The Simple Secret of Apple’s Success: Schedule-Driven Product Releases

By Rahul Dowlath | Apple

The Apple of today is significantly different from the fruity company many of us grew to love in recent years. Some will argue that, with the absence of cult leader Steve Jobs, this is to be expected. But accepting that opinion would be adopting a very limited viewpoint to the world of technology.

One of the most defining characteristics of the “new” Apple is their new pattern of product introductions. The year 2012 has seen perhaps one of the largest (in terms of magnitude) product releases from 1 Infinite Loop. This year, we got three new iPads, two industry-shaking MacBook Pros, a new iPhone, an overhaul of the iPod lineup, and new versions of iTunes, OS X, and iOS. We even got Apple’s version of Maps (but let’s not talk about that one…)

Sure, this is great for any company: but it does mean one thing. Apple has begun to follow a “schedule-driven” release cycle. In the past, Apple would only ship products when they deemed them good enough to be in the public realm. OS X releases, Macs, even iPhones. Things began to change circa Siri and iPad, when the product approach became almost clinical.

New Apple Products: MacBook, iMac, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch

But today’s technological world is exceptionally fast-paced; it’s cut-throat and ruthless. And the only way to stay at the top of your game is to get as many iterations of your product out there, as soon as possible, before the competition. And when your primary competition is the Android-toting Samsung, sticking to a schedule becomes one of your key strategies.

Also befitting of the schedule-driven approach is that CEO Tim Cook is noted as being a brilliant operations man. He was the guy who ensured the iPhone’s tremendous success when it released. And so this corporate approach fits right in his ballpark.

But is this good for Apple? After all, the company is renowned for its meticulous, almost loving care and attention to detail of all its products. Sticking to a schedule pressurizes engineers to deliver features like a train timetable, and this can rush certain products and mangle ideas and intentions. Siri and Apple Maps are examples of this. However, if the iPhone 5 is anything to go by, Apple’s quality hasn’t been forsaken in the hardware department. Their operations systems and industrial design prowess are second to none. Perhaps, then, it is their software that is the most greatly affected by this approach.

With long-time hardware designer Sir Jonathan Ive taking charge of the software design teams, this problem might have solved itself. Ive’s experience in working under the schedules of hardware design that brought about the immense success of the company’s latest products – iPad, iPad mini and iPhone 5 – will most certainly be transposed onto the software development cycles. Sure, we’ll be having a far more structured release cycle for major software like OS X. But in a way, this is good: it forces Apple’s teams to keep on-track, and to push ahead against the onslaught of their competitors.

Regardless, there will always be two camps within the Apple fraternity: those who think the company has been irrevocably compromised with the departure of enigmatic leader Jobs, and those who believe that whilst Jobs’s influence will permeate every facet of the company, his legacy lies in the innovative and creative philosophies he imparted upon the key players that are shaping the world’s most valuable company today.

About the Author

I'm a young writer from South Africa, chronicling the changing tides in the ever-flowing river of technology. Focusing mainly on Apple-related technologies, I enjoy sharing my opinion and giving a few tips and tricks here and there on the latest and greatest from 1 Infinite Loop. I'm an avid blogger, and an even more avid reader.

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Thomas January 4, 2013

Personally, I feel that Apple was better suited to its previous style of only shipping products once they met high quality and reliability standards. This year’s bombardment of the marketplace with Apple products got attention, but some of the sub par releases only resulted in negative feedback. That doesn’t help the company gain new buyers to the devoted ranks.

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