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Is your company brave enough to give people what they want – not what they ask for?

A lot has been said about Apple and Steve Jobs over the past few months and frankly for the past 10 years on their meteoric rise together to stardom. A lot has also been said about Apple’s meticulous adherence to design quality and simplicity over features and hardware specs.

However, until I was reading Michael Degusta’s excellent analysis of the orphaned Android phone users I never thought that much about how profound Apple’s approach to the consumer was. Apple has been derided for years with the Mac platform and more recently with the iPhone/iPad platform about not having the latest and greatest whiz-bang hardware features like SD card slots, more memory, larger resolution cameras, etc. In fact, most manufacturers using the Android operating system today actually lead with that line of thinking – a line of thinking that is left over from our brainwashing during the rise of the personal computer at home.

For years in the late 80’s through the late 90’s the primary driver to buy a new PC was to get the latest processor, more memory, better video card, etc. because it made the computer ‘faster’ – and in fact it did. The operating systems were exploding in size and complexity every release and they needed more processing power to keep up and make the experience of using the PC more enjoyable. However, somewhere during that wild ride we were duped into believing that simply having the faster, more powerful features meant we would have a better experience. And this thinking has carried over to the smartphone world as well.

Take the differences between ads for Apple’s iPhone 4 and now the 4s and Google’s recent acquisition Motorola and their Droid series of phones. Motorola is getting better, but they still lead with the physical features of the phone and it’s tech specs (they are a manufacturer of course) where as while Apple does mention dual processor and camera MP size they completely focus their commercials on the user experience and how the consumer benefits from the experience of using the phone. But we can’t really blame Motorola, we showed them how we like to buy PCs and we didn’t require anything different from them.

This inherently is where Steve Jobs and Apple got it right – against all conventional wisdom. Jobs and team essentially decided to give us what we wanted – not what we asked for. What does that mean? It means we asked for features and specs, but what we really wanted was a fantastic experience using our phones – do I really care what speed my processor is or how much memory I have if I can do what I want to do as fast as I want to do it? Really?

Apple has been demonized by Google indirectly through the Android community along with most of the same user base that would have demonized Microsoft and Windows while using various flavors of UNIX for a lack of open-ness in the past but in reality the walled garden ecosystem they have created between software and hardware for the iPhone has yielded an amazing user experience – one that has been difficult to replicate for Android manufacturers and surely led Google to recognize that as well – hence the acquisition of Motorola. It made iOS5 available to nearly every active iPhone on the plant available on the initial release date. And this kind of thinking has propelled Apple from being on the brink of extinction in 1997 to the most valuable company in the world in mid-2011.

Do you really want to grow your business? If you do then put your customers at the center of everything you do and give them what they want, not what they ask for.

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