The Secret World of Apple Product Development

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It’s lighter, it’s thinner, and we think it has more amazing apps… We know that the next Apple® product is going to rock our world – we just don’t know what it is yet. Apple’s campus in Cupertino, Calif., has become an Area 51-like vortex of secrecy. Why does Apple keep us in the dark? And what is this strange fascination we have with the next great Apple product launch?

Secrecy in the business plan

Apple has a world-famous non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that severely limits every employee, vendor, and partner from leaking anything – anything at all – about a product before it is launched. Secrecy has been built into both the business and marketing plans which were set forth by Steve Jobs himself. In fact, the whole company is so shrouded in secrecy as a rule that even the NDA itself will never be revealed. The Apple mystery makes for some truly innovative concepts both in products and the marketing of those products.

A different animal

First of all, the company is run differently than others. According to Adam Lashinsky, author of “Inside Apple,” Apple has a very different process for product development than you would see at other companies. In fact, the entire process from conceptualization to launch is quite different than what a traditional company would even allow.

Matthew Panzarino outlines the process for us in his article, This is how Apples top secret product development process works. In a nutshell:

1. Designers are at the top of the food chain and are given unlimited resources.

- Uninhibited by the accounting department, they are truly allowed to dream big.

2. New product teams are treated as startups within the company.

- These teams are separated from the rest of the company and sworn to secrecy.

3. The Apple New Product Process (ANPP) is invoked.

4. The executive team reviews products every Monday.

- Apple ensures plenty of time is available for each product by limiting how many it will work on at a time.

5. The engineering program manager (EPM) and the global supply manager (GSM) are chosen.

- Both executives spend a lot of their time in China to oversee production.

6. Once a design is complete, the product is built.

7. The prototype is tested.

8. The product may be redesigned, rebuilt, and retested – again and again.

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The ANPP

The Apple New Product Process is a document that maps out each stage of a new idea, who will be responsible for its completion, who is on what team for each stage, and when each phase is expected to be done. Originally used to develop the Macintosh, the ANPP has been used ever since to ensure the highly successful process continues.

The EPM Mafia

Because the engineering program manager and the global supply manager are given absolute and total control over a product’s design, they are playfully called the “EPM Mafia” within the organization. Ultimately, it is expected that every decision is final and done for the good of the product.

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Buzzing, but no bugs

All this secrecy in the design phase leads to secrecy in the product development and testing phase, which leads to a frenzy in the product launch phase. For the most part, Apple may sit back and watch the speculation fuel interest in a forthcoming product – meaning lots of free press for a product not even available to consumers yet. Each launch is so much more than the release of a new product – it is an event watched around the world – much like the Oscars or the World Cup. Very smooth.

Meanwhile, each long-awaited product is meant to be viewed as “perfect” by Apple’s hungry consumers. Unlike its competitors, Apple goes out of its way to ensure any patches do not make the news. There are never any upfront warnings of possible issues with a new Apple creation. Apple maintains a carefully crafted culture of “no news is good news,” even in the face of fixing bugs on the fly. Any corrections are made on the down-low, maintaining that consumer confidence that so defines Apple fans.

Despite some trepidation in past markets and a slow economy, it’s a model that is still working. According to the Apple website, they have reported the highest quarterly earnings yet, selling 37.04 million iPhones in the last 14 weeks of 2011.

The shine on the Apple

With all the secrecy also comes a level of protection. The world may never know how many Apple products died at any phase, as we will never know what is being considered or even tested. One can only assume that there were a few that died on the vine, but that is all we can do: assume. Apple isn’t telling, and their “practically perfect in every way” image prevails.

Apple Killers

Every day is an exciting one in the world of tech. Tablets, laptops, and mobile devices are becoming thinner, sleeker, and savvier, and as consumers, we can’t wait to get our hands on the latest and greatest technology.

Apple®, naturally, has held our attention for years with its evolution of sexy technology. But can the company be the No. 1 tech darling forever? Or are other companies vying for that spot at the top of the tech tree? Let’s look at some potential “Apple Killers” that could topple the giant from its position.

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Tablets

The world became enamored of tablets when the first version of the iPad came out. But, now, other brands are moving at full speed to catch up with Apple.

Quite the upgrade from its previous black-and-white, no-touch-screen model, the new Kindle Fire™ is surprisingly winning the hearts of people who previously were devoted iPad fans. Its price, for one, is a major selling point: At $199, it’s less than half of the current price for the iPad.

Amazon loves its Prime™ customers and gives them plenty of extras if they also own a Kindle Fire™, like free streaming movies and a free paid app each day.

Samsung refuses to be left in the dust as well. Its Galaxy Tab™ comes in 7- and 10-inch versions, which gives you a choice based on your tablet needs. Using the Android™ Honeycomb platform, it attracts its fair share of Android fans.

Many tablet manufacturers have made announcements that they’ll be releasing new products this year. Asus’ EEE Pad MeMo™ is set to launch worldwide in 2012 at the price point of $249. It will be the first tablet to use Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich™ operating system. Not to be outdone, Dell has rumors circulating that it will also release a new tablet this year.

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UltraThin Windows Laptops

Apple’s iPads are certainly not the only products that have some competition. Its MacBook Air™, which sold 1.1 million units in 2010, is now in a crowded marketplace of UltraThin laptops. The Samsung Series 9™, one such competitor, has twice the memory of the MacBook Air and is slightly lighter. The MSI X-Slim X370™, while slightly heavier than the MacBook, comes at a fraction of the cost, making it a more appealing option to the price sensitive. Dell’s Adamo™ laptop, considered by many to be a luxury piece, is 2 inches thick and has a backlit keyboard.

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Smartphones

The days where Apple stood alone in all categories are slipping away. The iPhone™ is no exception. It may be the phone that got us using apps, but it’s by no means the only option for sophisticated smartphones.

Windows 7™ phones are likely to be the biggest threat to Apple. Microsoft and Nokia have teamed up to create models using the Windows OS, such as the Lumia™, which sold between 1 and 2 million in the third quarter of 2011 in Europe alone. The 800 and 900 versions will be released this year in the United States, with much fanfare about their one-touch social network access and rumors about a 12-megapixel camera.

The Samsung Galaxy SII™ gives Apple a run for its money with its Gorilla Glass™ impermeability and 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display, which provides vivid colors on the screen. And finally, the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx™ shouldn’t be overlooked. It offers the rare combination of 4G and long battery life.

The Sony Xperia S™is a relative newcomer to the smartphone industry but one that shouldn’t be ignored. It uses the Sony Entertainment Network™ to give users access to millions of movies and songs, and it’s PlayStation™ Certified, which means users can download PlayStation games from their phones.

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What’s in Store for Apple?

With the death of Steve Jobs, many speculate on whether Apple can continue to take the majority of the market share in the categories it currently dominates, or whether this gives other players the opportunity to join in the fun. Companies like Dell, Motorola, Nokia, and Sony have the chance to come up with their own unique technology products right now. Whatever the end results, we consumers get the benefit of new and exciting technology products launching each year.

3 Small Sacrifices that Could = iPad 2

Even though the iPad 2 is one of the greatest electronics on the market, its $500+ price tag makes it seem far, far out of reach. Walking into the Apple store can feel like the company’s dangling a bunch of delicious, high-tech carrots in front of you.

However, buying it retail price isn’t the only way to acquire this awesome electronic. If you use Presta, you can lease to own electronics like the iPad 2. The iPad 2 specifically can be leased for only $21 a week, so making little sacrifices could add up to the $84 you’d need to pay for the device. Here are some awesome ways to adjust your daily choices and get the iPad 2 in days!

Don’t go to the movie theater

Estimated savings: $14/month (two movies)

It doesn’t matter if it’s the new movie in the Twilight series or the next Christopher Nolan thriller — try to keep yourself from going to the movies. The film won’t disappear, and you could be paying off the iPad in the meantime! Movies can run about $10 these days if you go at night, so you’re dishing out a lot of dough for something that’ll only last for 2 hours.

Instead, watch an old movie, rent a cheap movie, or hey, you could even watch a movie on your iPad 2 that you rent from the iTunes store! With the iPad 2, you wouldn’t even have to leave your house, so you can curl up in your pajamas, spend a buck, and be thrilled that you’re clutching one of the greatest gadgets ever. Oh, and you won’t be tempted to buy $30 popcorn.

Don’t buy food substitutions/extras

Estimated savings: $10/month

Think about every cheeseburger you’ve ordered. Do you add cheese? That’s probably about $1 extra, depending on the restaurant. Then think about all of the other stuff you like to add to burgers, pasta, and other entrées, like mushrooms, bacon, avocado, and other food that costs a pretty penny. All of these little add-on costs definitely accumulate to a large amount over months’ time.

Don’t you think it’s worth not substituting your French fries for onion rings in order to get your hands on a high-tech tablet? If you’re able to stick with this decision and then have the strength to pass up random ice cream and late-night food runs, you’ll probably be saving a lot more than you would have thought.

Don’t buy expensive coffee

Estimated savings: $65/month (buying one drink every weekday)

This option definitely varies from person to person. Some people cannot survive without coffee in the morning, and just the thought of giving up their daily trip to Starbucks makes them shudder. However, even if you’re coffee obsessed, you can keep yourself from buying expensive lattes and brew your coffee at home. If you’re someone who’s always at Starbucks, you’ll be saving a ton of money in no time.

If you’re not such a coffee addict, try to think of something else you might be splurging on in little increments. Do you tend to buy soda at restaurants instead of just getting water? Do you have to purchase some sort of accessory every time you stroll through the mall? Do you grab after work every now and then? These seemingly small expenses definitely add up over a month’s time, so try to eliminate them.

Conclusion

If you’re able to decrease the amount of spending money you tend to drop in small amounts at a time, you’ll be surprised when you notice how much money you’re saving. Think about how great it would be to make these minor changes and possess the iPad 2 as a result! And hey, you might be sacrificing small things, but you’re replacing them with the awesome entertainment this Apple tablet can supply for you.