Disruptive Forces: Apple


Location: Cupertino, Calif.

CEO: Steve Jobs

Revenues: $26.5 billion

What they do: For a company that garners just 7 percent of the market share for personal computers, Apple has a knack for generating buzz around products with a cultish following of users. The company has fingers into operating system software, iPod players, iPhones, peripherals, networking gear and services such as iLife and iTunes, and is now the #2 retailer of music in the country, behind Wal-Mart (Sorry, Best Buy).

Disruptive qualities: Apple just seems to know how people live. By understanding how the hip new computer cognoscenti would want to integrate music, videos and communications, Apple shoved its way into all things consumer electronics. Whether you love or hate the company, you can?t deny that it strikes the same tone with that Apple je ne sais quoi every time.

The tech that makes them tick: Apple?s growth tripled in the past year on the strength of real technology innovation, led by its brilliant Leopard operating system. Unlike Microsoft Vista, nobody had to guess why Leopard was a worthy upgrade. While hackers are beginning to make dents in the UNIX-based fa?ade, Apple?s wares are still more secure than Microsoft?s. And let?s not forget the continually improving iTunes Jukebox, which sets the standard for online media purchases, and the upcoming software development kit for the iPhone, which promises lots of innovative third-party applications in the coming year.

Who they are disrupting: Apple has gotten beyond the battle for the corporate desktop and is now taking on traditional media and advertising companies, as well as the video rental market?especially with its new movie download service and the surprisingly cool Apple TV appliance. And integrating with Microsoft?s Exchange e-mail server will soon position the iPhone against the dominant Blackberry in the battle for belt-based computing.

Something rotten at the core? Apple put a lot of stock in a revenue model for the iPhone that has them depending on a cut of each service contract with the telecom providers. So, recent news that a significant number of iPhones had been ?unlocked? and activated on non-partner networks, especially in China, has analysts predicting a tougher year ahead for Apple.