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August 06, 2007

Apple's Product Design Strategy

Categories Apple Emerging Ideas 

In my last entry I discussed how Apple's approach to product development is affecting the technology industry, and citied some examples of how other companies are responding.  I'd like to describe, what I believe to be, an important aspect of Apple's design strategy by way of this awesome image of Apple's products:


To me this image demonstrates that Apple approaches almost every product as though it's creating a design icon for the ages.  The products have an incredibly long lifespan, for instance: the basic iBook design was basically unchanged from 2001 through 2005, the iMac design is basically unchanged from 2004 to the present, and the aluminum PowerBook (now MacBook Pro) and full tower desktop designs have lasted from 2003 to the present. On the surface this might be seen as a decision purely motived by aesthetics, but it's also enables Apple to minimize design and manufacturing costs. Instead of creating all new product designs (with new parts that have to be tooled and manufactured), Apple can focus on incremental refinements and improvements. By comparison companies like Dell and HP seem to release totally new (and often unremarkable) product designs almost every year.  All those designs seem to be piling up.  For instance Dell currently offers 8 different desktop enclosures to home customers, despite there really only being 3 distinct sizes.  Even worse, most likely all those enclosures will be totally forgotten within a year.

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