Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Apple Inc.: Product Portfolio Analysis

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Apple Inc.: Product Portfolio Analysis

Article excerpt


This case assesses a company's product line mix relative to two marketing environmental factors and explores four product line growth strategies using a product portfolio analysis approach. The case provides a history of the Apple Computer Company and its key product lines. An approach to analyzing a company's product portfolio is reviewed and applied to Apple's product lines. Students will be able to see how each Apple product line fits within the portfolio analysis tool and will be asked questions relative to possible strategies for Apple's product portfolio. The case has a difficulty level 2 and is designed to be covered within one (75 minute) class period. The required preparation time is about 2 hours. It is appropriate for marketing principles, marketing strategy, strategic management, and corporate entrepreneurship classes. The purpose of this case is to illustrate to students one approach to making decisions about a company's line of products. The case also stimulates critical thinking in regards to the future direction of a company's product portfolio.


The Apple Computer Company is arguably one of the most innovative technology companies to emerge in the last three decades. Apple, Inc. is responsible for bringing to market such products as the Macintosh desktop and the portable computer, iPod and iTunes, and most recently, the iPhone. The success of the company can be traced to the ingenuity of their founder and CEO, Steven Jobs. His philosophy has always been to create products that consumers find easy to use and integrate innovative technology. Throughout Apple's history it has accomplished these goals. However, with a growing line of products, a competitive market landscape, and an unpredictable technology lifecycle curve, the company faces challenges as to the direction of its product lines. The case gives an overview of a tool that is used to analyze a company's product line portfolio and applies it to Apple, Inc.'s array of products. Questions for discussion are provided to enable students to use critical thinking skills in applying the case material.


Apple, Inc. stands for innovation in personal computing and digital media distribution. The company aims for nothing short of a revolution when designing, developing, and distributing its line of products ( Apple's products range from a host of desktop and portable computers geared for the consumer and education markets, digital music players (iPod), online music store (iTunes), and SmartPhone (iPhone). Applications are designed for user convenience and productivity.

Competition for market share in any one of Apple's product offerings is fierce and top competitors come from a formidable list which include Dell, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, and Nokia (to mention a few). Users of Apple's products can be fickle, which causes a revolutionary product like the iPod to give way to newer technologies like the iPhone within the span of five years. Thus, the ability to accurately assess and forecast the market demand for products can mean the difference between corporate profit and loss.

At the helm of these important decisions is Apple's visionary CEO, Steven Jobs. Jobs understood that given the competitive landscape and market growth opportunities for Apple's products, it is critical for him and the company to periodically assess its product line portfolio. This case provides the background of Apple Inc., its core product lines, and presents the feasibility of utilizing a product line portfolio tool to assist Jobs and Apple in identifying strategies to hold, build, harvest, or divest their product lines.


The Apple Computer Company was founded by two college dropouts Seven Jobs and Steven Wozniak in 1976. Within 2 months of building their first computer circuit board in their garage, they had sales orders for 200 units. …

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