They aren’t Microsoft. They were able to draw a line between them and Microsoft and declare that their side of the line was cooler, less evil, hipper, less corporate, and power to the people. Whether you believe this or not, they have been able to sell it to their customers and society at large. How does this help you? It tells you that you should define your business ethics and lead with them. Make sure the entire company believes, or at least behaves with that philosophy. Make sure your customers see you as Luke, not Darth.
They limited outside innovation for the sake of control and security. It damn near killed them in the beginning, by limiting outside developers and manufacturers early on. But they had a vision of how they wanted tome products and company to be, and were willing to bet the company on it. They also secured a stronghold in several verticals. Graphic design comes to mind, and we know how many of those people helped build Internet companies. Well played Apple, well played. How do you do this? Have a plan. Don’t blow in the wind and jump for shiny object and dollars. Believe your vision and follow your plan, don’t let the naysayers stop you.
They understand what their customers want. They see a need, make a product and a market. Till the iPad was released, what was the last tablet you saw? My guess is some clunky laptop with a convertible top. Heavy, slow to boot, hard to use. They defined the market, defined the device, own the market. How do they do that? Superior UI design and styling. Hand an iPhone to someone who just got off a call on their old flip Razor phone and ask them to call someone, they will be able to. It works like they think it should. So how do you do this? Get to know your clients and provide what they need. Not only provide what they need, provide it the way they think it should be provided. you need to work the way they expect you to work, or they will look for a new vendor.