Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2
We'll have to disagree on this one.
I don't buy the premise that "business is business" or some such and not morally or ethically concerned. If you are in the business of making consumer products and actively trying to screw the consumers for the single reason of more cash, then (IMO) you are "up to no good" and not being very smart business-wise to boot. In other words I don't believe that the presence of capitalism makes moral or ethical behaviour irrelevant.
I don't buy the premise either, and I never said Apple was trying to "screw consumers." The satisfaction levels at and after buying with hardware, software and support - number one year after year in Consumer Reports, for example, don't paint a pic of people "feeling screwed."
Beyond that, they're making lots of efforts to create greener products. And their products have done much to empower the less technically adept among us. And they're simply the most interesting company in the world to follow with their history of innovation, design excellence, entertaining marketing, and even for some interesting failures and simply for being the best soap opera story in the last 50 years of the business world.
That's the very picture of an "ethical/moral" company: delivering most of what it promises (A, Inc products are excellent but not "perfect") at the price it advertises.
I also have to disagree strongly that "Apple (does) it more than most hardware manufacturers." I've never seen any evidence of that, and have to assume this slight is in your own head, as opposed to anything objectively real.
Ever compared customization options between say on the one side Dell and HP and on the other Apple?
There is no comparison. You can - if you're willing to put up with Windows computing and its fragmented, multi-company infrastructure and outsourced support - fine tune your PC options to a very granular degree.
With Apple's new aluminum notebooks a FireWire port is now going to cost you hundreds of dollars by being bundled with a bigger, heavier machine with other options you may not need.
And only "pros" can buy a 15 "cher and pros can't buy a 13" computer. Etc., etc.
Can anyone who's not on drugs really dispute this?
The real question implied here is not about whether Apple sells "packs" as they absolutely, manifestly do, but rather about "business morality" and "morality/ethics" in general. And it's an irrelevant, oversimplified and overly pious argument.
Apple practices "line differentiation" as a strategy to compete against the WinTel "megagopoly" computer infrastructure as its management long ago decided it couldn't compete by trying to be all computer things to all computer-using people.
It's a practical, not a moral issue with many variables involved for a company that's been traditionally defined as a "niche" company, a "boutique" company, a "cutting edge design and function" company and a "premium product" company.
From a marketing point of view Apple creates coherent, easy to understand lines of products with memorable names. Go to most computer, music player or cell sites and you're bombarded with a huge number of numbingly numbered products whose specs and prices change sometimes daily -- sometimes (on price) hourly for that matter.
Go to the Apple store and you'll have the whole lay of the land in minutes, and in between new line announcements, it'll be almost the same line at the same price the next day, week and month, though some components are quietly updated, for several months.
From a manufacturing point of view, stability and a limited number of configs make it easier to focus on build quality, durability and more. Inventory and channel control benefit in a similar fashion. And fair trade pricing doesn't establish an expectation of wild fluctuation where customers wait for a sale or special rebate (except during back to school season and around Black Friday).
From a software design and maintenance point of view, the fewer number of processors, graphics chips, mobos, drives, screens, etc. that need to work optimally with the OS make it much easier to keep control of code.
From an R&D point of view Apple is more able to take a long term tack, as putting more effort into creating lines that will have a longer shelf life allows more of a focus on quality and design than constantly changing between the latest "good enough for now" options thrashed through by the WinTel manufacturers.
From a support point of view, too, it's vastly easier for Apple to understand the hugely smaller number of variables that can go wrong with its stable, limited number of parts.
And from a gross margins point of view, these are much easier to maintain with more standardized manufacturing, less frequent retooling of manufacturing line and a much smaller parts bin. And to be the David among Goliaths Apple has been (though less so now!), to produce the best hardware and best software with a much smaller unit volume than MS and friends, that development and marketing capital has been an absolute necessity.
So. Apple benefits from line differentiation in that it's enabled it to maintain the high levels of fit, finish, design, ease of use and functionality that have kept it profitable and relevant. And that means Apple customers, at least those for whom its products do meet their needs, benefit as well.
Nothing to do with good v. evil in the real economic world.
That it also means I'm stuck with useless FW drives and other peripherals is a side effect. My argument with Apple's "packs" is that I would've made different ones, e.g., a 13 and 15" MacBook and a 13 and 15" MacBook Pro, e.g.
The business of a business, is not just to make money, it's to do the work or provide the service or product that it's in business for. Originally, most businesses had creeds or mandates attached to them by the founders expressly for the purpose of making sure that all the workers *knew* what they were in business for.
People who think business is "just about the money" are missing a very basic point, (and a great deal of life in general), and are doomed (eventually) to a life of waste, corruption and loneliness IMO.
So it's definitely not "just about the money" - but if anyone wants to tell you that making a profit is not the first necessity of any company, I have some shares of Stanley Steamer, Studebaker and Circuit City available. Cheap.
Originally Posted by Hudson1
I agree with much of what you wrote. The desire to make money doing something is not a differentiator. Anyone can want to make money. It's having a vision to do something better and a passion to carry it out is what makes one better than a competitor. Without doubt you want to make money doing it, too.
See above. You HAVE to want to make money "doing it."
Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2
Thanks. On reflection I might have got a bit high-handed in some of my remarks, but the basic point is that if business were just about money and ethics be damned, then every business person should be a crack dealer.
We all have ethical lines we don't cross, it's just a matter of where they are. In the case of the car dealer example, the dealer is okay with screwing people over on price and features, but probably wouldn't actually sell them a defective car (whereas others would).
For anyone who wants a model of how capitalism can function ethically in the modern world, I recommend researching former Brit PM Tony Blair's ideas on "stakeholder capitalism."
Originally Posted by JeffDM
Packages tend to reduce production and distribution complexity.
As noted above, indeed they do, as well as the other intertwined benefits I mentioned.
Just remember that A, Inc. is first and foremost a business that provides a useful public function in a transparent way, not a useful public function that happens to be provided by a business.