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Reader Remington Tonar writes:

Firearms enthusiasts have long noted the similarities between Apple’s and GLOCK’s approaches to product release cycles. With the recent Gen 5 release, GLOCK shows that it has not only mastered the incremental innovation strategy that’s fueled the iPhone’s success in the post-Jobs era, but that it has something to teach Apple as well.

GLOCK’s latest updates to the G17 and G19 have been branded as “boring” by some critics who were perhaps expecting something more innovative and groundbreaking from the pistol market’s 800-pound gorilla. Interestingly, many pundits said the same thing about the iPhone 7, which bore a disappointingly close resemblance to its predecessor.

Despite this criticism, iPhone 7 sales continue to rise even with the iPhone 8 on the horizon. This practice of evolving rather than revolutionizing products has proven to be a invaluable product marketing strategy for Apple—one that’s proving to be just as effective for GLOCK.

Perfected by Apple and adopted by GLOCK, incremental product innovation can help dominant incumbents secure and grow their market share while minimizing risk. In fact, several studies have found that incremental innovation is actually a better driver of sustained product adoption than radical change.

Truly disruptive innovations are expensive, arduous to develop and often rejected by consumers who clamor for new products but despise learning curves. Imagine if GLOCK would have introduced a biometric safety or a squeeze cocker—a feature that’s foreign to most modern shooters. The negative backlash from both the legion of GLOCK fans and the company’s detractors alike would have dwarfed the outrage around the Sig P320’s safety shortcomings. People say they want innovation, but not at the expense of familiarity and simplicity.

Like Apple, GLOCK’s incremental innovation allows it to make gradual improvements that set new baseline expectations for the industry while providing new features that are just different enough to be interesting. But not so different they’re alienating.

Like Apple, this approach helps GLOCK respond to consumer demands (no more finger grooves) and match competitors more quickly (ambi slide stop). Updates like these eliminate barriers to adoption while providing a product that checks all the critical boxes for beginners and experts alike. Evolving products over time also helps Apple and GLOCK avoid competing with themselves, creating options across multiple price ranges for different types of consumers instead.

Unlike Apple, however, GLOCK embraces an open product model that allows innovation and customization to happen after the point-of-purchase. This pistol-as-platform (PaP) approach makes the incremental innovation strategy even more effective by giving users the liberty to make functional and aesthetic modifications to the product through aftermarket parts and gunsmithing services.

This means that GLOCK doesn’t actually have to design a radically innovative pistol. It just has to design a platform that’s as good as the competition and let the aftermarket do the rest. It doesn’t have to produce a “perfect” pistol, just a pistol that’s perfectly customizable.

Apple has historically prohibited their technology from being used as a platform, opting for a largely closed software and hardware architecture. As a result, many technologists still prefer PCs and other non-Apple products that allow for a greater degree of customization.

The success of Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensing device is a prime example of how an open platform approach can help boost sales. Although the Kinect was originally designed to be used with an Xbox, developers quickly discovered its potential as an easily-customized off-the-shelf motion sensor that could be used to do everything from control a Roomba vacuum robot with gestures to run a gesture-controlled computer screen to try on clothes virtually.

At first Microsoft balked at the thought of independent developers hacking the Kinect, but soon realized the larger opportunity. The computing giant called an audible and started supporting open development of the Kinect’s software and hardware, leading Wired Magazine to declare in 2011 that the Kinect was changing the future of robotics.

Like Microsoft’s acceptance of the Kinect being used as a platform, GLOCK’s embrace of the PaP model helps grow the brand and boost sales. It also augments the company’s incremental innovation strategy while extending the lifespan of each product cycle.

With an Apple-like approach to product innovation and a Microsoft-like approach to aftermarket product customization, GLOCK will continue to lead the global pistol market. The company’s product and marketing strategies should serve as a lesson to other gunmakers: it’s not just about what you make; it’s about how you release it and how people use it.


Remington Tonar is Partner and COO at Brandsinger, a New York City-based brand strategy and corporate culture consulting firm that helps companies from Fortune 100s to startups position their companies for the future. He holds a MS in corporate and organizational communication from New York University, a MA in theology from Loyola University Chicago, and his BA in theology and political economics from Marquette University. He splits time between New York City and Houston and is proud to be a H&K snob.

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  1. Dumbest. Comparison. Ever.

    Electronic devices are designed to have a limited shelf life. Batteries go kaput, they get dropped and broken, they need to be replaced.

    Glocks last forever, and the Gen 5s don’t do anything the Gen 3s or Gen 4s didn’t. You pull the trigger, they go bang.

    • Yeah. Really dumb. I’ve spent my career in the tech industry and dabbled in the gun industry.

      Apple has from time to time introduced revolutionary “disruptively” innovative products. Then filled in the gaps with incremental products.

      The iphone 6 and 6+ were big steps. The 7 was incremental. The 8 or 10 or whatever they will be calling it is going to be a massive change.

      The reason this doesn’t really work as an analogy is the relative maturity of the markets. The basic layout of a semi-automatic handgun was pretty well sorted out 100 years ago.

      The mobile device (you can’t really call it a phone anymore) is about where the handgun world was in 1850, undergoing rapid change and improvement. If all we got from the gun industry in the 1850s was incremental change we’d all be shooting really modern looking break top black powder revolvers. (And Charter Arms would be making one in pink).


      • ditto.

        Imagine if computer malware could be introduced into an open source pistol. Like bad mags, weak barrels, and gritty triggers. Throw in sludgeware software like bad ammo and the initial pistol you started with has little to do with current performance. And whose fault is that?

        Love Apple and Love Glock. Carry both. But any similarities are only in color and size. Oh, and oddly price.

    • The comparison is apt from a marketing standpoint; I remember about a decade or so ago when Apple iPod ads absolutely *dominated* every kind of airwave imaginable (this being before completely-totally web-based commerce dominated everything). I remember an article explaining their ad-buy budget was something like 40X that of the next comparable player (Microsoft) and this went on for the better part of five years. Voila! Instant “social icon of coolness” that the company has ridden on for the subsequent decade, very similar if not identical to Glock’s lavishing discounted firearms onto law enforcement agencies across the country. Not only does it promote your product, it denies the opportunity for your competitors to enter into the market against you, since the consumer needs only one service pistol, or only one music player. Heck, if you count the ‘old’ Apple from before Jobs was fired, both companies were playing the same game pushing discounted products onto soon-to-be life long users back in the early nineties (Apple donated a ton of Macs to schools all over the country to get the next generation hooked before Microsoft could get to them as professionals)

      • When people camp out in front of gun stores overnight, to be the first to buy next year’s model the moment it’s released, then the comparison will be apt from a marketing standpoint.

        Until then, it’s a stupid comparison.

        • Don’t feel too embarrassed. Hypercritical comments resulting from shallow thought are commonplace around here.

    • I look at it the same way GLOCK does. If they sell a sh!ttonne of Gen 5’s, then the model was a success. If not then the TTAG commentors are right on. Incremental changes have proved to be a formula for success, just like the iPhone 7 (I got a Samsung S8 instead), or sh!tty Hollywood boy meets girl / loses girl / gets girl back movies.

      Am I going to go out and get a Gen 5? Nope. Will thousands of others? Maybe. I guess We’ll see.

  2. It’s funny, but having read a number of so-called reviews by various interwebz gun gurus lamenting the lack of innovation, pushing boundaries, or breaking the mold, in the Gen-5 Glocks, I have asked the question: just what kind of innovation, outside boundaries, or mold breaking do they want/expect? Like a polymer-framed, striker fired handgun with minimal parts, simple to maintain, and reliability almost unheard of in similar products? My goodness, kind of sounds like a Glock back in the day. And now. What outside-the-box innovation will be sufficient to satisfy their wants?Do they want carbon-fiber frames? Radar/LIDAR-enhanced aiming? A handheld electromagnetic rail-gun? A single-stack G-19? (how is that innovative and who cares? lots of them already out there) Glock carbine? (oh, please) My question has never been addressed. Maybe someone here can enlighten me.

    • A fully modular sub-frame system? Replaceable Front strap to match the back? Entirely replaceable grip-sleeve like the Ruger SR22? A G19 barrel/slide on a G26 frame from the factory? Front slide serrations? Improved factory trigger? The dustcover to match the slide?

      • A fully modular sub-frame system? Adds width. See: Sig320.
        Replaceable Front strap to match the back? If you don’t like grooves, grind ’em off. If you are trying to shoot in Production without grooves, find a Gen 2 or get a Gen 5. Glock says, “You’re welcome.”
        Entirely replaceable grip-sleeve like the Ruger SR22? Meh.
        A G19 barrel/slide on a G26 frame from the factory? I’ll add this to my nightly Glock prayer.
        Front slide serrations? And what? do more machining? Nooooooo.
        Improved factory trigger? Easily improved by a DIYer for less than $40.
        The dustcover to match the slide? Grind, baby, grind!

      • The modular frame also adds height. Look at a Sig 320’s bore axis height vs the height of the bore axis on a G17. The Sig’s height has got to be nearly TWICE as high above where the web of your hand sits (the fulcrum when the gun recoils) as the Glock.

  3. I thought it was Toyota that was credited with introducing the idea?

    Either way it’s pretty well hashed out at this point.

      • “It was actually invented by an American.”

        Ed Deming.

        Who was pretty much ignored by most of America at the time.

        The Japanese were so impressed by him their highest engineering – TQM award is called the “Deming Prize”.

        The ‘meat’ of his contribution to quality control was that the quality should be engineered into the product, at each stage of manufacture, rather than sorting the defective out at the end of the production line.

        That concept transformed Japan into an international manufacturing powerhouse…

  4. Ok, this GLOCK coverage overload of later requires me to post this again:

    Scene: A gun shop. One corner is occupied by a group of customers wearing black t-shirts.

    A man and woman enter…

    Man: Morning!

    Gun Store Employee: Morning!

    Man: Well, what’ve you got?

    Employee: Well, there’s SIG and Ruger; SIG Walther and Ruger; SIG and GLOCK; SIG Ruger and GLOCK; SIG Ruger Walther and GLOCK; GLOCK Ruger Walther and GLOCK; GLOCK SIG GLOCK GLOCK Ruger and GLOCK; GLOCK Walther GLOCK GLOCK Ruger GLOCK Beretta and GLOCK;

    Customers in black: GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK…


    Customers: GLOCK! Perfect GLOCK! Perfect GLOCK!

    Employee: …or a Benelli Vinci, a Mauser with a custom stock made in a Mannlicher
    style of Turkish walnut with ebony inlays and an adjustable trigger in a fitted case with a matching SIG and GLOCK.

    Woman: Have you got anything without GLOCK?

    Employee: Well, there’s GLOCK SIG Walther and GLOCK, that’s not got much GLOCK in it.

    Woman: I don’t want ANY GLOCK!

    Man: Why can’t she have SIG Ruger GLOCK and Walther?

    Woman: THAT’S got GLOCK in it!

    Man: Hasn’t got as much GLOCK in it as GLOCK SIG Walther and GLOCK, has it?

    Customers: GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK… (Crescendo through next few lines…)

    Woman: Could you do the SIG Ruger GLOCK and Walther without the GLOCK then?

    Employee: Urgghh!

    Woman: What do you mean ‘Urgghh’? I don’t like GLOCK!

    Customers: Perfect GLOCK! Wonderful GLOCK!

    Employee: Shut up!

    Customers: Perfect GLOCK! Wonderful GLOCK!

    Employee: Shut up! (Customers stop) Bloody Customers! You can’t have SIG Ruger GLOCK and
    Walther without the GLOCK.

    Woman: I don’t like GLOCK!

    Man: Sshh, dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your GLOCK. I love it. I’m having GLOCK

    Customers: GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK. Perfect GLOCK! Wonderful GLOCK!

    Employee: Shut up!! Smith & Wesson are backordered.

    Man: Well could I have her GLOCK instead of the Smith & Wesson then?

    Employee: You mean GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK… (but it is too late and the Customers drown her words)

    Customers: (Singing elaborately…) GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK GLOCK. Perfect GLOCK! Wonderful

  5. Until somebody invents a phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range, incremental innovation is all we’re going to get. Guns are old, time-tested technology, which is why they work so well.

    And if someone does invent the fabled phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range, governments all over the world will outlaw it — except for their own soldiers and cops, of course.

  6. Soooo…even cheaper used Gen3 Glocks?!? That’s the innovation I’m looking at…BTW it’s a gun. Not a phone invented 9 or 10 years ago.

  7. It’s a Glock. The little changes are useful to some and unnesessary to others. The fact that they did not bother to bevel the edges of the frame in the front part is mildly irritating. Attention to detail is an important part of the process. Regardless, assuming that it works as well as the previous generations, it’s just another slightly different option for people who appreciate the function of the design.

  8. Glock and Apple didn’t find the top with barely noticeable changes. They found the top by taking risks and marketing the right way. They stayed at the top by not changing what worked.

  9. Apple may not find fans flocking to the model 8.

    With a price tag reputed to be over $1,000, “new model fever” may be tempered somewhat.

    (Apple trained me years back to *never* update iOs anywhere near the end of the model life…)

  10. “Unlike Apple, however, GLOCK embraces an open product model that allows innovation and customization to happen after the point-of-purchase. ”

    I understand what the author is saying about Apple hardware, but there’s tons of non-Apple software for Mac, including that made by Microsoft, and the App Store makes billions for Apple selling THIRD PARTY apps.

  11. What no one seems to ever realize nor mention: Glock handguns continue to be huge sellers because they became a “standard”. When something becomes standard, lots of people jump on the bandwagon because something that is standardized can be modified, customized, accessorized, and used in a LOT of ways that “non-standard” items cannot.

    • Yep. The Ruger 10/22 Carbine is a good rifle. But, the ability to buy/customize them a million different ways makes truly special,

  12. Could tell after the first couple of sentences that this was written by a business/marketing person and not an engineer. Incremental change is the heart and soul of almost all engineering — no need for explanations or (strained) comparisons.

  13. Apple actually has been innovating with each release of a new phone (not always as much as some would like), Glock hasn’t. This was a terrible comparison. Has Glock even filed for a patent in the past decade? Probably not since its basically the same exact gun. Apple’s been filing patents left and right, making thinner phones, increasing speed, increasing picture quality, and adding cool new features. A Glock today is basically the exact same as the Glock of 30 years ago. You can’t really call no finger grooves an innovative feature considering many others have done it already. The maybe possibly slightly improved trigger that still isn’t near as good as aftermarket can’t really be called innovative. Really the only innovation Glock ever did is with the polymer frame but I don’t even know that they were the first but just the first to do it well and make it popular

    • Exactly. The whole premise of “article (really just a love letter to GLOCK) is whack. Glock does not innovate, it tweaks. If the analogy were to hold true, then newer Glocks would need to be largely incompatible with older Glocks. That’s not the case. In fact, Glock knows that doing so would alienate most Glock fanboys with their stockpiles of “universal” Glock magazines.

    • Cole,

      I am not an iPhone aficionado. I honestly see no difference between the models of today versus 8 years ago. All models are thin, have cameras and large touch-sensitive screens, and can use both Wi-Fi and cellular networks. Any “big” changes are not obvious to the casual observer/user. The same applies to Glock handgun iterations.

  14. Shot it. Not impressed enough to run out and buy one even at LEO pricing. $398.80

    My take on it is it was rushed thus the hideous frame not matching the slide.

  15. What else could they do without creating a completely new firearm? They improoved reliability and removed fingergrooves as everybody wished.
    They could’ve milled out front slide serrations and improoved the trigger, sure, but as the article says, glock can afford it to not do that and leave it to the aftermarket.

    • I can think of a few things:
      They could finally get rid of the retarded Luger grip-angle.
      They could mill the angles on the front of the slide to actually match the frame.
      Put forward serrations like people have been begging for years.
      The example at my LGS didn’t even have the rear sight drifted in all the way, it was far off to the left. Too far for me to think it was sighted in that way anyway, so there’s that.
      Lots of people brag on their Glock triggers but that got addressed, but I still think Walther has a better trigger, and that new CZ P10C does too.
      Fix the “pig nose” after a couple hundred rounds, be that reinforcing the frame or adding fiberglass, etc.

  16. what a pathetic validation attempt. LOL truly sad you can’t just admit its not all its cracked up to be and the gen 5 is just a marketing ploy to but glocks name back in the spot light.

  17. Write a glowing review when they fix the frame rails that the chrome plating flakes off and leaves orange spots. The Gen2 had actual stainless steel instead of Jennings/Bryco style chrome plating that wears off, and Glock calls “normal.”

    Never mind all the other issues, brass ejected to face, trigger takeup, plastic sights, no front slide serrations, etc etc etc…….

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