Om Malik has an absolutely brilliant post on this topic:
On Friday the 13th, Dell was lapped by Apple. Oops! Dell has a market cap of about $71.97 billion while Apple’s market capitalization is about $72.13 billion. Apple had sales of $3.678 billion and net income of $430 million. – about 11.69% of sales. In comparison, Dell had a net income of $606 million on sales of $13.911 billion. That works out to be 4.36% of total sales. Its been the case for past one year. Over past four quarters Dell had sales of a whopping $54.2 billion and net income of $3.23 billion. In comparison, Apple had sales of $13.93 billion and a net income of $1.34 billion..
Perhaps the “commoditized” technology trend is being slowly replaced by “using commoditized technology to create a compelling user experience” trend?
The difference is the software that is being used to create a “user experience.” That user experience is what has helped iPod gain a mass market appeal. That user experience also stems from a tight marriage of the device, the music and the desktop software. Easy to buy, easy to load, easy to playback. The user experience is the new competitive advantage, not the chips etc. It is so ephemeral, that it is hard to pin down in a theory.