One of the biggest differentiators between Apple and others in its industry is Apple's insistence on keeping design in house.

"Design is what makes Apple Apple", writes Business Week, and the company is proud of that label, emblazoning even the iPod shuffle with the words: "Designed in California".

"At a time when rivals are outsourcing as much design as possible to cut costs, Apple remains at its core a product company – one that would never give up control of how those products are created," writes Business Week's Peter Burrows.

"While rival computer makers increasingly rely on so-called outsourced design manufacturers (ODMs), for key design decisions, Jobs keeps most of those tasks in-house. Sure, he relies on ODMs to manufacture his products, but the big decisions on Apple products are made in Silicon Valley," he adds.

Design job

Unlike other many company executives, Jobs believe that outsourcing design is short-sighted. While it might allow lower salaries, and means that engineers can work on products across all time zones, Jobs argues that the cost-savings aren't worth what you give up in terms of teamwork, communication, and the ability to get groups of people working together to bring a new idea to life.

Business Week indicates that "with top-notch mechanical, electrical, software, and industrial designers all housed at Apple's Infinite Loop campus the company's design capability is more vertically integrated than almost any other tech outfit."

And Jobs is unique among hardware CEOs for his hands-on involvement in the design process, notes Burrows.

Night shift

Apple is very protective of its designs. According to the report, the company strings black drapes around the production lines at the factories of the contract manufacturers it hires to assemble its products, it has even been known to insisted that its wares be built only on the midnight shift.

Another differentiator is that Apple makes its own software. One Apple rival told Business Week: "That's Apple's trump card. The ODMs just don't have the world-class industrial design, the style, or the ability to make easy-to-use software – or the ability to integrate it all. They may some day, but they don't have it now."