My Mad Crazy Brilliant Ideas To Save Apple From Certain Doom

by Brian S Hall   |   August 26th, 2013

Apple is doomed. No innovation, no market share, no new products, no Steve Jobs. Death  – soon — is all but certain.

This is the consensus, at least, from mobile analysts, Nobel-winning economists and tech bloggers alike. It’s nonsense, of course, the product of a herd mentality tucked inside a middle manager’s vision. Apple has the best mobile computing products in the world, controls the most robust mobile computing platform, and operates the industry’s largest retail footprint. Apple’s near-term future is as secure as any company, ever. Indeed, with Microsoft now in the throes of long-term turmoil, and Google’s CEO placing bets on every square in hopes of once again hitting the jackpot, expect Apple to pull even further ahead of the competition.

That said, Apple attained its present lofty status by embracing “crazy” ideas — ideas that changed the world as well as the company’s fortunes. In that same spirit, here are my crazy ideas to make Apple even bigger, even better, well into the future.

Are you listening, Tim Cook?

Lay Down (Arms) With Google

Apple and Google are the superpowers of global tech and they do not like one another. Thermonuclear war, however, is of little value to anyone.

Larry-Page-12103347-1-402I propose a “cold war” solution: Apple and Google sign a long-term licensing agreement. Google will abandon Android, and instead optimize its mobile services, all of them, for Apple’s iOS. In return, Apple will offer nearly unfettered access of its iOS platform to Google engineers.

Under this scheme, Apple will sell vastly more devices, continue to earn sky-high profits on hardware, and provide its (billion plus) customers with the best mobile experience on the planet. Google liberates itself from the Android noose, which has cost it billions already. Since iOS users are far more engaged with their devices, Google also receives more and better data using my scheme, which enables them to offer more and better advertisements.

Lastly, this frees up Apple to focus on what it does best. After all, there is a very real chance that iCloud, Siri, Maps, Spotlight, Mail, Calendar, et al, will never be as good as the Google equivalents. Jettison them all.

Merge With Samsung

samsung-wd8804-2-in-1-washer-dryer-combo-220-volts

Not sold on a Apple – Google partnership? Challenge accepted. Instead, Apple should merge with Samsung, their only real threat for smartphone sales.

While many still view Apple as a “computer company” this is misleading. Imagine a pyramid with design at the top, software  beneath that, retail below that, electronics and materials next, and supply chain management at the bottom. Samsung is similar, albeit with a far wider base and increasingly less skill as you venture up the pyramid.

Samsung makes some of the very best affordable washers, dryers, refrigerators and sundry other gadgets and appliances. Unfortunately, every one of them is needlessly complex. As everything becomes a “computer” and as the interface to every computer becomes our touch or our voice, we need Apple’s design and UI expertise more than ever.

Apple + Samsung equals the greatest global electronics design, development, manufacturing and distribution conglomerate in the world, ever.

Own F1 And Kill Cable Television

Apple TV remains a “hobby.” This may be fine for Tim Cook, but it sucks for the rest of us. Because the rest of us continue to pay far too much money for television content we do not want.

Why should we pay for 24 hours of ESPN, for example, if we only watch it 30 minutes everyday? Fox News dominates the ratings while MSNBC barely rises above statistical noise. Yet, we are required to purchase a “news” package that includes both. We want to watch a favorite series yet are forced to buy the entire channel’s programming line-up. This all seems terribly unfair and criminally outdated.

We need Apple. Before Apple can remake television, however, they will need to own top tier content.

I suggest Apple buy the massively popular F1 and the English Premiere League. Make these available solely via Apple TV. Fans of these sports will purchase Apple TV units in droves and quickly learn that the best viewing experience is the one that Apple already suggests (if not quite yet realizes): buy just what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, no matter where you are located, and no matter on what screen you prefer (TV, smartphone or tablet).

Speak Often And Kill The Bloggers

There was a time when Apple was left for dead. It was during these dark times when an Apple priesthood sprang up, discussing every new product, praising every minor change, and writing daily on the wonders of Apple — keeping the few believers securely within the flock.

Tiny pirate Apple is dead, yet the Apple blogger ecosystem, like kudzu, is everywhere now, and does more harm than good, I think. Apple bloggers, now bursting with readers and well-heeled sponsors, oblige both by touting every whiff of every rumor.

When Apple finally does release its newest product, we are instantly let down. We already knew. Our disappointment is further compounded because Apple inevitably fails to live up to many of the craziest rumors.

Apple should speak to the press and to the public on a regular basis. We shouldn’t need to get our Apple news from second-hand sources anymore.

Take Control Of Windows

Windows-7-RTM-Default-Wallpaper-the-Design-Story-2

To change the world you have to be crazy enough to believe you can. Case in point: Apple should buy Windows.

Microsoft’s generations-long hold on the personal computer operating system is in its dying days, laid waste by Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. The more Ballmer and his successors focus on protecting Windows, the quicker they accelerate the company’s demise. To survive, Microsoft must focus on applications and devices, not operating systems and bundled software packages.

That said, there is value in Windows. Or, at least, the Windows team. They built a platform that worked for well over a decade for well over a billion users. More impressive, they did this without controlling the hardware!

Apple will soon operate at least two platforms — iOS and iTunes — that will touch more than a billion users. This is foreign territory for the once small American company. But it is not foreign for Microsoft’s Windows team.

Steve_Jobs_S5F3_headshot_v2

Stay Crazy After All These Years

I have many other crazy ideas, in fact. Buy Bloomberg  and use ownership of financial data to swarm the enterprise, starting with banks and financial institutions. Go private, and use some of their cash for an “endowment” to keep the company alive forever (yes, literally).

Buy Tiffany’s and create a new line of premium-priced computing-based “jewelry.”

Integrate iCloud, fingerprint technology, and an open API. Touch any connected screen and it instantly re-calibrates itself to our preferred, personalized settings, ST:TNG-like. In this way, Apple becomes the company that manages every screen in our life, everywhere, all the time.

I know, I know. None of these make sense, none will work, they will never happen. But maybe Apple needs a jolt of crazy.

What are your crazy ideas for the company?

Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology and change. His work has appeared in Techpinions, ReadWrite, the Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn, The Push and Business Insider. His latest novel, "Love in the Time of Caller ID" is available from Amazon and on iBooks.
  • jfutral

    “To change the world you have to be crazy enough to believe you can.”

    Yes.

    Joe

  • steve_wildstrom

    Provocative ideas. But there’s an intertwined problem between the first and second. If Google were to kill Android, where would that leave Samsung, presumably in charge of Android on its own. This would be a fascinating challenge for Samsung: Does it really have the software chops to manage a beast like Android. We’d soon find out.

    Apple buying Samsung doesn’t really make sense for a bunch of reasons. For one thing, Samsung is a very diversified company and the acquisition would put Apple in a whole lot of businesses it doesn’t want to be in, from merchant chipmaking to rice cookers. The bigger problem is that the deal would never be allowed by authorities in either the U.S. or Korea. From the viewpoint of U.S. antitrust law, it’s a 1-2 merger in large and important market (mobile phones) and those are never permitted. And the Koreans won’t give up Korean ownership of Sammy.

    Still, it’s fun to think about.

    • qka

      I was so hoping to buy an Apple rice cooker and supertanker.

  • jfutral

    I’d like to see Apple move from digital entertainment distribution to analogue entertainment distribution.

    Joe

    • jfutral

      I don’t mean CDs, and DVDs, or VHS. I mean the artists. For most musicians, few actually make money on record sales, not until all the PR, marketing, recording and session musicians are paid for first. I’d like to see Apple become a presenter, not necessarily a producer, but sure why not. They kind of do with their live sessions on iTunes. But they have all these great little stages all across the country now in their stores. What a great location for small intimate concerts. Or maybe they could partner with Disney in LA at the music hall and present live music, dance, and theatre. OK, maybe opera, too.

      Joe

  • Rene Stein

    Primarily, Apple needs its software on every screen that might exist in the future. It follows that Apple buys an appliances company, i.e. Maytag, and Apple needs to buy an automotive company, I would suggest Tesla. Now, they can have iOS running your car, on your stove, in your fridge as well as your phone. Oh, and they need to make a TV as soon as possible, and a watch, and a $199 iPhone. This is what it needs to do to be successful in the future.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Everything is becoming a computer. Every computer will be managed by our touch or our voice. How does a “closed” Apple get there?

      • Rene Stein

        They hire more people, they become a regular divisional company. Tim Cook makes a pact with the devil. Did I forget that Apple needs to become a bank so that they can do touchless banking and monetary transfers between all of these devices?

        The real answer is that everyone else in the world is dragging their feet, and that the systems for an iOS or Android device to control everything in your house is already in place. Apps + Bluetooth/Wifi + control systems in appliances/cars is already more than capable enough to manage everything. If all the other manufacturers would get on board and start to embrace the future, like Nest/Philips Hue… more?

        I don’t know how their iBeacons thing would work, but I could imagine a washing machine having some type of iBeacon in it, and as you get within two feet of the machine, it can open the control app for you so you don’t have to search for it. iPhone becomes remote control for the house.

    • klahanas

      Oh great, so you’re telling me my fridge will stick me to a fruitarian diet, my car will only go the speed limit, while getting lost using Maps?

  • jamesdbailey

    How about a simple change. Apple, stop being so conservative!

    It is boring and making people doubt your ability to innovate.

    • Donald Michael Kraig

      Yeah, that radical design for the Mac Pro and the new GUI for the iPhone/iPad that others won’t be able to copy without draining their batteries, along with taking on the MS Office monopoly with one of the most successful group of apps, not to mention the most widely used video conferencing system and a cloud system that actually works, it’s all so conservative! You should only do what pundits with no money and no future tell you to do.

      • jamesdbailey

        Apple has government levels of available cash. While I’m a huge fan of iOS and love iOS 7, I don’t see it as a radical change to anything. The Mac Pro is going to be a great computer for a niche audience. It will have practically no impact on the majority of Apple’s customers.

        I actually agree that doing iWork on the web is pretty radical but I really can’t figure out what it is for. It doesn’t work as well as Office on the PC. It doesn’t work as well as iWork on the Mac or iOS. I’m hoping that Apple has some sort of plan for it but I’m skeptical.

      • macyourday

        I wonder how long before Microsoft is just apps on a “phone”, like RIM.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Continuous improvement. Its conservative and boring until you look back and see how others have been left behind. Like dinosaurs.

      • AdamChew

        Not only that most are aping Apple”s designs in hardware and software and very soon the UI of iOS7.

    • AdamChew

      Name one other company which has been disrupting the market with new products in the last 10 years,

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VHQMA5ZNKNRBNLRU6AW26P47PM Carlos

    I love your article Brian, I really do. Your ideas are provocative, Steve Wildstrom says, but I think that your ideas rather than provocative, I perceive them humorous, almost festive, full of irony. The irony of these new times in which the dead of yesterday are, now, the new kings of creation, and what better example of this than Apple and Microsoft. Terrific.

    I love your article Brian, I really do.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Thanks.

  • Rene Stein

    I will write one more thing… there comes a time in the not too distant future when growth in computing basically becomes 0. There will be no more growth for any technology company, save for taking customers from other people’s platforms. We aren’t that far away from this time.

    • qka

      You sound like the head of the US Patent Office, circa 1900, who said something to the effect that there soon would be no need for the Patent Office because everything that could be invented had been invented.

      • Rene Stein

        All the innovations that we are hoping for soon, iWatch, Glass, self driving cars, self flying aircraft, fusion reactions, holodecks, brain implanted computers, have all been imagined. There is a lot of inventing left to get us there, but the general concepts are out there and being worked on. So, I’m not expecting too many surprises in the next 100 years. I think there is a fundamental difference between 1900 and 2000 in our basic knowledge of physics enough to say this.

        But, after everyone has a pocket, internet computer and multiple peripheral sensors/monitors, what comes next? Implanted neural computing with direct brain access to any other human out there, as well as any memory/sensory experience we want. Robots that do all our work for us. I don’t know. It is whatever society will allow, I suppose.

        This market that we are in now (the iPhone/Android market) will grow to encompass almost all of the population of the world in the next decade or so. What form computing takes after this will be very different. That is a time and market that’s not even worth thinking about for me.

        tl,dr: My assumption when I wrote that statement is that I am talking about the current personal computing market. I did not communicate that.

    • macyourday

      Just one more thing? Surely not?

  • stefnagel

    The blogger problem is bigger than stated here: Bloggers are addicts who need their fix daily if not hourly. So they drug up on whatever’s available: facts, factoids, fiction, fibs, falsehoods, fabrications. It’s all stink bait to them.

  • Donald Michael Kraig

    Google is already in the early stages of abandoning Android, which provides no direct monetization, and switching to support the Chrome OS.

    • steve_wildstrom

      And you basis for that statement is?

      Google may well be moving to converge Chrome and Android, but Chrome could not replace android without a very major overhaul of its APIs, i.e., adding Android-like APIs to Chrome. Chrome as it exists today is not a mobile operating system and has no phone support; it’s not much of an operating system at all, though it does what it does very well.

  • Jurassic

    There have been some opinion pieces complaining that Apple has “stopped innovating”, and because of this Apple is “doomed”. The truth is that most people do not see or understand innovative products until quite a while after they have been introduced and sold.

    This happened with the first Macintosh (it took a few years before other computers went from DOS to GUI and mouse), the first iPod, the first iPhone, and the first iPad.

    Even with the iPhone, it was initially viewed as a “toy” and not a “serious smartphone”, and people (including one named Ballmer ;-)) thought it wouldn’t sell. But 3 years later Android phones followed in the iPhone’s footsteps.

    Too many people lately are saying that Apple doesn’t innovate anymore, because the iPad came out 3 years ago, and no revolutionary products have been introduced by Apple since then. But those people are jaded and unrealistic. If you look at Apple’s history of introducing innovative new products, it averages out to 7 years between each one… so we still have another 4 years before those people should be griping.

    But those complainers won’t even have to wait that long before Apple’s next major innovation. There is one coming in the next couple of months ahead!

    That revolutionary new product is already being advertised on Apple’s website, but again many people have not grasped the significance and magnitude of innovation of that product yet (and as previously it may take some time after it goes on sale for it to sink in).

    That product is the new Mac Pro. Many people think that this is just another Mac. But it is “just another Mac” in the same way that the first iPhone was “just another smartphone”.

    The new Mac Pro is a professional server-class computer, but put into a tiny, beautifully designed, and near-silent package. The entire computer is an aluminum cylinder only 9.9″ tall and 6.6″ in diameter, yet with components like a 12-core Xeon processor and TWO server-class GPUs, it will be one of the most powerful production desktop computers available.

    It may take a while for it to sink in just how much of a game-changer this product is, but I have no doubt that Apple’s competitors will follow with their own mini pro computers a few years from now (just as they did after Apple introduced the MacBook Air in 2008).

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Thanks. This reminds me of my earlier comment. Apple **continuously** improves its products. Lighter, faster, more reliable, more powerful. Bit by bit, year after year. What this does is ultimately create a huge gap between its products and competitors. People erroneously see them as the same (or comparable) when in fact, they are radically different. THat’s the real key to Apple’s success, I think. Not the ‘crazy/radical’ products that start off looking like nothing before it. Those revolutionary jumps happen only rarely.

  • hocestquisumus

    Well, moonshot ideas there. I’ll comment on the one that isn’t April’s Fool material: the Bloggers.

    That’s right. There is a religious following and they’ll swallow up anything. Some blog makes up something? You’re sure to find it in the mainstream press a day later, breathlessly screamed from the top of their lungs. Such, Apple gets untold billions (with a b) in advertising value. And they don’t pay a dime for it.

    Imagine Apple simply talking to the press like any other company. The mystique surrounding it, the guessing game, the utter annoyance of this constant stream of rumors (that Apple seeds themselves of course), half truths, leaks, whatever would vanish in an instant. There would be no more breathless screaming. They’d be treated like any other company.

    Case in point: as a consumer I really dislike Apple for this constant, relentless and inescapable carpet bombing. As a marketing executive, they have my deepest respect. Well done. But the strategy has peaked, they’ll need to find something else soon.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Agreed. The Apple that spawned those bloggers is dead. Time for a complete re-boot.

    • macyourday

      What? Most of the bloggering is about how apple isn’t innovating or doomed or losing market share and/or money and every mainstream story is bizarrely wrong or misleading. Frequently they feature comparisons with Scamsung’s latest pos proving why apple is screwed. Samesung is the one with the deepest pockets for “advertising” that claims their garbage is waaay better than apple’s and people using apple products are idiots.
      I notice that you also managed to squeeze in the “religion” meme, so it’s not that hard to work out who supplies your advertising budget, though the view must be limited from where your head is positioned.

      • hocestquisumus

        it’s not a meme. look at apple presentations – there’s definitely a lot of religious iconography. i don’t know where you are from or what god(s) you believe in, but sometimes they could be mistaken for catholic mass.

        as for bloggers and media: if 95 per cent uncritical praise for everything cupertino squeezes out aren’t enough for you or the 5 per cent who dare ask questions are still too much you might want to look into psychotherapy. it’s healthier to believe in fictional gods than some faceless megacorporation who want nothing from you but your money and will never, ever give you even a thanks for doing their marketing work for them.

        • macyourday

          Wow. You must see a lot of media I don’t, and I just frequent a few blogs that are full of links to generic bulls.. headlines about how apple is boring, lost it, doomed, not innovating, doomed, failed, did I mention doomed, lost again, down the toilet, the products are boring, they’re losing money, yaddah yaddah yaddah. I just want stuff that works and doesn’t siphon off all my boring personal details to scum sucking parasites.
          I don’t get the whole religion thing, but a lot of people froth at the mouth about how rubbish apple is. I don’t give flying ….what you use. Let me know where this 95% uncritical praise is coming from because there must be a lot more stuff going on around me that I’ve missed, not that I need to see uncritical praise, I just haven’t seen it. Every mainstream media outlet only mentions new (or how there are no new products) just released and how late it was and how apple can’t keep up with the “competition”.
          Not to mention Jobs is dead.
          Thanks for your concern about my mental health and the advice about religion. The apple events are a bit over the top with amazings, but you must have missed all the CES events and the googlemania events as well.

  • Bill Walsh

    Apple should buy Ford.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Crazy idea. And a great one.

    • baerjamin

      A better fit would be BMW

  • Steve in Pittsburgh

    Hello, my name is Brian S. Hall, and I don’t understand what antitrust is.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      Given the eBooks case, neither does the DoJ.

      • macyourday

        Yeah. That whole case seems insane. How powerful is amazon and why?

  • pawhite524

    Brian,

    Thanks for this mighty fine foofarall! Crazy and mad in the title? Your article definitely lived up to that IMHO.
    Now as I my high school French teacher used to say, “Enough of this jocularity, let’s get back to work!”

    Cheers!

  • N8nnc

    Thought(& chuckle)-provoking as always, Brian.

    1. I have pet theory about Googe and Apple.. Long ago, they saw a similar future with mobile computing rising to dominance. While they would prefer to cooperate, they could live competing with each other. They needed to do this for two reasons: to avoid anti-trust and Microsoft. Microsoft’s modus operandi wasn’t merely competing, they killed the competition.

    2. Why merge with Samsung when they can overlay their interface on all consumer goods? (We can hope, right?)

    3. The real coup would be rights to Futbol, for non-US audiences. Maybe their concert series is the seed for “touring with a global audience”. Fox’s entry into NFL may be a model. The incumbents move slowly (read, resist strongly), but once the tipping begins, watch out.

    4. There’s no amount of talking that Apple could do to avoid the rumors & speculation. Another strategy could work: stop exploitating innovation for wild success.

    5. Haven’t they always had control of Windows? I’m pretty confident Windows is going where Apple wants it to.

    6. Apple is on its way to being a significant payments clearinghouse. Endowment for permanent Bell Labs, but successfully tying output to practical, profitable applications. Apple == Everyday Luxury.

    • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

      The old Bell Labs did so much amazing work. Would be great if Apple created something akin to that. Love the idea.

      • steve_wildstrom

        I have been doing a fair amount of research into the history of Bell Labs and was surprised to find that even in mathematics, the area I have been looking at, most of their work was quite closely coupled to the business interests of the Bell System. For example, Claude Shannon’s work in information theory, Richard Hamming’s work in coding theory, and Ron Graham’s work in complexity theory were all deeply relevant to real-world AT&T problems. This is much more true of Bell Labs than it is of Microsoft Research today; it is often difficult to figure out just what MSR has contributed to Microsoft’s business.

        All of that said, it would be a wonderful thing if Apple took a spare billion or two can created a first-class industrial research organization. We could use one.

        • http://www.brianshall.com/ Brian S Hall

          Looking forward to your posts. Claude Shannon and some of the others at Bell Labs during its heyday deserve far more public love.

  • patlee2000

    I don’t believe Steve Jobs left Apple without a revolutionary product in the pipeline. Apple does not release a new product until they feel comfortable with it. The iPad came quickly after the iPhone because the two products were close enough. People thought the Mac Pro was dead because Apple did not show anything
    revolutionary for a few years (because it takes time to innovate).

    Regarding innovation, I have been working on a couple few revolutionary ideas that I won’t disclose today, but I will take a shot at a couple “crazy ideas” for Apple.

    Part 1. A digital watch. humor me for a second…

    What companies focus on: They focus on a product supplementary to a phone, or provide an experience similar to phone but with a smaller screen (worse experience). SonyEricsson (now Sony), has been making that mistake for about ten years now, and Samsung is no better.

    What apple should do: Some companies like Nike or jawbone are coming up with wearable focusing on keeping people in good shape by tracking activities. Apple should take a bolder approach

    a) Revolutionize the medical industry. The iWatch would be able to monitor people vital signs, and let the person know when something is getting sick. In some way, it would become your personal general doctor. People will be able to know what to do before getting sick, and only go to the doctor if necessary before it’s too late. It would save million of lives, reduce the cost related to medicine, and solve the insurance high cost problem in the process. Doctors will have access to more accurate patient diagnostic, patient historic, and provide better cares. Young ones who can’t explain their symptoms won’t have to. We will be able to gather more data, and learn more from the human body. We will also be able to see the progression of disease, and provide better data to researchers to come up with breakthrough treatments… etc

    b) Ability to wirelessly control physical devices by tracking muscular movements (they should immediately by companies like Myo and Nymi).

    C) iWatch integration with the Apple TV. Using what mention in (b), the user could control the apple tv with accurate motions (based on an app activated before to avoid unwanted actions). Apple would have a control system far more accurate than motion sensor used on Samsung TVs, Microsoft Kinect, or Playstastion move (yes free pass to the gaming industry once again).

    Part 2. Tv sets, digital signage, mobile Tv and Content

    Companies building TV sets view them as the center of the living room and try hard to keep it that way. I see a bolder move for Apple, with the TV sets as something that is the center of the house…
    More coming if you are interesting in my vision for Apple.

  • niico100

    Insane. Apple is doing just fine thank you.

    We have a watch coming, payments – all sorts of cool stuff on the horizon.

    You’re an idiot – and this is link bait.