The Economist has published an article that explores some of the lessons other companies can learn from Apple's journey through the industry, as well as it's unique practices towards product design and customer relations. Specifically, the article outlines four lessons other companies should take notes on, including the fact that some of Apple's innovation comes both from without and within, highlighting the fact that some of its strongest products like Mac OS X and the iPod are either built on the foundation from open source (Mac OS X's BSD Unix core), or originally conceived by an outside consultant (like the iPod). Another great lesson the article mentions is an ability to not listen to customers or the market when one's instincts say otherwise. Both the iPod and Nintendo's Wii are cited here: while the iPod was originally criticized for being too expensive of a gadget, the market has clearly spoken otherwise. In the case of Nintendo's wildly successful Wii, the company was criticized for betting on a portion of the market that was more or less completely ignored by the other video game manufacturers: non-gamers who haven't picked up a console yet.
It's a good read that takes a realistic approach while spotlighting some of the lessons that companies can learn from Apple's wild success in recent years.
The Economist on Apple's journey as a lesson to other companies
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