In product management and manufacturing, planning and control cycles for products refer to the process of taking the product from its conceptual form to its end-of-life state. Unlike the planning/control cycle that’s used for corporate budgets and the like, the product planning/control cycle is fairly concrete (due to the physical nature of the goods) and easier to track.
So, to consider the issues that Apple’s approach could create, first we should identify the steps in the cycle. Generally, there are a few consistent steps in a typical cycle: 1) designing/developing the concept, 2) identifying/researching the target market, 3) introducing the product, and 4) the product life cycle (PLC).
Now we look for where Apple’s approach might cause issues. We might identify the second step, market research, as being mostly dependent on outside opinions. Apple’s secretive approach means that the more people know about a new product (especially people who aren’t bound by company policy), the greater the likelihood that the information gets leaked.
This makes it very difficult to do things like run focus groups, gather survey data, or even put together a pilot program. Unfortunately, these are all strategies companies use to predict important numbers like minimum/maximum sales, best markets for the product, and more.
As a result, Apple seriously risks missing out on important consumer feedback on the usability, engineering, and product feel of their new releases—and how those changes might affect sales. (While other companies might also want feedback on packaging and advertising, Apple has a relatively standardized and well-recognized approach to those things anyway.)
There have also been environmentalist critiques of the end-of-life outcomes of Apple products, too. Because of Apple’s protectiveness over its products, it becomes very difficult for environmentally conscious users to avoid the company’s planned obsolescence strategies or even to repurpose products that have been discarded or lost.