At some point, when you try to compete with Apple, you have to decide what business you are in. It became apparent that once Steve Jobs returned to the company, he had transformed it from a computer and technology company, to a fashion company that sells computers and technology.
The only difference between modern fashion designers and Apple is the number of seasons they work around. Clothing has four seasons and Apple has one.
A lot of industries have toyed with the idea of fashion as a sales tool. The wild array of Detroit-produced automobiles in the 1950s were all fashion items and the pace was torrid. They finally gave up when they simply could not keep up the blistering pace of change. The car industry does maintain a veneer of fashion, nonetheless. It has to.
Apple first experimented with fashion with the original iMac, which evolved into the weird pivoting iMac, then the sleek screen iMac. The first iMacs even came in numerous colours.
It was with the iPod that the company really sashayed into fashion industry. The device was practically promoted as a fashion accessory. The white earbuds became as identifiable as the Gucci or Chanel logo.
All the colours were carefully selected to match the current fashion industry colours du jour. When Microsoft rolled out its Zune, the firm completely neglected fashion trends by making one brown. There were no brown fashions walking down the runways in Paris or Milan at the time and Microsoft was actually telegraphing the fact that it was out of touch and unsophisticated.
Along the way, Apple produced other stylish items, including the artsy lucite cube version of the Macintosh. Minor cracks in the plastic contributed to its eventual demise.
The company's real stride was hit with the iPhone. No smartphone is more trendy than the iPhone. No matter its flaws, it is the phone to have if you want to make a fashion statement.
The phone rolls out on a strict cycle and models get redesigned as much as possible to satisfy the whims of a fashion-hungry public.
The funny thing is that Nokia probably made more fashion statements during its era than Apple ever will, but whether Nokia ever realised it was in the fashion business seems like a key factor to me. I'm guessing that it was simply the minimalist design ethos of the culture that resulted in fashionable phones, rather than any overt fashion sense.
If Nokia had any sense of itself, the company would not have hired anyone from Microsoft as the CEO. Trying to be pragmatic in a fashion milieu never works. The company would have been better off hiring an executive from Armani.
This lack of awareness continues with the newest line of Nokia phones. They have a very unique and aesthetically pleasing shape and feel. These are indeed fashion items. Instead of promoting the beauty of the phone design, though, it promotes the Microsoft OS running on the phone. There is little that is actually attractive or compelling about these screens that would trigger any sort of positive human reaction.
Understanding fashion and its relation to Apple would help any of the big companies that are cavalier about the notion. Dell, HP, IBM, Lenovo, and Microsoft – all are clueless and it shows.
The same companies complain about how the industry has become commoditised and everything is a cheap box. This isn't true. It's the industry that they chose to be in that became the commodity. Box makers. Fashion is never commoditised because it combines art, psychology, prestige, image, and rapid design change. There is money to be made if you get on that bandwagon instead of making cheap boxes.