Another Pathetic Attempt to Read the Minds of Apple Executives

January 12th, 2012

When the iPhone 4s first arrived, the critics complained. Despite being “late” on arrival (even though there was no official release schedule), it didn’t look any different from the iPhone 4. Why bother?

Of course, that didn’t stop customers from lining up to get one. Even now, there’s a backlog of several days at Apple’s online store for any iPhone 4s configuration. Published reports indicate possibly record shattering sales, as the iOS gains market share against the Android OS. Clearly the internal changes, particularly the addition of the Siri personal assistant, have made a huge difference.

But there is one published opinion that attempts to turn Apple’s decision to retain the iPhone form factor on its head, that it was an amazing sign of genius on the part of Tim Cook for having done something Steve Jobs wouldn’t have done. If this sounds curious to you, I’m just getting started.

Obviously Steve Jobs was still present and accounted for during the development process of the iPhone 4s. Even though Tim Cook was acting CEO, Jobs very likely was making the critical product and marketing decisions until shortly before his passing. This being the case, it’s obvious that Jobs green lit the decision not to change the case for this particular iPhone revision. To say otherwise is a stretch, and certainly without any evidence.

Of course, the lack of evidence doesn’t stop pundits from advancing an agenda.

Let’s take this further. You see, it’s not a given that Apple will completely change the iPhone’s case design each and every year. Consider the iPhone 3GS, which is still available through AT&T. That form factor is identical to its predecessor. I don’t recall such unproven speculation then about Apple’s brilliant marketing plan then in not changing the look of the iPhone.

More to the point, there’s nothing in the iPhone’s history to indicate that Apple must make such a drastic change each and every year. Besides, it’s not the case, but the insides that really count in how well the product works. If Apple delivered an iPhone 5, with an all-aluminum backing, would that have made it a better product than the iPhone 4s if nothing else changed?

Yes, it is true that Apple is addressing a wider range of potential customers nowadays. From the iPhone 3GS, to the 64GB iPhone 4s, most anyone can afford to buy one. No excuses. But to suggest that this is a new strategy on the part of Apple that would never have been formulated when Steve Jobs was running the show is simply without any support. It would seem to me that Cook is just carrying out a marketing program that Apple’s executives, including Jobs, devised months or even years ago.

Yes, there have been some changes in the way the leadership is organized at Apple. No doubt those large stock option grants by the board of directors are designed to keep the key executives on board for years to come. Jobs worked for one dollar a year, although his stock options were nothing to be ashamed of. But other Apple executives, despite unwavering loyalty to the company, cannot possibly have the same emotional commitment. Huge paychecks and lucrative stock options can certainly make them feel better, and less inclined to consider tempting offers that are likely coming their way from Apple’s competitors.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with speculating about Apple’s strategy, future products, and marketing schemes. If you believe Apple is making serious mistakes, say so. Even though Apple has become amazingly successful with their present strategy and product lines, I’m sure there’s room for improvement. In the same way, feel free to imagine yourself in the CEO’s chair at Apple, and consider what decisions you’d make, what products you’d approve, and what products you’d pass on.

At the same time, making things up doesn’t help anyone in attempting to understand Apple’s moves and future product planning. It’s easy to assume you know what Apple will do in 2012 based on previous product introductions and overall strategy. But few outside the company, and maybe nobody outside the company, understands the details of their long-term roadmap, or why particular decisions are being made. There are also compromises in terms of technology and the development process that may explain why one feature appears, one doesn’t appear, or why things don’t quite work they way you’d expect.

A key example is iCloud, which is still in somewhat shaky condition. It is not fully understood by many Mac users, and the fact that you cannot integrate multiple Apple IDs only makes iCloud more difficult to configure. Instead of just working, you may have to examine a range of features that may not always act in the way you expect, and Apple’s documentation on the subject is expansive but not well integrated.

This isn’t to say that iCloud is necessarily a failure. But it is clearly a huge work in progress, and you can always hope that Apple will flesh out the features, make them more consistent and, in the end, make it possible to make your Apple ID work like your social security number. You should be able to merge them into just one, and have that ID follow you throughout your life as an Apple customer. I expect confusion about iCloud and how it works will certainly be reduced once the Apple ID issue is resolved.

Meantime, feel free to try to read the minds of Apple’s executives. But don’t be surprised if your telepathic abilities fail big time.

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3 Responses to “Another Pathetic Attempt to Read the Minds of Apple Executives”

  1. dfs says:

    What you say about iCloud’s inability to merge multiple Apple ID’s is true, but it has other problems too, some of which are catalogued in Ted Landau’s in-depth review at In the course of this review Landau, like you, Gene, complains that Apple’s failure to produce adequate document doesn’t help. It’s reasonable to assume that many current MobileMe subscribers who have heard reactions like these aren’t prepared to make the jump before they are sure that iCloud is truly ready for prime time. In addition, there are many owners of older Macs who aren’t able to upgrade to Lion, and still others who refuse to do so because they are dependent on Rosetta or 32-bit-only software. In view of these facts, Apple’s decision to shut down MobileMe on June 30 is very problematic, it seems very insensitive to the neeeds of a fairly large segment of their established user base. I. m. h. o., they have two corporate responsibilities to these users. First, they ought to keep MobileMe up and running until the kinks in iCloud are ironed out, and if this takes us past the June 30 deadline, so be it. Second, they ought to provide some kind of backwards compatibility for customers who have to stick with Snow Leopard providing continued access to iCloud e-mail, calendars, and contacts. Most especially, perhaps, they need to assume resposibility for the welfare of MobileMe subscribers in this catagory who use (and have been paying a handsome annual fee for) and mail accounts.

    • @dfs, Notice I didn’t say it was all about the case of the multiple Apple IDs. I do know about Ted’s investigation and he’ll be talking about it on a future episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE.


  2. David says:

    Trying to read the minds of those running Apple is a pointless exercise for us mere mortals. I’ve long since given up pretending I know what Apple should do. Now I just make personal statements about how a product or service does or does not meet my expectations. If my proposed changes are beneficial to the majority then I have some hope Apple will eventually make them. If not I accept that I’ll never really be satisfied.

    I haven’t had the opportunity to use iCloud yet. My iPod touch is too old to run iOS 5 and my Macs are still running Snow Leopard. A decade ago I’d have been the first on my block to install Lion, but these days something that just works is far more appealing than shiny new features. I also have a short list of Rosetta dependent apps that I haven’t had the time and money to replace.

    As a MobileMe subscriber I know the clock is ticking and I’m making steady progress against Rosetta dependency. By May I should be able to stick my Snow Leopard installation on an external drive and move to Lion more or less full time. I won’t, however, have an iOS 5 device by then so I still won’t have the full iCloud experience. There are many reasons:
    – my iPod touch works great at home and work, but rarely has connectivity anywhere else. I envy those living in cities with seemingly ubiquitous free WiFi. It also has terrible battery life if you don’t stick it in Airplane mode and use it as just a music player. Owners of current generation touches tell me theirs have terrible battery life when using wireless and running apps too. Add the fact that this year’s touch is just last year’s model with a new paint job and there’s zero chance I’ll buy one.
    – I’d like an iPhone with a screen size designed for my eyes, but it doesn’t exist and even if it did I wouldn’t be able to justify paying what the cell phone companies charge for a voice and data plan.
    – the iPad is simply not “go everywhere” portable.

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