The customers have often been left at dead-ends in the company's product strategy with only high-priced options left for moving into a next-generation product (Jonash, Koehler, Onassis, 2007). Suppliers have often been given inadequate information on new products, and if they are given new product designs, held to very stringent standards as to how they are used (Apple Investor Relations, 2011). Apple admits in its financial statements and filings with the SEC that their practices with regard to new product development and supply chain integration with Foxconn in China have been exceptionally tight, yet they content that is to maintain confidentiality of development practices (Apple Investor Relations, 2011). Foxconn has seen Apple iPhone prototypes stolen or lost with potential damage to the product leadership of the company as a result (Balfour, Culpan, 2010). Foxconn workers who were responsible for iPhone prototypes that had been stolen or lost have been known to commit suicide because the pressure on them is so great (Balfour, Culpan, 2010). Suppliers are the most critical link in the Apple value chain given how quickly they must translate product requirements into components that can be mass produced quickly and with little interruption to the new product development process. Being an Apple supplier may be one of the most difficult stakeholder roles there are in high technology today as a result of the pressure to produce with very little advance information (Balfour, Culpan, 2010).
External stakeholders including the communities the company operates in, business support groups, press and media, and the government agencies globally Apple must stay in compliance with all require a completely different series of strategies vs. internal stakeholders. Communities in the U.S. including state and local governments have information requirements, specifics of taxes and ordinances that need to be complied with, and continual updates on employment status as well. The needs of these communities and business support groups also center on new expansion and the opportunity to create new business growth from Apple's success as well. The press and media has long been an external stakeholder Apple has dealt with at arm's length, only providing the more important information to launch a product. Apple has also been very successful in using the press and media to launch new products and successfully create entirely new product niches as well (Apple Investor Relations, 2011). The focus on managing the press and media needs to continue on how to make the most of their reach into the community without allowing the Apple brand to get too far out of control from a messaging standpoint. Multinational locations Apple operates in number well over three dozen countries and in each they must file their taxation status, ownership percentage by local investors and in some countries, even create a Corporate Social Responsibility plan that explains how they will give back to the local foreign community (Apple Investor Relations, 2011). All of these factors have made Apple more attuned to the unique needs and requirements of foreign governments and the communities they support as a result.
Apple has created one of the most unique and differentiated value chains in high technology today by concentrating on coordinating the many requirements of internal and external stakeholders into a consistent and highly effective strategy of innovation. As Apple continues to address the weaknesses, threats and challenges the company faces, they will continually rely on their stakeholders for greater support and insight. The ability of Apple to create highly effective ecosystems is proven in the financial performance of iTunes, which according to the company's latest financial statements has generated nearly 30% of all profits either directly or indirectly in the last two years (Apple Investor Relations, 2011). For Apple to continually protect its brand and grow its business, these types of ecosystems will need to continually be created and optimized to ensure all stakeholders have a chance to improve as the company continually does over time.
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Apple, Investor Relations (2011). Investor Relations. Retrieved May 16, 2011, from Apple Investor Relations and Filings with the SEC Web site: http://www.apple.com/investor/
Balfour, F., & Culpan, T.. (2010, September). The Man Who Makes Your iPhone. Business Week,1.
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