Why can’t anyone replicate Apple’s success?

Why can’t anyone replicate Apple’s success?

Everyone is trying. From yogurt makers to car makers to internet search companies, everyone tries to copy Apple’s products, or design philosophy, or retail strategy, or marketing, or chase Apple into an industry that Apple created.

But none of the copying transforms any of the companies that try.

Why not? It is an interesting question.

I offer two answers:

1) Everyone is chasing Apple. You cannot overtake anyone when you are trying to keep chasing them. Still, I would think that the chasing would have the ol’ “Hitch-your-wagon-to-a-star” effect; I would think that at least some of the companies would find themselves transformed into very profitable companies. But that does not happen. Except for Microsoft in the 1990s. But it hasn’t worked for them since them… Microsoft’s market capitalization in 1999: 500 billion; Microsoft’s market cap today: 200 billion. Still very large. But 2 1/2 times smaller than it was.

2) Everyone is trying to copy the external, peripheral factors in Apple’s success. Why isn’t anyone (a company or individual) copying Apple’s focused vision? Organizations and companies spend a lot of money and time and energy on gathering data, buying data, reading data, training, fads, etc. But, I submit, you could spend that money and time (or less) on learning about, growing, sharpening your vision–as a person or a company.

Vision trumps all. That’s the explanation for Apple’s success. You likely already have a vision. Go with it. If you don’t, knock yourself out finding and focusing your vision. Anything else is just a game. An unprofitable, unsustainable game.



  1. I think many companies are following Apple’s lead in focusing on design, user experience, focus and dedication to whatever singular purpose they choose. These are not the giants, but rather a host of smaller players. Square somes to mind as a good example: breaking the old ways of doing things, putting it all out there to create a beautiful, revolutionary experience for lots of people who have been suffering with crappy stuff (in this case merchant processors) for years, if not decades.

    I think anybody who explicitly says “we’re going to be the Apple of X” is probably doomed; Apple has honed their technique to a fine point over the past 14 years. It’s an audacious goal you should probably just keep to yourself.

    The ones that succeed are doing the equivalent of what a little kid watching basketball thinks: someday I’m going to be like Michael Jordan. They practice and try and work hard thinking all the time “I’m going to be like Michael Jordan.” Probably none of these kids will ever be like Michael Jordan, but they will all be much better at basketball for it.

  2. Here is a suggestion, Grant. Do as Apple does with their CEOs.

    Pay the CEO 1 dollar a year and the rest in company stock. Now the CEO would have the same incentive Steve does to make the company grow.

  3. What happens time and again is that the company trying to copy or emulate Apple pays attention to all the wrong things. This is why the recent iPad wannabees start with the basic features of an iPad and pile on more crap thinking that more = better. They all fail because they have it backwards: more = not better. Apple’s greatest strength is knowing when to say no.
    Unlike Windows, they are not saddled with trying to maintain backward compatibility to operating systems of decades ago. All that compounded code makes an OS less nimble and less stable. They also said “no” to Flash which has never been able to run very well on Macintosh systems and accounted for a disproportionate occurrence of stability issues. They don’t load their machines up with bloat-ware. They keep their designs sparse and focused like their software. You may be able to do more on a competitor’s machine, but you will probably not do it as elegantly. They care about keeping the visual clutter down so that the user can concentrate on the task at hand. When this happens, the user interface starts to fade away.
    When a competitor thinks they will improve the value of a product by cramming more stuff into the device, they miss the point. It’s never been because the device was white or offered in candy colors or bondi blue, it was because one understood “what to do” as soon as one used the device since so many “what not to do” things had been removed. Knowing when to say no has always been much more difficult than saying yes to everything.

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