The eight secrets that make Apple No. 1

How to succeed in consumer electronics (without really trying)

Secret 6: Leave the past behind

Some analysts slam Apple and praise Microsoft for, respectively, abandoning or supporting legacy versions of their operating systems and other products. All things being equal, it's better for users to be able to run all their old stuff on new systems.

However, all things are not equal. Legacy support comes at a great cost to the company, which is eventually paid for by the customer.

I think one of the reasons Vista is such a mess is that it tries to sell the same OS to businesses as it does to consumers. Legacy support is absolutely essential in enterprises. However, with Windows, consumers are burdened with all that legacy support code, but they don't have IT departments to sort it all out.

If Microsoft created a consumer OS as a blank-slate exercise, starting from scratch and refusing to support anything older than Windows XP, it might be able to offer a faster, easier-to-use and more stable environment.

It's a tough decision. But in the consumer electronics marketplace, it's better to drop legacy support if it's slowing the pace of innovation or degrading product quality.

Secret 7: Product names are important. Really important

One of Apple's few competitors in the cell phone handset market is the LG KU990 Viewty.

Wait, what?

What sounds better: The "iPhone" or the "KU990 Viewty." Which is easier to remember? So many products are so badly named, and for such bad reasons. Companies should agonize over product names and ban ugly non-word strings of letters and numbers designed to make it easy to categorize products internally. It's the easiest and cheapest way to improve brand appeal and loyalty. Why do so many companies fail to do it?

Secret 8: Group affiliation is the driver

And now we get to the mother of all Apple secrets, the secret that explains why people buy its products.

If you monitor (or participate in) the ongoing religious wars between Apple fans and Apple critics, you'll notice a curious phenomenon: Apple fans are the most rabidly active, fiercely loyal group in the industry. Why do Apple fans spend so much time and energy fighting for the honor and glory of a consumer electronics company?

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