Every intelligent major company has what is in effect a nuclear weapon development program, which, if it works, could allow them to take control of their market. IBM's is on artificial intelligence and Watson is the first warning. However, with Apple and EMC, not only are the weapons more subtle, they could revolutionize the CRM market if they decided to market them externally. But, in both cases, the firms have decided to keep these efforts secret and we've seen the result early on with Apple's market dominance and Steve Jobs' rise to CEO of the decade.
EMC looked at Apple, recognized what many Apple competitors missed, and then out-executed Apple in its solution and is well down the path to creating a customer-sourced nuclear weapon. And while I think it will give Oracle and other competitors heartburn, you'll probably like it a lot. In fact, based on folks EMC had on stage at EMC World this week, if you aren't currently doing business with EMC, you are likely to fix that oversight shortly.
Apple has a number of obvious advantages. It builds attractive consumer-focused products, it outspends its peers in demand generation marketing, and it has its own stores. It also has the most loyal customers and what its competitors and most other companies miss is that Apple has one of the most advanced internal CRM systems on the planet.
Let me give you an example of a story that I was told over drinks at EMC World: An executive late for a meeting discovered he had left his Apple power supply at home and his Mac battery was dead. His first meeting was at 10 and when he arrived at the Apple store he found that while there were people setting up they weren't going to open until 10. One of the employees saw his concern and asked what the problem was. He then said "wait a moment," went into the store, got a power supply, asked if there was an Apple-buying app on his phone and then used that to close the purchase. The end result was that the executive telling the story wrote a thank-you note to Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, naming the employee and reaffirming his loyalty to Apple.
You wouldn't get this behavior very often anyplace, but this is the kind of story commonly told of an Apple store employee and that is because each has a significant portion of their compensation tied to customer satisfaction.
Now, if you think about it, this is exactly what CRM was supposed to do, but mostly all these systems do is manage orders. They really don't manage the relationship, which is more of an emotional connection between the customer and the vendor. Now recognize that to do this right, you'd have to capture a massive amount of data on the customer, on your own customer-facing and dependent systems, and that of your competitors.