Apple Computer’s surprise domination of the digital music market is
based on an unusual strategy: succeeding by being a smart second (or third)
to enter a market. While Rio and Eiger Labs both had MP3 players long
before the iPod, Apple took the concept and added several new-market
disruptions, including iTunes, iMovie and GarageBand, the company’s music
editing software suite. Apple was able to outmaneuver its competition by
offering good design and ease of use, while executing clever marketing and
smart distribution. The popularity of GarageBand, which enables tech
novices to assemble and publish music that is entirely manufactured on the
computer or remix older songs, has reinvented the desktop studio production
environment and analysts expect Apple will follow soon with tools for
editing podcasts — prerecorded audio programs that can be downloaded from
iTunes. The company is also considering requests to release, through its
iTunes service, new music that can be edited at home via GarageBand. If it
decides to go this route, Apple will have succeeded in turning its delayed
market entry into an advantage by concentrating on creating complimentary
products that play on its core strengths of elegant design and ease of use.
And that’s when being second really counts.

HBS Working Knowledge 29 Aug 2005