Why Boeing says it’s like Apple

April 3, 2015, 3:11 PM UTC
Photograph by Christopher Furlong — Getty Images

For airplane manufacturer Boeing, innovation is all about making small improvements to its current models while keeping prices consistent — which a top executive admit sounds a whole lot like Apple’s approach.

Boeing Commercial Airplane Unit CEO Ray Conner compared his company to the Cupertino tech giant in a Thursday interview with the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Conner likened the current landscape for selling jetliners to Apple Inc.’s iPhone. The smartphone’s starting retail price of $199 with a cellular contract has remained relatively consistent since its second model in 2008, even as each iteration is more capable.

In the past, the 99-year-old company would develop and use new technologies for “big projects every 15 years or so to craft the fastest – and farthest-flying jetliners,” the Journal reported. But that’s not the case any more. Instead, the company is upgrading Boeing’s jets that have already been in production, a move intended to prevent expensive price jumps.

Conner defended Boeing’s approach in the interview. “It’s not to say you don’t innovate,” he said. Instead, Conner wants Boeing “innovating more on how to [design jets] more simplistically, as opposed to driving more complexity. How do you innovate to make it more producible? How do you innovate to make it more reliable?”

The new plan comes as the Chicago-based company reported strong quarterly earnings in January. The company posted fourth quarter earnings of $1.47 billion, or $2.02 per share. That’s up from $1.23 billion, or $1.61 per share, a year earlier. Boeing also saw a boost in plane sales, hitting 195 during the last quarter, up from 172 year-over-year.