Apple’s highly successful introduction of the iPad back in April illustrates two important principles of military strategy. The first is the that it is better to go around a fortified enemy position and take it from the flank, rather than trying to assault it frontally. Even better is to go around it completely and make it irrelevant. By introducing the iPad, Apple repeated its iPhone exploit. Instead of directly taking on makers of netbook computers and “lightweight” operating systems (and cellphones, in the case of the iPhone), Apple introduced game changing technology, essentially making the incumbent products irrelevant. The recent decisions by Microsoft, RIM, HP, Dell, etc. to cancel their existing tablet projects and start essentially from scratch shows just how disruptive the iPad is.
The second principle from military strategy is that the defence is always inherently stronger than the offence. This is because the defender chooses to fortify his position and takes on the enemy on ground and at a time of his choosing. By introducing the iPad, Apple is now in a strongly fortified position. Any challenger must take the company on in a frontal assault, or try to go around them. Both are extremely difficult, as Apple has the upper hand in terms of technology and product focus. In other words, they have chosen to fight their battle against competitors on ground and at a time of their choosing. Brilliant strategy if I say so myself.
© 2010 Richard Martin