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Lessons in Simplicity - Apple Inc.

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If there ever was a poster child for simplicity, it’s Apple Inc.

When Steve Jobs famously returned to Apple in 1997, one of the first things he noted was how complex and confusing the company's product line had become. And not only was it complex for consumers, it also created distractions and was a drain on resources internally.

What Apple really needed was focus and simplicity. As he presented the company's new direction during one of his famous keynote addresses, he said that Apple was only going to produce 4 basic products: the iMac and iBook (now MacBook) for consumers and the Power Mac and Power Book (MacPro and MacBook Pro) for professionals.

At the time, Apple was just a few months away from potential bankruptcy. Today, Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

This lesson of simplicity permeates the company's thinking across all categories in which it competes. Unlike many of its competitors, Apple sells just 2 basic smartphones: the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4/4S. Other competitors make numerous models, making model comparison complex and confusing while at the same time increasing development and marketing costs.

The result? Apple controls 52% of the profits in the cellular handset market with only 4% market share. And in a comparison of efficiency with Samsung, its biggest competitor, Apple's margins shine at 35% compared to 17% for the Korean electronics giant.

Apple is no doubt the master of simplicity, designing complexity out of its products to make intuitive devices "for the rest of us." while at the same time being a model for operational efficiency. With such a powerful example of the extraordinary benefits of simplicity, why would anyone consciously choose complexity?