Just this weekend, I got a letter from someone suggesting Apple shareholders should be staging a revolt because of the departure of Steve Jobs as CEO. Somehow, even though the company has prospered for the past nine months since Jobs first went on his latest leave, Apple is poised for a huge fall. You heard it first, I suppose.
When I reminded the author of that letter that Jobs remains an Apple employee, and serves as Chairman of the Board, I received no response. But I didn’t expect any. The current impression conveyed in many of the stores you’ve probably read is that Jobs is no longer at Apple, when, in fact, he has simply reduced his work load. That doesn’t mean he cannot continue to plot product strategy, and make final pronouncements on new Apple gear. It merely means he doesn’t have to concentrate on the day-to-day matters that also occupy a CEO’s attention, but may have little or nothing to do with making great products.
That doesn’t mean Jobs isn’t seriously ill. All indications are that he continues to fight his various ailments, the nature of which remain fodder for rumors. Some assume, since it’s now eight years since his pancreatic cancer condition was first diagnosed, that he might be living on borrowed time, and every single day of reasonable health is a blessing. I wouldn’t assume otherwise, but seriously ill people can often survive for many years with proper rest and treatment. It may also be that Jobs has been urged by his physicians to take it easy and let others do the heavy lifting at Apple, so he can concentrate on regaining his strength, or to prolong his life. Saying yay or nay to a new product or service may be all he can do, but it’s probably enough, and it’s too early to write his obituary.
There’s also that occasional claim that Apple’s creativity must have existed only in the brain of Steve Jobs, and otherwise is fated to vanish soon. One commentator has already ditched his Apple gear in exchange for inferior replacements expecting, I suppose, that putting someone else in the CEO’s chair will somehow make those products less compelling. If it doesn’t make any sense to you, no problem. It doesn’t seem terribly logical to me either, but the commentator in question has been known to pull stunts of this sort before, evidently to bring traffic to his blog. But I’m not going to help, so he will not be named.
There’s also the assumption that OS X Lion is seriously flawed, and Mac users are complaining loudly. While there are the usual initial release bugs to be reported, it doesn’t seem that the issues are any more serious than on previous OS X versions. As reported in this past weekend’s newsletter, the Lion adoption curve is steep. It doesn’t seem that loads and loads of Mac users are passing it by, or just wiping their drives and reverting to, say, Snow Leopard. Perhaps we’ll know more about the number of Lion upgraders in October, when Apple’s next financial report is due.
Meanwhile, the onslaught of alleged iPad killers appears to have slowed. Android OS tablets haven’t caught on, and Apple continues to secure legal victories against Samsung over Android gear. All eyes are now focused on Amazon, and whether the online sales giant has the chops to build a credible contender to the iPad, although it will also feature the Android OS. Certainly the Kindle has done very well for people who only want a dedicated e-book reading gadget. Whether Amazon can deliver a full-fledged tablet is another issue entirely, and if the OS is no better than the one used on products that have already failed in the marketplace, why should it be any different? We’ll, I suppose that Amazon expects to strike gold from sales to the existing Kindle user base. We’ll have to see.
Insofar as the iPhone is concerned, hardly a week passes without one or more announcements about new Android smartphones. You have to wonder whether some of these companies hope to succeed by confusing customers with so many products with relatively similar features that you can’t tell which way is up. The rush to the bottom continues, meaning you can get many Android handsets for next to nothing with your next wireless contract. It may be that Apple is going to make a move in that direction too with the next iPhone. Even though the 2009 iPhone 3GS serves the low-end now, there may be an official contender before long, perhaps something called the iPhone 4s, with simpler, cheaper internal parts, and less storage space. This is the sort of product that may suit in the so-called postpaid market, where people buy the phone at full price without the carrier subsidy. High-end smartphones are out of the range of most customers, but if Apple can sell you an iPhone in the $200-$300 range, it’s possible they’ll move an awful lot of product in countries where the carriers don’t always offer subsidized deals. But remember the existence of an iPhone 4s remains speculation and little more.
I expect the answers will come in October, as predicted. The rumor mills are rife with reports that production of new iPhones has already begun, and one carrier in Germany is already taking preorders, although the official name, specs and prices have yet to be revealed. So much for Apple being on the skids.
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