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Another Pathetic Attempt to Read the Minds of Apple Executives

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.