Apple Is Doomed…Yet Again

John Kirk / February 13th, 2014

Yukari Iwatani Kane is a former Apple beat reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Her book, “Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs,” is due out in March.

I respect everyone. I even respect journalists. ~ Alexander Popov

Chained fanaticFrom an article in the New Yorker, Ms. Kane opines on the present state of the post-Steve Jobs Apple:

    “People who shouldn’t be hired are being hired (like Apple’s former retail chief, John Browett, who tried to incorporate big-box-retailer sensibilities into Apple’s refined store experience). People who shouldn’t leave are leaving, or, in the case of the mobile-software executive Scott Forstall, being fired.

    Mistakes, in turn, are being made: Apple Maps was a fiasco, and ads, like the company’s short-lived Genius ads and last summer’s self-absorbed manifesto ad, have been mediocre.

    Apple’s latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 7, looks pretty but is full of bugs and flaws.

    As for innovation, the last time Apple created something that was truly great was the original iPad, when Jobs was still alive.

    Although the company’s C.E.O., Tim Cook, insists otherwise, Apple seems more eager to talk about the past than about the future. Even when it refers to the future, it is more intent on showing consumers how it hasn’t changed rather than how it is evolving. The thirtieth anniversary of the Macintosh—and the “1984” ad—is not just commemorative. It is a reminder of what Apple has stopped being.”

Her conclusion? Today’s Steve-less Apple is as doomed as the Steve-less Apple of 1996 was doomed before Steve Jobs returned.

What…A…Crock.

You see, but you do not observe. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Apple Is Doomed…Yet Again

To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing. ~ Elbert Hubbard

Ms. Kane’s book joins a long line of “Apple-Is-Doomed” articles and blog posts that stretch back to the very beginning of Apple’s existence:

iPad Death Watch

iPhone Death Watch

Apple’s Macintosh: 30 years doomed

“Apple Must…”: A Brief History of People Instructing the Company to Do Things

I’ll spare you further examples of this virtually endless list.

It’s so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and then don’t say it. ~ Sam Levenson

Apple-Watchers Respond…Yet Again

Meanwhile, veteran Apple-Watchers — yet again — debunk the cliched “facts” and theories enunciated in Ms. Kane’s essay:

Understanding Apple

Understanding Apple: When reporting doesn’t seem to lead to insight

Why is Apple ‘doomed’ this week?

They have done such a fine job of responding to Ms. Kane’s allegations that I have nothing further to add…

…other than this.

The Lesson Is Unlearned…Yet Again

You cannot measure a man by his failures. You must know what use he makes of them. What did they mean to him. What did he get out of them. ~ Orison Swett Marden

You can’t reason someone out of something they weren’t reasoned into. ~ Mark Twain

Here’s the thing. One can excavate, enumerate and eviscerate these oh-my-god-apple-is-doomed-again treatises until the cows come home but no amount of logic or persuasion will have any effect on those who write them either because the authors are being deliberately obtuse or because they sincerely have a fundamental disconnect with how life actually works. Mistakes are inevitable and the mistake itself IS NOT the problem. It’s one’s RESPONSE to mistakes that matters.

An (aphorism) is a short sentence based on long experience. ~ Miguel de Cervantes

Here are 8 aphorisms that promote the idea that failure is not only healthy but that it is the ABSENCE of failure that is troubling to the health of an individual or a corporation:

  1. Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts. ~ Nikki Giovanni
  2. Failure is success if we learn from it. ~ Malcolm Forbes
  3. If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate. ~ Thomas J. Watson
  4. Yesterday’s failures are today’s seeds that must be diligently planted to be able to abundantly harvest tomorrow’s success. ~ Pete Zafra
  5. Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself. ~ Vilfredo Pareto
  6. Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. ~ Robert Kennedy
  7. If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary. ~ Jim Rohn
  8. We are all failures–at least, the best of us are. ~ James M. Barrie

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations. ~ Steve Jobs

Not enough to convince you? I’ve placed another 41 aphorisms in the footnotes for your reading pleasure1.

I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year. It’s very character-building. ~ Steve Jobs

The Lesson To Be Learned…Yet Again

Is Apple (and Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Samsung, etc.) making mistakes. Yes. OF COURSE they’re making mistakes. That is the wrong question. The right question is whether one is…

…learning from mistakes…

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. ~ John Powell

…responding to mistakes, and...

It’s how you deal with failure that determines how you achieve success. ~ David Feherty

A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake. ~ Confucius

…taking advantage of mistakes….

A failure is a man who has blundered, but is not able to cash in on the experience. ~ Elbert Hubbard

I always tried to turn every disaster into an opportunity. ~ John D. Rockefeller, Jr

Making mistakes isn’t the problem — in fact, it’s an opportunity to learn and do better. The problem occurs when one…

…ignores mistakes…

People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they were willing actually to remain fools. ~ Alice Walker

…denies the existence of mistakes…

More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them. ~ Harold J. Smith

…refuses to take responsibility for mistakes…

A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.~John Burroughs

…rationalize away mistakes…

There is no error so monstrous that it fails to find its defenders among the ablest men. ~ John Dalberg (Lord Acton)

…repeats the same mistakes…

Failure is not a single cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day. ~ Jim Rohn

…or just plain quits.

What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down. ~ Mary Pickford

The Critics Are Mistaken…Yet Again

Chained fanatical prophetLet’s take a quick look at just two of the examples used by Ms. Kane in her essay.

First, she states that Apple had a terrible series of ads:

    “(A)ds, like the company’s short-lived Genius ads and last summer’s self-absorbed manifesto ad, have been mediocre.”2

And Apple’s response? Apple promptly stopped the ads and replaced them with a string of heart-tugging, critically acclaimed ads.

And Ms. Kane views this as a sign of Apple’s decline?

Second, Ms. Kane states that Apple made some hiring mistakes:

    “People who shouldn’t be hired are being hired (like Apple’s former retail chief, John Browett…”

And Apple’s response? They promptly fired Browett after only 8 months and replaced him with Angela Ahrendt, CEO of Burberry.

And Ms. Kane views this as a sign of Apple’s decline?

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. ~ Margaret Thatcher

Did Apple bury their mistakes or delay their response to those mistakes in the hope that things would pan out? No they did not. They took decisive action to correct their mistakes and ended up all the better for it.

Mishaps are like knives, that either serve us or cut us, as we grasp them by the blade or the handle. ~ James Russell Lowell

Ms Kane’s examples are not examples of mistakes. They’re shining examples of how a vibrant, self-correcting organization takes ADVANTAGE of mistakes.

A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. ~ John C. Maxwell

If that’s all the depth of analysis that Ms. Kane learned from her time as an Apple reporter, then I’m not at all surprised that she now an ex-Apple reporter.

Conclusion…Yet Again

Miserable cultistApple is certainly not above fair criticism. But they’re not below it either.

It’s a conceit that Apple’s failings are like fatal character flaws. Every company has failings, especially those that are wildly successful. ~ john martellaro (@jmartellaro)

If you want to argue that Apple isn’t learning from, responding to, or taking advantage of their mistakes…if you want to argue that Apple is ignoring, denying the existence of, blaming others for, or refusing to take responsibility for their mistakes…if you want to argue that Apple is repeating the same mistakes over and over again or that they’ve just plain quit…

…then I’ll be glad to hear you out.

But if you want to cherry-pick Apple’s mistakes while simultaneously ignoring their triumphs, view their mistakes without perspective or context, treat molehills like they’re mountains, conflate the trivial with the essential, and pretend that every mistake — no matter how minor — is the equivalent of a fatal flaw…

…then I have no time for you.

All of us have failed to match our dream of perfection. I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. ~ William Faulkner

  1. A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery. ~ James Joyce

    A mistake at least proves that somebody stopped talking long enough to DO something about it.

    Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. ~ Albert Einstein

    Dream big and dare to fail. –Norman Vaughan

    Error is the price we pay for progress. ~ Alfred North Whitehead

    Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn. ~ C. S. Lewis

    Failure is a delay, not a defeat.

    Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street. ~ Zig Ziglar

    Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough. ~ Elon Musk

    Failure is the foundation of success; success is the lurking place of failure. ~ Lao-tzu

    Failure is the mother of success. ~ Chinese proverb

    Failure is the tuition you pay for success. ~ Walter Brunell

    Fall seven times and stand up eight. ~ Japanese Proverb

    He who does nothing makes no mistakes. ~ Italian proverb

    He who never made a mistake never made a discovery. ~ Samuel Smiles

    I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is a step forward. ~ Thomas Edison

    I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge. ~ Igor Stravinsky

    I never make stupid mistakes. Only very, very clever ones. ~John Peel

    I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~ Thomas Alva Edison

    I learned much from my teachers, more from my books, and most from my mistakes. ~ Anonymous

    If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative. ~ Woody Allen

    If you don’t make any mistakes, you don’t make anything.

    If you want to keep on learning, you must keep on risking failure all your life. ~ John W. Gardner

    If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. ~ Neil Gaiman

    If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough. ~ Vince Lombardi

    If you’re willing to fail interestingly, you tend to succeed interestingly. ~ Edward Albee

    It doesn’t matter if I don’t succeed in something, what matters is that I learn from my mistakes. ~ Linda Evans

    It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up. – Vince Lombardi

    Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final. ~ Roger W. Babson

    Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker. ~ Zig Ziglar

    Man errs as long as he strives. ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is the COURAGE to continue that counts. ~ Sir Winston Churchill

    Success is ninety-nine percent failure. ~ Soichiro Honda

    Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. ~ Sir Winston Churchill

    To produce we must be able to make endless mistakes. ~ Lesley Garner

    The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.

    There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting ~ Buddha

    There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only experiments with unexpected outcomes. ~ Buckminster Fuller

    To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself. ~ Sren Aaby Kierkegaard

    With Pleasure own your Errors past, And make each day a Critic on the last. ~ Alexander Pope []

  2. For the record, I vehemently disagree with Ms. Kane’s assessment of the manifesto ad. I think it is brilliant. []

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?
  • Chris Marriott

    Wall Street, the media, and tech pundits are blind to the fact that Apple’s existence is not predicated upon their next hit or failed product. They’re clueless to the fact that Apple operates by it’s own rules and leaves its competitors swirling in their wake.

    Apple is well on the way to becoming a super-company: http://www.torusoft.com/blog/how-to-recognize-a-super-company

    To have the opinions these ‘journalists’ have of Apple requires a complete suspension of critical thinking while ignoring facts that are undeniable.

  • Kenny

    @john kirk
    do you really believe that there is a difference between you who think that Apple’s next 10 years will be the same as their last 10, and those who said that Apple without Steve Jobs will be the same as last time. because frankly, you all have valid arguments by looking at the data, but only time will tell who is right.

    • jfutral

      Huh. What data did those valid arguments have to support that the next 10 years will be the same as the last time without Jobs?

      “I used to read, but it’s faster to make stuff up.”, Wally from Dilbert.

      Joe

      • Kenny

        Huh. What data did those valid arguments have to support that the next 10 years will be the same as the last time without Jobs?@jfutral:disqus

        Apple Numbers that many of you doesn’t want to believe.

        • jfutral

          Got it. IOW, no data.

          Joe

          • Kenny

            im not a data provider, but the one thing i know is that the Journalist that john responded to made better argument than john

          • jfutral

            You’re the one who said their data made a valid argument.

            Joe

          • Kenny

            did you read the article that John responded to?

          • jfutral

            I read it when it first came out. That’s a pretty fast and loose definition of ‘data” if that is what you are referring to.

            Joe

          • Kenny

            Have you seen Apple’s number and recent performance? if yes:
            just as you can look at them and say that everything is perfect, someone else may disagree on the basis of its own assessment and only time will tell us whether he or she was wrong or right. and that is also true for Apple as it is for any other company as Microsoft or Google that most of you here believe will fail.

          • jfutral

            http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2013-11-10/

            I can’t add anything to this.

            Joe

          • FalKirk

            “the Journalist that john responded to made better argument than john”

            Ms. Kane made a simply TERRIBLE argument. She provided no data, didn’t keep things in context or perspective and the “mistakes” she used to as examples of how far Apple has fallen have all turned into wins for Apple.

            Respond to what I wrote, Kenny, and I’ll be happy to discuss our disagreements. Stick to making unsupported conclusions and I’ve got nothing more to say.

        • Chris Marriott
          • Kenny

            I expected to hear these good news, from tim Cook’s mouth to drive Apple share through the Roof not from appleinsider which is propaganda machine that only a fool would take seriously

          • FalKirk

            “can look at (the numbers) and say that everything is perfect” – Kenny

            I didn’t say that Kenny. I said that Apple had legitimate issues but that Ms. Kane didn’t address any of them.

    • FalKirk

      My article wasn’t about Apple, Kenny. It was about poor analysis by critics. My article could just as well have been applied to Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Samsung or any other tech company.

      Do these companies have issues? Yes they do. So let’s focus on what’s real instead of simply making up problems that only exist in the minds of pundits.

      • Kenny

        Just because you can refute someone else assessment John does not necessarily mean you’re right, and most of the Data you provided tell me nothing about the Future of Apple other than you Faith in the company.

  • TheEternalEmperor

    It’s not like Jobs *Mark* ever made a *Papermeister* bad hire.

  • noproblem

    If anyone doesn’t agree with John, no problem. He’ll simply bury them with infinite research. 🙂

    • FalKirk

      Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing. ~ Wernher Von Braun

  • Thorntondw

    Very well put, as usual. I especially agree with:

    “I vehemently disagree with Ms. Kane’s assessment of the manifesto ad. I think it is brilliant.”

  • Mauryan

    Thanks for giving this worthless book the much needed publicity. One way to increase sales of books or become famous quickly is to do something controversial. Write or say nonsense and the world notices you quicker. Look at how much money the 2012 doomsday forecasters made until it was over. People who were carried away by that wave of paranoia realized they were fools after all. So now someone is writing Apple’s doom. Only she has not put a date on when that would happen. Apple may be doomed a few decades from now. Nothing remains on top forever. Who would have thought AT &T would one day disappear or Motorola would vanish. Apple has a culture. It is this culture that has kept it going. That culture was deeply implanted by Steve Jobs while he ran the company. When attempts were made to uproot that culture in the 1990s, Apple almost went bankrupt. Steve Jobs returned and reinforced the old culture back again and Apple rose from the ashes. Now they know what works. And so long as that culture works, Apple will do well. It may not dominate the world as it is doing now. It will still be a respected player and known for its niche products that those who can afford will swear by. Apple will become the Rolls Royce of the tech world while others will make money selling Kias and artificial diamonds.

    • Kenny

      That’s a very good point!
      however, what if the culture or the business model that was deeply implanted by Steve Jobs that you referred is disrupt by another company or become obsolete, will Tim cook be able to reinvent the company quickly or will he become the new Steve ballmer?

      • FalKirk

        “will Tim cook be able to reinvent the company quickly or will he become the new Steve ballmer?” – Kenny

        Tim Cook may or may not fail, but he will never become another Steve Ballmer because he is not doing at Apple the things that Steve Ballmer did to Microsoft.

        • Kenny

          i don’t have a problem with most of your argument with respect to Apple performance, my point was simply that there’s no clear existing data today that could provide us any guaranty 5 years from now that Apple will still be a Growth company or come up with a new line of product that will be as successful as the IPad or the Iphone just as there was no Data that predicted the IPad success, it’s all about Guessing hence
          just as you can say that Apple will be fine, someone else may disagree on the basis of its own assessment and only time will tell us who was wrong or right.

          • I disagree. There’s nothing in the present state of Apple which indicates it won’t continue to be a growth company, as it has all the way through Tim Cook’s leadership.

            What it won’t necessarily be is the kind of hyper-growth company that it was during the early days of the iPhone. But those opportunities are rare, and largely driven by factors outside the control of the company. The iPhone was launched into a mature mobile phone market, where there was weak competition and the potential for high margins. Apple’s execution was superb, which is what enabled them to grow massively and quickly, but it took the existence of particular market conditions to allow that execution to work.

            I don’t see any potential product categories which would present the same level of hyper-growth opportunity as smartphones did. TV is huge in revenue, but short on margin, and massively complicated. The regular update cycle is too long to support rapid repeat sales if you look at TVs themselves. You can sell a $100 product like the Apple TV, but it’s effectively a peripheral, a value-add to the iTunes/iOS/Mac ecosystem.

            Wearable a feels like a big opportunity to me, but as a value-add for iOS devices rather than a standalone. It’s a way of getting iPhone and iPad owners to pay another $100-250 rather than a $20bn business on its own.

            So where could Apple get iPhone-levels of growth? I just don’t see anywhere. To put the size Apple is at into a little context: if Apple somehow magically owned the entire global online ad market in 2016, it would only add another $163bn of revenue: that’s less than the $170bn revenue the company earned in FY 2013.

      • Space Gorilla

        That is unlikely to happen, maybe impossible, since Apple’s culture is pragmatism, they do what works best. Any company hoping to come after Apple will have to also ‘do what works best’.

        • Kenny

          that sounds really naive to believe that no other company in the world can disrupt the business model of Apple

          • Space Gorilla

            You clearly didn’t understand. Apple’s business model is very simple. Make good products and sell them for a profit. How do you disrupt that? Make bad products and lose money on them? Apple’s products could be disrupted, but the most likely way that will happen is if another company adopts Apple’s business model.

          • Kenny

            The technology landscape has shifted from Hardware and software to Service and the Cloud where Apple suck
            Samsung has been very successful at competing with them on hardware and add to the mix Google the King of Cloud and Service with their new found brotherhood things could get very interesting soon

          • Space Gorilla

            Well, if Apple sticks to ‘doing what works best’ they’ll get better at what they’re weak at. I could argue that iTunes is a pretty good example of Apple being pretty good at services. iTunes is gigantic and incredibly successful. Apple’s model causes them to steadily improve at everything they do.

            Why all the Apple hate? Why not just be happy that companies you like such as Samsung or Google are doing well? It isn’t an either/or situation. Apple can succeed at the same time as Samsung, Google, Microsoft, etc. This isn’t 1990, there isn’t going to be one winner.

          • Kenny

            how did you get the idea that I hate Apple? Is it because I’m not blindly optimistic about their future than you are, or the fact that I do not want to accept everything they do as perfect when it is not.

            Apple is no longer the same small refined company start-up like they used to be 10 years ago, they have become a big behemoth printing money empire that need to be protect from a lots of target and therefore to expect them to keep producing the same king of result as before is more a matter of Faith than reality

          • Space Gorilla

            You go far beyond “not blindly optimistic”, you are incredibly biased against Apple, to the point where you are disconnected from reality and refuse to believe very basic facts when it comes to Apple. It is clear that Apple’s success upsets you a great deal. That seems to be a common thread among the anti-Apple crowd, there’s almost a kind of disbelief, as if as a group you are crying out “Nooooo, this can’t be happening! Noooooooo! Make it stop! Nooooooo!”

          • DarwinPhish

            Apple’s business model is and always has been to make profits from selling hardware. This almost dies once before when hardware became commodity and software captured the profits. There is no reason why something like that could not happen again. That said, Apple is doing a lot of things differently now to protect against this, but in all likelihood, we will once again see a time where profits are driven out of hardware sales.

          • Space Gorilla

            Apple sells personal computers coupled with a robust ecosystem. The point many analysts miss is how important the ecosystem part is, ‘the whole widget’ so to speak. It is hardware and software combined to create a system which handles jobs-to-be-done. Take away the software and I wouldn’t be buying Apple hardware. The solutions that meet my needs come from the combination, the integration, the curation. If you can’t accept that you’ll have trouble understanding Apple.

            The big thing that is different this time around is Apple is steadily marching towards a billion users. As another commenter mentioned somewhere, at that size Apple becomes its own market. What others do hardly matters.

            We’re at the point now where reporting basic facts about Apple is going to freak out the anti-Apple crowd (see Benedict Evans who did exactly that and had to close the comment thread). I predicted this back in 2008. Apple is so large and so successful, it’s almost too much to believe, and the crowd that expected Apple to wither and die (because they’re ‘doing it wrong’) is having trouble processing this reality. We’re going to see more and more of this going forward, essentially a denial of Apple’s success, massive cognitive dissonance.

            EDIT: It was stefnagel who made that comment about Apple becoming its own market, on Chris Marriott’s super company article.

    • Bill Smith

      I fully agree that supporting those who use sensationalism as a means of publicity is a bad idea. Yet everyone seems to reward them with large numbers of page views. The next time you see “6 ways to know your dog loves you” or “3 ways Google is better than Apple” or “Apple is floundering without Steve Jobs”, don’t click the link.

  • I have a horrible feeling that Kane’s book will be basically pitched as “Apple is declining because Steve Jobs is gone”, cherry picking from the mistakes that have happened under Tim Cook’s leadership to “prove” the point.

    I hope – because actually Kane was of the sharpest reporters on Apple before she left the WSJ – that it won’t paper over the mistakes that Jobs made. Mark Papermaster. The woeful licensing of iTunes to Motorola to make that ghastly phone. The Power Mac Cube.

  • gaurav

    u r a fool john kirk.

    • FalKirk

      It is impossible to carry the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing someone’s beard. ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

  • Road Inform

    John, Big fan. Read and enjoy your articles every week. Would you be willing to post an article that is a response to this one? http://bgr.com/2014/02/14/top-10-android-apps-vs-iphone-part-2/

  • Matang_Lawin

    John K, no amount of Apple success today will guarantee it will still be in the future. The mere fact that year on year Samsung is eating up Apples market share will eventually catch up with your so called profit share mantra. Until such point that the Mac Vs Windows repeat itself again. Because apple is pricing itself out. The point in time will come when all this technical “value” and ecosystem you call be one day “commodotized” given the rate Android is ripping IOS.

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