he held off. Where he could have sold the company, and cashed out, he kept pursuing the ideal of building the next Google, Apple or Microsoft.
Such was the narrative playing in my head, listening to the Apple's Third Quarter Earnings Call. While others may see a company that can't possibly keep selling more devices, quarter after quarter after quarter, I see a company that has continually avoided that gratification of going for market share and sales at all costs (i.e., at the price of margins, profits and cashflow).
This is no small task when one considers that investors, the media and virtually every pundit in the blogosphere is not so adept at delaying gratification. Given them a beautiful suit, and they'll see only a loose thread.
Failure to seize a market - margins be damned - and the company gets dinged. Unwillingness to be all things to all people - Amazon, Google and Facebook all rolled into one - and the company gets dinged. Apple CEO Tim Cook is simultaneously unwilling to be his own man, and guilty of doing things that Steve would never do.
But Apple in the iOS Era has always been about the playing the long game. How else do you create a massive ecosystem of devices that fit the lifestyle, daily flows and physical spaces of people at home, work, school and on the game?
How else to catalyze an explosion of Apps, Accessories and Services, that are not only immense in scale, not only deliver a superior user experience, not only drive unparalled loyalty, but unfathomable sales margins.
But, there must be an end-game, right?
Ultimately, all of this delaying of gratification, of withholding the child-like joy of chasing every market, usurping every partner, and competing with any and all who enter its universe - read: Amazon, Google, Facebook - has to come at a price, right?
Isn't it written in the Torah somewhere that Apple always loses because they fail to be a commodity?
Well, the end is near, and it's called Continuity. Continuity is the idea that from Mac to Mobile to Tablet to Home to Health to Car to the Enterprise, there is a unity of experience, that is contiguous; it flows.
Driving in your car? CarPlay kicks in. Walk into your living room, and Home Kit kicks in. Going for a jog, or visiting the doctor, and Health Kit kicks in. Walk into a Costco, and Wallet Kit kicks in (or whatever eWallet strategy Apple will set loose soon).
My point is this. UIltimately, the payoff of Post PC is that the devices get embedded to the point of invisibility because they just WORK. All the time.
Some believe that that renders the device moot, so Apple must loose. I hold to the belief that the devices must be terrific, and the edge must be smart, specifically so we don't have to blindly trust a cloud to watch over us, to surveil us, and separate us from our data when things go haywire.
It's no coincidence then that along with a runaway successful device business, that the App Store (and iTunes Software and Services), is the fastest growing segment of Apple's business, and the linchpin of a Continuity play that has been baking for seven years, since iOS was announced.