Once upon a time, Apple offered an easy-to-understand business model. The company made personal computers, small, medium, and large. Successfully positioned in the affordable luxury market sector, Apple devices sold well with healthy margins. Those margins helped finance strong R&D investments and took good care of employees, investors, and Uncle Sam.
All of Apple’s other services and accessories had but one raison d’être: raise the sales volumes and margins of the company’s personal computers.
As an example perhaps lost in the mist of time, Apple used to sell OS X updates, there was the single user version and, if memory serves, a “family” DVD for five users. I must have been logged onto the useful idiot database because I dutifully bought the family DVD and only belatedly realized that the single user version wasn’t locked — it could be applied to as many machines as needed… One day, OS X updates became as they are today: free. The raison d’être of these updates wasn’t to make money in and of themselves, but to help boost Mac sales by making owning an Apple personal computer more attractive.
This simple — simplistic even — model was bound to break down, to become more complicated. The iPhone caused a substantial change, not in itself but because it caused the birth of the App Store.