Apple is well-positioned, less flashy

Apple isn’t the same company it once was, and that’s ok as they seem aware of their position as market leader, rather than the upstart they once were. While they may not be overwhelming critics and consumers with new devices, they are making appropriate moves for a company in their “middle age.”

This is by no means a condemnation of Apple. Every single move I’ve described above is justified by two circumstances in particular.

First, as a general rule, challengers pursue interoperability while incumbents strive for incompatibility. This is Strategy 101: seek to fight battles where you have the greatest advantage. When Apple was making the iPod, it’s advantage was a superior device; making that device interoperable with Windows let Apple fight the portable music player battle on its terms. Today, though, Apple already has dominant market share: better to make its devices exclusive to its ecosystem, preventing rivals from bringing their own advantage (superior voice assistants, in the case of Alexa and Google Assistant) to bear.

Secondly, the high-end smartphone market — that is, the iPhone market — is saturated. Apple still has the advantage in loyalty, which means switchers will on balance move from Android to iPhone, but that advantage is counter-weighted by clearly elongating upgrade cycles. To that end, if Apple wants growth, its existing customer base is by far the most obvious place to turn.

In short, it just doesn’t make much sense to act like a young person with nothing to lose: one gets older, one’s circumstances and priorities change, and one settles down. It’s all rather inevitable.

via Apple’s Middle Age at Stratechery by Ben Thompson

Amazon Go and the Future

The economics of Amazon Go define the tech industry; the strategy, though, is uniquely Amazon’s. Most of all, the implications of Amazon Go explain both the challenges and opportunities faced by society broadly by the rise of tech.

via Amazon Go and the Future at Stratechery by Ben Thompson

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Keep in mind, most businesses start out in the red: it usually takes financing, often in the form of a loan, to buy everything necessary to even open the business in the first place; a company is not truly profitable until that financing is retired. Of course once everything is paid off a business is not entirely in the clear: physical objects like shelves or refrigeration units or lights break and wear out, and need to be replaced; until that happens, though, money can be made by utilizing what has already been paid for.

This, though, is why the activity that is accounted for in R&D is so important to tech company profitability: while digital infrastructure obviously needs to be maintained, by-and-large the investment reaps dividends far longer than the purchase of any physical good. Amazon Go is a perfect example: the massive expense that went into developing the underlying system powering cashier-less purchasing does not need to be spent again; moreover, unlike shelving or refrigerators, the output of that expense can be duplicated infinitely without incurring any additional cost.

As always from Stratechery, a great analysis of what Amazon Go means for the future.