Apple, the Business Chameleon

Interesting data out of India. According to IDC, Apple jumped from almost no revenue to 16% of smartphone revenues, second to only Samsung, all in one quarter. And according to this Techcrunch article:

Apple’s move up has been prompted at least in part by a major change in the way it sells the iPhone in India, by employing the help of small local retailers to distribute the device, and creating amortized payment plans that defray the significant upfront cost of buying an iPhone in India.

I remember a story, maybe falsely, about how General Motors beat out Ford. As you probably know Ford was the king of cars in the early 20th century. Henry Ford, the “inventor” of the assembly line, the man who famously said you can have a Ford in any color as long as it was black, was winning by lowering the price to the point that anyone could buy one. GM wanted to compete and by the 1940s had trounced Ford. How? By offering credit plans to buy their nicer, more stylish cars.

The hardest thing about predicting what will happen in the mobile world is figuring out what Apple will do. Apple built its US revenues off Apple Stores and carrier subsidies. Pundits everywhere ask how Apple will compete in countries without subsidies and without stores, and Apple changes their business model for the realities on the ground.

When I wrote about the next billion smartphone customers a week ago, I practically skipped Apple. Will the company figure out unique distribution models to bring devices to low-income people? Will Apple figure out less expensive devices? Completely different types of devices? Something the rest of us can’t fathom today? Impossible to know.

But just like General Motors in the first half of the 20th century, I wouldn’t count Apple out.