As we prepare to set foot on the campus of Apple, I think that it is only fitting to take some time to reflect on this technological giant that has transformed so many of our lives. The concept of a strong innovation ecosystem that fosters and encourages experimentation and now defines much of what draws the world’s best and brightest Silicon Valley can be traced back to Apple. Apple, along with their competitors at Microsoft, have been instrumental in turning a technical revolution into a cultural evolution.
In the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, Apple sold an astounding 15 million iPads, 37 million iPhones, 5 million Macs, and 15 million iPods. This led to a quarterly revenue of $46 billion and an astounding $17.5 billion in cash flow for the world’s most innovative company.
The power and influence of Apple is truly incredible. For better or for worse, iTunes played a large role in changing the music industry and putting music stores out of business. iPods demolished their competition in the MP3 race (has anyone seen a Zune recently?), iPhones changed the way hundreds of millions of people interact, and the iPad is quickly doing to bookstores and newspapers what the iPod did to the music industry.
Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile (Karl Benz deserves the credit for this), but his innovative ways made cars better and cheaper. Apple didn’t invent the tablet, smartphone, MP3 player, and certainly not the computer. But the visions and execution of Steve Jobs and his colleagues helped create a brand that might be more notable and influential than any other in history.
We spend a great deal of time talking about how we should learn from other’s mistakes and try to recreate their successes . As we continue to chase the dream of entrepreneurial prosperity, we should take some lessons from a man and company that may have catalyzed change better than any other. When I head to Cupertino later today, I will be walking through the same buildings where persistent innovation created a cultural revolution.