Startups Blog

Research on the Impact of Apple's Ecosystem on Startup Success

Apple is considered to be the most organized manufacturer in the world of technology in terms of the variety of produced and sold devices and accessories. At each Apple Store, everything is absolutely simple and clear — smartphones are only iPhones, tablets are available only as iPads, and computers are invariably called Macs. By following similar integral principles, Apple is developing its ecosystem.

What Is the Apple Ecosystem?

The Apple ecosystem is not just a family of products but a whole philosophy that brings branded devices together and makes them work in unison. The "Apple" ecosystem resembles the topology of a star-type computer network — when all other devices are connected to one node and interact with each other through this center.

iCloud, with all its services, acts as the main node, connecting a great number of devices. The company's ecosystem now includes iPhone, iPad, MacBook, Mac Studio, iMac, Apple Watch, AirPods, AirTag, MacBook Pro adapters, Apple TV, and HomePod. At the same time, all proprietary electronics work on:

  • iOS;
  • iPadOS;
  • MacOS;
  • WatchOS;
  • tvOS;
  • AudioOS;
  • A separate version of iOS for new Apple displays.

All of those operating systems are derivatives of the main one — macOS, which is a Unix-like system.

Apple's ecosystem includes not only intelligently interacting devices but also digital services with international recognition. For example, Apple Music is listed in the world of music production as a priority streaming service. Performers want to get featured, and listeners want to use it. Similarly, Apple Arcade is now being developed — a gaming platform that may soon become a full-fledged analog of the Epic Game Store or PS Store.

Moreover, Apple's trick is that its services work stably and with little or no user intervention. For example, the owners of "apples" do not think about whether something needs to be turned on somewhere in the system for their headphones to work. To connect AirPods to your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you only need to do one thing — open the case.

Apple has a whole list of services that significantly improve the interaction with technologies. For example, Americans have access to coaching sessions through Apple Fitness+ or an Apple News+ subscription that lets you read multiple news outlets at once instead of signing up for multiple channels.

Why Do Startups Need an Ecosystem?

A business ecosystem is an appropriate management model for a business where there is a high need for coordination among multiple players or where a product or service is highly modular, meaning components can be easily and flexibly combined and integrated at low costs.

For example, the production of an iPhone smartphone from major components is characterized by low modularity and must be done by the original equipment manufacturer. At the same time, the iPhone experience brings together the smartphone itself, the service provider, and applications from different developers — and this is an example of high modularity since the consumer can combine all these elements on his own.

If you choose to build your business ecosystem, make sure you are prepared for the challenges of limited control and limited value capture, as well as the strategic demands of building, growing, and protecting such an ecosystem.

Five Principles of the Apple Ecosystem for Startups

Future startups at the beginning of their journey may benefit from adhering to these principles that made Apple very successful:

  1. Embrace Innovation. It is necessary to abandon the old and create new.
  2. Prioritize Functional Design. Design must work.
  3. Aim for Unity. Devices must be one and should seamlessly work together
  4. Ensure Interdependence. Technologies and products cannot exist without each other
  5. Gradual Development. Devices and technologies should be developed progressively to ensure quality and user adaptability.

There is another factor as well people. Apple is created by people for people, with enthusiasm and close attention to detail. The team always creates what is convenient and pleasant to use.

The Business Model of the Apple Ecosystem is a Step Toward the Success of Startups

All of these elements create a value stream cycle that reflects Apple's ecosystem business model approach. This model focuses on developing mechanisms for value creation, delivery, and capture within the ecosystem. It limits the involvement of external participants and dependencies by establishing a multi-level threshold defined by cost, authorization, and standards.

As a result, you're not buying an iPhone as a phone; you're buying an entry ticket to the Apple experience. Instead of buying Apple devices, you subscribe to Apple services. As a premium for elegance, you pay much more than for a similar flagship product from another brand. But once you enter the world of Apple, you're guaranteed a seamless, smooth, exceptional experience that evolves all in one.

The ecosystem business model entails crafting a product in a manner that delivers value through a network of interconnected experiences. They are, in turn, created by the integrity of proprietary devices, software, media, accessories, payment technologies, infrastructure, and digital technologies. With this business model, a new product or feature creates opportunities to accelerate other improvements; greater product diversification brings a larger user base for digital services, and so on.

It will be difficult or even impossible to repeat the success of Apple. But it is worth creating your success on the shoulders of Apple titans. It's not enough to create a product that's 10 times better than anything else on the market; it's important to create something that people love.


Companies, platforms, and ecosystems now operate in hyper-competitive global markets amid exponential technological growth, rapid business development, and ever-changing consumer demands. This new work environment puts constant pressure on ecosystems. Simple "adjustments" of existing services will not be enough to survive in the medium and long term.

Indeed, if we look at any of the major ecosystems, we will see a constant expansion of technology, content, communities, leadership, culture, and partnerships. And it is the resilience of a strong ecosystem (the ability to adapt to even the most threatening changes in the environment) that may be the most important lesson to be learned from Apple and its organizational and business approach.

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