Apple’s Business Network Conundrum: To Dump Samsung or not
Has Apple learnt the lesson that Dell never learnt?
Apple has grappled with this conundrum for a while now – when, if at all, to dump Samsung? There comes a point in every business network when the erstwhile suppliers become more powerful than the ‘customer’. Dell continued to rely on its suppliers in far east while they were eating his lunch. Look where it landed Dell?
Dell’s supply chain conundrum is not well explained by the market analysts – many of its suppliers are also some of its biggest competitors. Ten years ago, when Dell was a far bigger company that its much smaller suppliers it Asia, this did not matter much. But they have now copied Dell’s business model to perfection – making its business model redundant. They won market share by under-cuting Dell in the market place, while Dell could not invent a newer business model. No wonder Dell lost the competitve advantage it had created so assidously in the 90s by shrinking the cash-to-cash cycle and building volume.
Apple is concerned that Samsung is doing exactly the same thing to it in the mobile devices market. While it continues to persist with its lawsuit against Samsung, it does not yet desist from continuing to buy critical components from Samsung.
At the same time it also continues to expand its business network – e.g. see its attempt to enrol Intel into its fold. The news report from BGR explains:
The move could improve the quality of Apple’s mobile chips thanks to Intel’s leading process technology, and an added benefit for Apple would be to finally sever all ties with rivalSamsung (005930), which continues to supply components for various Apple devices.
However, this move may not be an easy one. Intel itself is re-inventing its own business business model in the post-pc world. With the shrinking margins in the PC market, and the growing volumes in the mobile world, Intel needs to get into the mobile chip market in a much bigger way than it currently plays in that game. Yet, ‘Intel Inside’ branding strategy may not be popular at Apple. Afterall Apple knows where that left the PC makers in their business networks.
This newsreport from Reuters explains the situation better:
After Intel upped its capital spending budget by $2 billion to $13 billion this year, speculation grew that Apple could ink a deal to use Intel’s leading process technology to make better chips for its iPad and iPhone. Doing so could help Apple end its foundry relationship with Samsung, which has become a fierce competitor with its own smartphones and tablets.
Sunit Rikhi, vice president and general manager of Intel custom foundry, told Reuters last week his group is ready to take on a potential large, unidentified mobile customer, although he declined to discuss Apple specifically.
Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said the chipmaker is in constant discussions with Apple, which buys its PC chips, but he would not comment on negotiations about a potential foundry relationship. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
That is the conundrum then, On one hand is Samsung, a known follower who keeps becoming into a bigger rival. On the other hand is Intel, a hard negotiator where only the paranoid survive.
I talk a lot more about Apple’s business network efficacy in my book 5-STAR BUSINESS NETWORKS – it appears that unless Apple continues to come out with some more designs and gadgets, it will have to now play this game on both fronts.