Strategy Credit

I’d like to propose a new term in the business strategy lexicon: a strategy credit. It’s basically the opposite of a strategy tax. As I wrote a few weeks ago:

A strategy tax is anything that makes a product less likely to succeed, yet is included to further larger corporate goals

An obvious example is last week’s release of Office for iPhone, but not iPad. I don’t have any visibility into the thinking here, but clearly it’s best for Office to be on as many platforms as possible, but better for Windows that Office only be available on Windows 8.

Anyhow, this morning saw the opposite of a strategy tax with Apple’s Commitment to Customer Privacy (emphasis mine):

Apple has always placed a priority on protecting our customers’ personal data, and we don’t collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about our customers in the first place. There are certain categories of information which we do not provide to law enforcement or any other group because we choose not to retain it.

For example, conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.

You can almost hear it now:

How admirable! Golly gee, Apple is such a better company than those hypocritical evil-doers at Google! Why can’t everyone treat customers so well? Apple good. Google bad. Facebook worse.

The truth is this is nothing more than a strategy credit:

Strategy Credit: An uncomplicated decision that makes a company look good relative to other companies who face much more significant trade-offs. For example, Android being open source

User information of this type isn’t important to Apple’s business model, so they “choose not to retain it.”1 There’s nothing worth praising here – or denigrating – but it’s worth acknowledging.2

In the meantime, though, Apple will happily score rhetorical points in the court of public opinion for a decision that wasn’t difficult at all.

  1. They do, however, happily retain all of your credit card information, to choose one example 

  2. Before you say that all companies should have Apple’s business model, I suggest reading Free by Dr. Drang