Apple's secret sauce: A simple product line

apple-logo1Apple is doing something right because every other company, including Microsoft and Sony, is laying folks off but Apple is paving the halls with gold. Didja hear? Apple made $10 billion last year and their simple product line is the key. Look at it. There really aren’t that many products: One cellphone, four iPods, three notebooks, and three desktop computers. Now look at HP’s, Dell’s, or even Garmin and TomTom’s product lines. Apple does something different and hopefully others are taking notes.

Apple has a history of finding niche markets and making products to fill that void. However, slowly after Steve-O took over, the product lines condensed into distinct segments geared for a different buyer. You want a basic Macintosh computer? Buy the Mini. The iMac is available for all-in-one solutions and the Mac Pro is truly for the professional. The same thing follows into the notebook and iPod realms showing vastly different strategy than other companies. 

Garmin makes 82 GPS units that can be mounted in a car or carried in your hand. 82!?! That’s a lot and includes 27 designed specifically for the car. If Apple made a GPS, there would be two models available – maybe only one. Apple would shove everything they could into this one GPS and sell it at a profit instead of making similar different models that feature slightly different specs. 

Take the Garmin nuvi 755T and nuvi 765T. There is a $100 price difference between those two models and the only difference is that the $499 755T lacks the Bluetooth capability of the $599 765T. Is Garmin saying the Bluetooth module costs $100?. This isn’t just pick-on-Garmin day, the same practice exists all around the consumer electronic landscape.

Canon is selling 23 point-n-shoot cameras in four product lines; Nikon 17 in three. Monster Cable HDMI cables in ten distinct product lines and Motorola is showing 27 cell phones available on their website. Apple makes one cellphone and sold 88% more this year than the company did last.

Consumers hate choices. They say they love them, but have you ever stood in front of a wall of plasmas and LCDs with a random person? I have and did for years at Circuit City. They get overwhelmed by the amount of options, but Apple has made it easy but producing top-notch products that are easily available. The iPhone at Wal-Mart makes sense as it doesn’t require a salesman to sell the hottest phone on the market. 

Listen, I wouldn’t label myself a fanboy nor do I work exclusively on a Mac. My only iPod is a first-gen Mini that came free with my iBook G4 and I have only played with the iPhone a few times. I do, however, respect Apple greatly for keeping the product line simple. Now, if only other companies would follow suit and trim their fat, the profits would probably follow.