You have to wonder how and why the media gets on a kick about something or other, and continues to refuse to allow facts to get in the way. Take the assumption that Apple is toast under Tim Cook because he’s the operations person and not the creative person. Under Jobs, Apple was on a tear, reinventing entire product categories with a single bound. But under Cook, Apple’s creativity is iterative, limited to minor refreshes of existing products.
So, therefore, the iPhone 5, even though it’s larger and has a different case fabrication than previous models, is merely a minor update to the existing form factor that was first launched in 2007. When does Apple turn the industry upside down again? Will the iPhone 6 get it right? Maybe they’ll add a tiny sink and warming plate so you can consume a can of soup.
What about the iPad mini? Wasn’t that just a smaller version of an existing product? What’s so different about that? Besides, there were already tons of other smaller tablets out there, so it’s not as if Apple invented a whole new product category. They did that with the iPad, if you don’t count the previous tablets that failed to catch on, but that was when Jobs was around. What will they do next to upset the industry?
And don’t forget the Mac, although some feel Apple has. Even the 2012 iMac got mixed reviews. What was the point of having thin edges, if the middle was fat? And was it just all about getting rid of the optical drive? Wouldn’t it have worked just as well to make the 2012 model the same as the 2011 model with faster parts? Consider that the new manufacturing process has put the entire lineup on backorder, and that may have seriously hurt Mac sales for the holiday quarter.
Now maybe if they released the 2012 iMac a month earlier, and let’s not forget the Mac Pro, which hasn’t had a “real” upgrade since 2010. The minor configuration changes last summer don’t count. Besides, why should anyone believe Tim Cook when he promised a substantial upgrade for this year? Maybe he was just trying to keep people from buying Windows workstations instead.
Even worse, what will Apple do when the products that Steve Jobs approved before his death have been released? What can the operations person do for an encore? Maps? No, wait! You see Maps is a project that began when Jobs was around.
What’s missing in all these Cook-is-bad or Cook-is-boring commentaries is that Apple’s batting average was never 1.000 even when Jobs spearheaded a project. There were a fair number of missteps over the years simply because no company is perfect. Don’t forget the overpriced and underpowered Power Mac G4 Cube. Consider the flaws in the plastic fabrication, where the edges sometimes cracked, or the super-sensitive touch button that would put the Cube asleep if your fingers passed over it merely to clean the thing.
One important thing about Jobs is that he would kill a project without passion or prejudice if it failed to meet the company’s expectations. Based on a Q&A response at the 2001 rollout of OS X, where Jobs heatedly denied plans to kill the Cube weeks before it was discontinued, I gather it was his pet project. He invested a lot of time, energy and hopes and dreams for its success, but he was a savvy enough businessperson to accept reality.
When Antennagate erupted, and some people complained about the iPhone 4 losing signals if you applied the Death Grip, after a sarcastic dismissal, Jobs held a media event to set things straight. All mobile handsets are subject to signal problems if you hold them the wrong way, he claimed. If you’re still not happy, Apple offered a free case. That would prevent the problem from occurring.
I don’t recall any other handset maker doing anything of the sort. They preferred to claim their hardware didn’t have such problems, while warning customers with labels and entries in the instruction manuals to be careful how you held their gear.
With Mapgate, Cook took no prisoners. He accepted blame for the company’s failure, and even suggested you use someone else’s product till Maps for iOS 6 was fixed. In addition, he axed the executives whom he blamed for the failure.
You see, it’s not whether a company has a problem with a product or service. It’s about how they deal with that problem and attempt to satisfy customers.
However, Cook still has to prove himself to the media, and certainly to some customers. How well did Apple really do in the holiday quarter? Yes, they missed expectations here and there during the previous two quarters, but the expectations may have been unjustly inflated by industry analysts. If last quarter’s revenue and profits hit the appropriate levels, if enough iPhones, iPads and Macs are sold, maybe the skeptics in the media and on Wall Street will stop complaining, at least for a while. We’ll know Wednesday when the financials are released.
But if Apple’s product introductions for this year and the next are perceived as tepid, lacking innovation, things can change real quickly. The bigger they are, and all that stuff.
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