Wired has a good article on Steve Jobs’ management style and how that and Apple’s focus on tightly integrated, closed-down platforms has made the company successful despite violating almost every tenet of high tech management wisdom.
I don’t think this is much of a surprise, really – and that the success of Apple is pretty well explained by disruptive innovations theory. Apple is focused on the end user experience – the creative end user, at that – and demands control fo the entire platform in order to micro-manage that experience. (Actually, they are focused on the job the user wants to do, which is different from end user focus in that it gets you out of the segmentation trap.) As long as users want more of whatever they deliver – and they do – Apple will do fine, and the culture underscores that by keeping them focused on the customer’s interaction with their products rather than what anybody else is doing.
Where Apple will get in trouble is when they either deviate from what the users want (and the lack of Tablet functionality in the MacBook Pro is one such instance) or start to develop products in response to what others are doing. All of Apple’s markets will eventually shrink due to competition from more open platforms – such is technology evolution, after all – but as long as the company can continue to focus on areas where things still aren’ t working the way they are supposed to, I think they will do just fine. (And if you want an example of a company that did ont do that, but instead prettied up technology that others had created, check out the fall of the once mighty Bang & Olufsen, which increasingly are looking like an unbearably expensive Sharper Image.)