We can’t make superficial analysis of other people’s success and expect to have their success, too. It won’t happen. You’ll fail every time. You have to understand the deeper reasons for it—market trends they’re taking advantage of, changes in society, their deeper strategy. And then you have to go beyond what they’ve accomplished, because there’s no point in merely reaching parity with your competitors. While you’re busy getting to where they are now, they’ll move even farther forward, and you’ll be perpetually chasing their taillights.
You have to change the game to win. You have to re-define it, so they’re playing on your terms, and are trying to catch up with you. If you’re always playing by your competitor’s rules, you’ll lose every time.
This in itself is the definition of our transition from an industrial economy to an information economy. For the past 200 years companies have taken something someone else does and simply found a way to do it cheaper or faster. Henry Ford did it with cars, it happened with home appliances, TVs, and almost anything we use.
What Apple and the Post-PC era represents is a new product class that debuted with the best possible user experience coupled with prices that no one else could beat. Apple already did it better and cheaper – so superficially copying them does nothing. This is what the great companies do today. They have an relentless focus on their product, and they won’t ship it without being amazing. It’s hard, but they will do it.
In the information economy, as Kyle puts it, a company has to change the rules, not simply try to slide into an existing market. You may make some money, but not enough to dominate for the next 50 years.