Apple may be the New England Patriots, but the rest of the world is playing fantasy football

Apple has always prided themselves in producing their own hardware AND their own software. And for a long time, it worked. They’ve been able to use this strategy to completely disrupt entire industries, beating the competition to the punch and sustaining their stranglehold on the market for years.

But in the mobile phone market, that has all changed. With Google and Microsoft putting more of an emphasis on their mobile operating systems and device makers like Samsung, LG, Motorola (Google) and HTC innovating on the hardware side, Apple alone can’t expect to be better than EVERYONE at EVERYTHING at this point. At least not any more.

If there was a rule that a company had to produce both the hardware and the software for a mobile device, I’d bet on Apple all day. Unfortunately, Apple IS playing by that rule and everyone else is playing a different game altogether.

Apple is the New England Patriots. For the past ten years you’d be hard-pressed to find a franchise that has seen greater success. And they’ve been the darlings of the league, even earning their quarterback the nickname, “the Golden boy”, a term often lobbed at Steve Jobs. If you had to bet on one team each year, the Patriots would be at the top of the list.

Now imagine that you’re playing fantasy football, and on draft day you sit down and instead of getting to draft along with the other owners in your league – picking the best players from each and every team – you were handed the Patriots entire lineup. Everyone else picked a quarterback from this team, wide receivers from that team, and basically assembled an all-star cast of players to match up against your Patriots.

Sure, you’d have an advantage when it comes to team chemistry and fan loyalty, but you couldn’t really compete with the other teams head-to-head.

This is exactly what is happening with Apple’s iPhone line currently. Their announcement earlier this week of the iPhone 5S and 5C was nice but they are just trying to catch up to where the rest of market has been for a while.

Unfortunately, what used to be a competitive advantage for the folks in Cupertino is now an insurmountable weakness that they won’t be able to overcome unless they change the game they are playing.


  1. jdcmorgan on September 12, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Veeerrry interesting… I think you may be right from a consumers’ view point, but if you were discussing Apple’s share of the *profit* in this industry, I’d say they’re still winning hands down… Granted that streak won’t continue unless Apple continues to innovate (which is in line with your point). They have a few more miles on these models before that happens.

  2. Seth Miller on September 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    From an organizational standpoint, both Google & Microsoft (through Motorola & Nokia acquisitions) are becoming more vertically organized on the devices side.

    Apple is still the luxury brand here. Ask BMW if they’d like to make more money on each sale or if they’d like to be the best-selling car brand, I think they’d take the money & run. Same thing for Apple.

    I think that for some market segments Android or Windows 8 will be the alternative they reach for, but I’m less sold on the fact that people choose those platforms or even those devices based on features or specs when the mobile industry is still driving by 2-year-contracts & device subsidization.

    Shorter: People like getting free (or cheap) phones.

    Will the 5c mean that some non-Apple users choose an iPhone for $99 instead of an Android or Windows 8? Maybe, but it’s at least a better proposition than a year-old iPhone 5 (which was the pre-announcement, rumor-fueled thinking).

    Still, your point is valid. If you’re betting on your team or you’re betting the field, taking a field bet might be better at this point. A post-Jobs Apple is making record profits but so did a post-Gates Microsoft and we see where that has led.

    But let’s not crown a new champion until the old champion falls. To be the best you’ve got to beat the best.

    Good post.

  3. Jeff Hilimire on September 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Actually Seth, you nailed it at the end there. You could argue that might point is a bit bogus because I’m saying instead of Apple winning, “everyone” is going to win. So will Samsung “win”? Well, they don’t have the operating system. Will Google “win”? They aren’t going to out-perform Samsung or HTC on devices I bet… so it’ll be interesting to see who “wins”.

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