mars dustIn an earlier post I indicated to have been following the “clash of the tech-titans” for some time now. I do this with a mixture of personal interest – I like the gadget part of it – and professional interest. The clash between Apple, Samsung, Facebook, Google et al is a live case study unveiling before our eyes. A case study to learn about the mechanisms of corporate strategy. (NB Red Planet Dust is not about gadgets, nor about Apple or any other company for that matter)

One of my messages has always been that the obvious “truth” is often misguiding and at most only scratching the surface from a company strategist’s point of view. Too often company management take the obvious hence the popular notion, as a starting point of thought. Often strategy decision makers that are not even part of high-tech industries base their actions on – mostly pretty vague – ideas how these big companies will in the end influence their value chain.

Until a year ago iPhone/Appstore/Apple where often paraded as THE influencing paradigm that would change most if not all. Now that Apple has apparently fallen from grace decision makers are just changing their position accordingly. But were the iPhone/Apple paradigm at least let to ideas how commerce, payments and interaction with clients would change in a rather monolithic but game changing way; the current trend is much more about restoring old and therefore more comfortable, almost revisionistic, paradigms. This makes decision makers loose sight of the fundamental changes that are taking place right now, regardless of who is “winning”.

One of the reasons I hear decision makers use to validate there changing views is that “Samsung has surpassed Apple”. How this in it self would change the underlying trends, or even what these trends are, and what the effects would be on there corporate strategy is not made explicit in any way.

John Gruber is pointing to the discrepancy between the popular notions about Apple and more underlying developments. In Ceding the Crown he points to the fact that market share is not a fair measure on its own to judge that the one is winning from the other, but more importantly shows how the popular notion is misguiding in what is actually going on:

Samsung has had a remarkable run over the last few years. They make more money — profit, not merely revenue — from selling mobile phones than Google makes for all of its businesses combined. But by any measurable means other than market share what they’ve achieved is the number two spot, behind Apple. You can reasonably make the argument that they’re on their way to unseating Apple, that the momentum lead belongs to Samsung. (I would disagree, but cede that it’s possible.) But no facts today suggest that it has already happened.

But that’s how news reporters increasingly are treating the state of the industry. The desire for the “Oh, how the mighty Apple has fallen” narrative is so strong that the narrative is simply being stated as fact, evidence to the contrary be damned. It’s reported as true simply because they want it to be true. They’re declaring “The King is dead; long live the King” not because the king has actually died or abdicated the throne, but because they’re bored with the king and want to write a new coronation story.

To me a strategist should look – much – further then the popular notion of the day. Adequate but simple explanations do not exist; Simplistic views on the trends we are facing today and how they work out in various situations – or in a particular one like the Apple-Samsung who is winning discussions – are a red flag to me. Strategy based on to simplistic a notion is just the same as rolling a dice to decide how to develop the company, its products and value chains.

NB In other posts I stipulated this about strategy.