In Corporate Strategy, Collis and Montgomery explain there are two kinds of diversification—linked and constrained. Companies using linked diversification enter new businesses when it relates in some way to another business they are already in (it is linked to it), but does not necessarily have any connection to their other businesses. If they are using constrained diversification, however, they only enter a new business if it is based on their core resources or competencies. Companies based on linked diversification have little coherence to their overall corporate strategy, while companies using constrained diversification tend to be more focused. Constrained diversification allows companies to maximize the effect of their resources because they are shared (100).
Apple uses constrained diversification. Apple is, inherently, a personal computer company (hardware and software), and their businesses utilize their competencies in developing hardware and software. The Macintosh, iPad, iPhone, iPod and AppleTV are all computers, which allows Apple to share resources between businesses. For example, the Macintosh, iPad, iPhone and AppleTV all run OS X, Apple’s operating system. This creates economies of scope, which, Collis and Montgomery point out, create cost savings for the company because their resources are shared across multiple businesses (72).
Rather than just have related businesses, though, each business is a focused platform with no extraneous products or product types. The Macintosh, for example, consists of two kinds—desktop and notebook. These separate product lines each share resources and complement each other. The iMac and MacBook Pro are both primarily constructed from aluminum and glass, so not only do they share the same materials (which reduces costs), but they resemble each other, creating unity between product lines.
Each platform, too, complements the other. Apple’s Macintosh computers sync their media and personal data (calendar, contacts, email) seamlessly with the other platforms. Because they work so well together, owning products from each platform benefits users by creating an experience where their devices “just work.”
The platform advantage does not apply just to Apple’s devices. Through iTunes, users can purchase music, movies and television shows that syncs across all of their devices, or even do so from their iPhone or iPad. The App Store allows users to download applications for their iPhones and iPads wherever they are, and now the iBook Store, released in April, will allow them to do the same with books.
Because Apple has chosen what businesses to enter carefully, these platforms reinforce the others and make them more powerful. The sum is greater than the parts. This creates a complete package for consumers to choose, and it is difficult for competitors to match. Their platform strategy makes each individual business more valuable than it would be as a separate entity.
Their strategy can be improved, however. Currently, MobileMe—a service Apple offers that keeps contacts, calendar, and email in sync across multiple devices over the air—is a premium service that costs $99 per year. This is the wrong approach. Rather than a premium service, MobileMe should be free and integrated into Apple’s platforms. MobileMe should act like the “glue” that integrates the platforms and as a draw for users. Apple’s goal should be to get as many MobileMe users as possible. Once someone is happily using MobileMe across their various devices, they are less likely to switch to a competitor’s product.