Apple’s Art of War

Apple is the most valuable company in the world today. The main reason for Apple’s success (apart from great products) is how it fights in the mobile war. Apple uses the Guerrilla warfare strategy to make all its competitors bite the proverbial dust.

Strategy 1: Rise from the ashes with infinite wisdom

Guerrilla battle teams rise from the ashes of past defeat with the wisdom required to win. Apple was a fading company in the 90s. With the learning from previous failures, Steve Jobs’ leadership, and the launch of the iPod Classic, Apple rose from the ashes. The rest, as they say, is history.

Strategy 2: Remain hidden until it is ready to attack

Guerrilla battle teams are hidden until they attack the enemy. Similarly, Apple, with its absolute secrecy, ensures that its product strategy is always hidden. Its product lines, features, and components are always shrouded in absolute secrecy before launch. For example, nobody knew Siri was the key feature before iPhone 4S was launched.

Strategy 3: Use its weakness as a strength

Guerrilla battle teams use their weakness as strength. For example, they are small (weakness) and hence extremely mobile (strength). Unlike Windows, that can run on a variety of hardware Mac OS X could only run on the Mac hardware. This exclusivity was perceived as Apple’s biggest weakness. Today, because the iOS runs on iPhones, iPods, and iPads, it thus creates a common framework for Apple Apps. Across various Apple devices, Apple users have downloaded the apps over 25 billion times. This uniformity of hardware and operating system is now Apple’s biggest strength.

Strategy 4: Enjoy Public Support

Guerrilla battle teams enjoy public support – that’s why they win. Similarly, Apple has built a huge cult following over the years that it can tap into. Mac, iPhone and iPod users always remain loyal to Apple. This fan base is a huge plus for Apple since loyal users always upgrade to the newer versions of Apple products. For instance, have you ever heard of people standing in lines overnight for Android or BlackBerry devices?

Strategy 5: Grow stronger as the enemy grows weaker from within

Guerrilla battle teams draw their strength from the weakening enemy. This tendency is psychological as well as practical. As RIM constantly reduces the price of the BlackBerry Playbook, it shows that the BlackBerry Playbook is not worth the original price. HP shutting down its tablet business signifies defeat. The weakening and dying enemies help Apple grow stronger psychologically as well as in market share.

When Sun Tzu wrote the Art of War, I’m sure he did not think Apple would use it to reach the zenith of excellence and success!


How can RIM survive the mobile market bloodbath?

The last few years have been extremely difficult for RIM. The troubled company has been trying to hold on to its success of the past decade. With iOS, Android, and Windows mobile grabbing the market share, RIM is unable to keep the growth steady. In fact, the market share is dwindling and the shareholders are not very happy.

What can the troubled BlackBerry phone maker do to survive and succeed?

Focus on strengths

RIM has a few strengths that are unbeatable. The patented keyboard is the biggest one. You can type without looking at the phone! You can type quite fast and so far, no other device has been able to come up with a better keyboard. This keyboard obviously provides better user experience for business users. For example, much as I love the iPad, I can’t ever imagine typing without a keyboard for extended periods of time.

Encryption is the nuclear arsenal

Governments, mega-corporations, law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and even individuals have great use for the encryption provided by BlackBerry. Nobody has been able to come up with a better encryption system. There have been instances where even governments have been unable to decrypt the code and they have asked RIM to place a server locally. It’s that secure. RIM must enhance and market the encryption feature on the BlackBerry that no other mobile manufacturer can give us today.

Don’t ape the gorilla

If Apple came up with an iPad, RIM did not have to ape Apple. HP actually killed its tablet project. If a mammoth like HP can stop manufacturing the tablet, RIM should have never entered the tablet market in the first place. RIM should just focus on its niche area and strive to succeed. RIM does not have to start competing on every front. Remember what happened when Adolf Hitler attacked Russia during World War II? Germany was fighting on multiple fronts. Similarly, RIM needs to stay focused and not compete on all fronts by aping competitors.

Kill the Touch Screen

There are numerous Android and iOS touch screen devices out there. RIM need not build another one. BlackBerry Storm never did as well as the BlackBerry Curve or the BlackBerry Pearl!

Gaming Apps aren’t the only thing in the world!

It’s true that apps lead to a lot of revenue. Business users use quite a few apps. Moreover, Business = Revenue; so theoretically, business apps can generate a lot of revenue since a business will see value in spending for it. BlackBerry, being a business phone, needs to focus only on promoting apps for business and maybe social media. Focusing on all types of apps is pointless and even if developers build a wide range of apps (say, for education) it is a bit too late for RIM to enter new app markets.

Create New Markets

RIM must use its strengths to venture into new markets where nobody can follow.

  • Licensing its encryption to high-security areas like Defense, Financial Telecommunication (like SWIFT), or secure Government communication.
  • Licensing its encryption to enterprises will lead to a lot of revenue. BYOD will work if companies use RIM servers and integrate it with various devices. I am sure companies want secure communication and also allow users to use the iPhone.
  • Licensing its encryption to consumers directly will also lead to a lot of revenue. RIM can come up with an app that allows all iPhone users and Android users use its encryption. RIM can charge for the iPhone/Android app and also a subscription fee to generate revenue.

If companies like Surf Easy and Hotspot Shield can make money just by selling encryption, so can RIM. I would surely pay $50 for an app or $10 a month for as service that allows secure communication between my iPhone and the Internet that nobody in the world can hack into. Imagine the revenue RIM could generate from the millions of smartphones out there!

  • RIM can also venture into building new devices for law enforcement. For example, a BlackBerry with a fingerprint recognition device built-in that scans and identifies fingerprints securely from various government databases will generate a lot of revenue. This device will enhance national security and nations will surely spend for it.

Apple (iOS) and Google (Android) are the new kids on the block.  However, RIM has been here forever (well, almost forever). Only time will tell if RIM will emerge unscathed from this bloodthirsty mobile war, or whether it will fade away into oblivion. Until then, the clickety-clack sounds of BlackBerry will keep ringing in our ears.