5 forces and frustration

So John Gruber links to a very interesting piece about Apple and the way it looks quite differently at the way it sells products to the customer than other companies.

The eager and almost rabid application of Porter's "Five Forces" (Supplier Power, Customer Power, Threat of New Entrants, Threat of Substitute Products, Industry Rivalry) to technology products and services has bred an entire generation of MBAs in marketing positions dedicated to developing and maintaining closed systems and closed hardware platforms.

The writer gives a couple of samples of companies who apparently don't get the full picture of this theory and only implement one or two "forces". Think companies like Blockbuster or AT&T. Later the writer tries to show how Apple is taking a different view of this model and implements more forces and is a lot more successful through their different usage.

A couple of months ago I had a similar experience with a supplier. We were using an Open Source based solution and I was told that we should use a specific proprietary solution. Since this was a telecommunications product we're talking about you can probably expect the result:

No, you can't use that other product until we can certify it. No, you can't use that feature, you will have to buy a license for that. Oh you want to print out Alarm Reports? You will need to buy a printer from us, we've already certified this one for you, it's very cheap.

Obviously, that was a printer we could have bought at the local supplier for half the money (margin for the supplier, shipping across Europe, special delivery to a location where it will not be used, etc.)

Note how Open Source/Free Software just checks all the boxes for each of the forces.


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