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Deciding What Not to Do at Apple

Image: techcrunch.com
Image: techcrunch.com

Simplicity is at the essence of Apple. So it was all the more surprising when Apple announced on October 16th that it would be offering five distinct iPad product lines this Holiday season.

With the introduction of the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3 to an existing lineup of iPads, Apple drifted further away from its ethos of simplicity and reached a new milestone: 66 unique permutations (SKUs) of the iPad product.

Although this rise in product complexity has had no discernable impact to Apple’s bottom line—Apple released its best ever Q4 financial results last week—a deeper dive into the financial fine print reveals a 12.6% decline in year-over-year iPad sales and shrinking margins , both disturbing trends.

So, is it time for Apple to rethink its iPad strategy and re-embrace simplicity?


Outsource Your Chores: A Look at the Service-On-Demand Economy

Mini Laundry

Is there a pile of laundry or dirty dishes waiting for you at home? Now you can skip the hassle of chores and outsource that work instead. By leveraging the social connectivity of the internet, new service-on-demand companies like TaskRabbit, Handybook and Alfred Club make it easy to outsource your chores.

While the outsourcing of chores certainly benefits the individual ridding themselves of the work, will this mass redistribution of labor mean that chores can be completed with greater collective efficiency? To evaluate this question, we want to consider how companies are positioning themselves to reap the benefits of operational advancements like global task optimization and continuous learning in the new service-on-demand framework.

With a mindset toward operating efficiency, a breakdown of the business models behind TaskRabbit, Handybook, and Alfred Club provides a powerful narrative of why first-mover TaskRabbit should be worried about the growing Handybook, and why both of them should take a second look at recent upstart Alfred Club.


Drone Delivery: Amazon can learn from the Navy

Image: Amazon.com and US Navy
Image: Amazon.com and US Navy

Amazon Prime Air has been in the news recently, on the heels of many other news stories about drones. Amazon touts that the system will be able to deliver packages in 30 minutes or less and that the system will become as normal as mail trucks on the road. Are these realistic claims, or is this just a publicity stunt?

While you may think Amazon’s system will be the first of its kind, the autonomous delivery of goods by drones has been underway since 2011 by the US Navy with its Cargo Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). Although the payload these two systems carry is vastly different (thousands of pounds vs. five pounds), examining the Navy’s solution helps answer questions posed about Amazon’s proposed solution. While we wait to see if Amazon Prime Air will one day fly, let’s analyze how Amazon might approach the significant operational challenges they face in coordinated path planning, package delivery, and safety.


The Ambiguity Effect, the Entrepreneur, and the Alibaba IPO

Alibaba Jack Ma

To an entrepreneur, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba looks like an indispensable offering. Its B2B platform disintermediates, simplifies transnational transactions, facilitates supplier review, and, of course, offers unbeatable unit costs. However, the true business brilliance is how they take advantage of a cognitive bias called the ambiguity effect. With their IPO scheduled for September on the Big Board in New York and slated to be the largest of all time, we are at the very beginning of Alibaba’s story here in the United States.


Trade Secrets and the Shift to Transparency


Each day, retailers are exposing more and more information about their respective supply chains. Details like material cost data, supplier locations, labor conditions, and environmental impact are now being overtly displayed for customer consumption by a selection of companies.

This disregard for what were previously considered trade secrets and the shift to transparency is not simply a passing marketing fad either. This trend actually makes real economic sense.