Recently a good friend, Sahil, gave a presentation (view via SlideShare) about building a web product company. If you have a startup bone in your body I would highly recommend taking a look at the presentation not only because the information is great but the actual slides are something you don’t often see. Most presenters like to pack 20 bullets into a single slide, use 12 point font, throw in a worthless graphic or a bunch of other things that usually lead people to tune out. One word can summarize his presentation – simplicity.
That got me to think about Apple. Many people would say Apple is about simplicity when you look at their products and design. I would argue it goes one step further – the number of products. You want a phone from Apple? Great, that is the iPhone end of story. Granted they have various models based on storage but that’s it. Look at Nokia, Samsung or Motorola, I honestly get a f***ing brain hemorrhage when someone mentions their model number of their phone.
Apple follows what German car makers have been doing for decades. Have a basic design and sell it in 3 levels, what I call SML (small, medium and large). You want a Benz sedan? The low end is the C, mid-range is the E and high end is the S class. Within those 3 classes are various models based on engine specs but at least when someone says “I bought an E class” you know the general specs of the car. BMW has 3, 5 and 7. Audi has A4, A6 and A8. American car makers face the same issue as Nokia and Motorola, confuse the buyer with all sorts of models and then spend massive marketing dollars to “educate them.”
Simplicity is easy to achieve on day one but to maintain that same level of simplicity 10 to 20 years later is almost next to impossible. Companies that can figure it out get compensated and you have to look no further then Apple’s market capitization, not bad for a company that just sells consumer electronics. Simplicity at its best.