The article At Apple, the Platform Is the Engine of Growth: has some good lessons about platform-based R&D management:
Apple has hit that magical combination of gradually shifting from a product to a platform strategy,” says Michael A. Cusumano, a professor at the Sloan School of Management at M.I.T. and author of “Staying Power: Six Enduring Principles for Managing Strategy and Innovation in an Uncertain World” (Oxford University Press, 2010).
We have discussed Steve Job’s uncanny ability to find duds in Apple’s R&D portfolio. I think platform-based portfolio management is even more important than eliminating poor projects. It is not just about selling a single product – like a great phone. But about developing an ecosystem of related products and services that provide a much better value to the customers.
Apple provides the underlying technology and marketplace: iTunes software and the iTunes Store for managing, downloading and buying music and media; iPhone and iPad software for creating applications; and the App Store for sampling and buying them.
R&D managers need to look at this carefully. If we can make portfolios of related projects, each connected based on underlying platforms, we can do a much better job of funding R&D and ensuring all the different pieces are available simultaneously. This is clearly not easy. Even Apple has had trouble:
Things look different for Apple in the market for mobile devices. There is some debate whether
Apple has become a platform strategist by design or by default: When it introduced the iPhone in 2007, Apple did not have software tools for outside developers to make applications. That came in 2008.
“The iPhone was such a great product that lots of people wanted to write applications for it,” says Marco Iansiti, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “This was a case of the hit leading to the platform, and not necessarily voluntarily for Apple.”
But then they have Jobs… He will take fix the problems in the portfolio, right?