Following yesterday's blowout quarter by Apple, Microsoft announced 5,000 job cuts and decreased earnings today (by 11%). It came in no surprise that EVERYONE should be doing bad; as a matter of fact, high-end brands were expected to be obliterated in this recession but Apple was able to beat expectations delivering blowout numbers.
Last year analysts were skeptical about Apple not having a low-end notebook or even a reduced MacBook while competitors were rushing out with netbooks to target the low end of the market.
Building a brand like Apple is not about volume but intimacy with the customers, a highly targeted relationship with the customer to create brand appeal. Knowing your market and meeting customer demand is where it all starts, the same solution can be sold very differently if you position it properly. Much like how automobile industry positions their brand: Toyota can sell the same Camry for 40-50% more with Lexus badges on it simply because they knew and targeted two different types of buyers.
Microsoft on the other spectrum went for volume (surprise?) and low intimacy thus its revenue and profit rely on mass market adoption. In this model profit margins erode rapidly over time thus new/updated product must be introduced. This is where Microsoft is having issues with their low margin Windows XP being the ideal OS on all the little netbooks (accounted for a majority of the increase in overall mobile PC shipments to U.S. retailers in December, according to the NPD Group. The number of laptops shipped rose 23% to 1.9 million units, with 14% of that growth attributable to mini-notebooks ). Windows Vista is not suitable for netbooks since it needs much more powerful hardware to support it.
The take away? Become the premium brand to your customer regardless of where your market focus is and build strong relationships that create stickiness with your offerings. At the end of the day you're not the only solution provider in town, be creative and maximize the tools and resources (private label) around you.