Apple, the Cloud and Two Jewish Chickens

On May 12, 2014, Ed Bott posted an article entitled: “Apple and the cloud: A magnificent missed opportunity“. It is a scathing critique of Apple’s efforts to master the cloud. It’s very well written and well worth a read.

Only, here’s the thing. While Mr. Bott’s obeservations seem accurate, his analysis and conclusions are wildly off base because the cloud “opportunity” he thinks Apple has missed is not the cloud opportunity Apple is — or should be — pursuing.

Target miss


Here’s a couple of snippets from Mr. Bott’s article:

— So, three and a half years later, how far have Apple’s cloud efforts progressed? Compared to the leaders in the cloud ecosystem, not very far at all.

— Apple’s iCloud is, first and foremost, a backup target for iOS devices, a job it does reasonably well. But on every other modern yardstick for cloud computing it falls short.

— Apple has been bumbling along for a decade with and and now addresses, but there’s no evidence they’ve gained any traction…

— Apple has some very capable iOS and OS X apps in its iWork suite: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote…but there are no equivalent apps for non-Apple-branded devices…

— Apple has nothing in (the general-purpose online storage) space.

— iCloud syncs photos and videos from iPhones to the cloud and then to other devices. … Windows PCs have limited support; Android devices are unsupported.

Bott concludes:

In short, Apple is in no danger of becoming a “devices and services” company anytime soon.


When I read Ed Bott’s article and its conclusion, I simply have to shake my head. Bott points out target after target after target Apple has missed — apparently oblivious of the fact Apple is not, will not and should not be aiming at those targets.

Bott’s misdiagnosis of Apple’s aims is all the more baffling because he clearly identifies Apple’s goals at the very start of his article:

(Steve) Jobs…remained firmly wedded to Apple’s walled garden. His directive…is extraordinarily blunt: “tie all of our products together, so we further lock customers into our ecosystem.”

In other words, Apple is pursuing a vertical strategy. They want to own the whole “stack” — hardware, operating system, and services — and make that stack, i.e., that ecosystem, so appealing that new customers will be drawn to it and existing customers will never want to leave it. You can Google the words “Apple customer retention” and judge for yourself whether or not their strategy is succeeding.

why, Why, WHY?

If Ed Bott knows that Apple is pursuing a vertical strategy, then why is he bemoaning the fact that Apple is not pursuing a HORIZONTAL cloud strategy?

— Why, why, why would Apple need their mail client to “gain traction” so long as others are more than willing to fill that need?

— Why, why, why would Apple want to provide suites of apps that ran on non-Apple branded devices?

— Why, why, why would Apple want to enter and compete in the general purpose online storage space, a space that serves both Apple and non-Apple device owners?

— Why, why, why would Apple want to provide iCloud-like photo and video syncing to Windows and Android devices?

Microsoft And The Jewish Chicken

Mr. Bott normally analyzes Microsoft. In my opinion, for the past 15 years Microsoft has had one of the most convoluted and wrong-headed business models in all of tech. They had no focus, they had no aim, they had no guiding strategic vision.

Perhaps Mr. Bott has stared at the “sun” that is Microsoft for so long he is now blinded to the possibility that others do not want, have no interest, and are actively avoiding the trap of simultaneouly pursuing incompatible vertical and horitzonal business aims. Claiming that Apple is “missing” an opportunity to become a “devices and services” company is simply bizarre because that was Steve Ballmer’s deluded goal for Microsoft — never Steve Jobs’ goal for Apple.

Which reminds me of a joke:

Cartoon Frantic Brown Chicken

A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick, so the woman made chicken soup out of the other one to help the sick one get well. ~ Henny Youngman

Ed Bott wants Apple to kill their healthy vertical chicken and turn it into soup so it can be used to nurse to health a horizonal chicken that only exists in Ed Bott’s fevered imagination. It’s simply not going to happen.


Until Ed Bott understands the targets Apple is, and ought to be, aiming for, he should stay out of the business of judging whether or not Apple has hit those targets.

Published by

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?

17 thoughts on “Apple, the Cloud and Two Jewish Chickens”

  1. Having read both articles, you both did a great job. In the end, I have to agree with you Mr. Kirk. And for me, a consumer with absolutely no interest in any company’s financials, that’s not a good thing.
    Look at the iMessage controversy. Totally unacceptable! Coupled with the admitted goal of customer lock-in, well then caveat emptor.
    “Plenty of room at the Hotel California” – The Eagles

    1. Having re-read both articles, I wish I had made it plainer that I wholly agree with Mr. Bott that Apple’s Cloud implementation could be better. In other words, Apple’s cloud efforts are sometimes missing their mark. However, the targets that Apple is shooting for are not the targets that Mr. Bott thinks they are shooting for. Apple’s cloud efforts need to be criticized for not accomplishing its goals, not for not accomplishing goals goals they are not aiming for.

      1. Seems to me Apple is playing a longer and more complex game with the cloud than most people realize. Same goes for Siri. Over the next five to ten years I think we’ll get to know the Apple Network of Things.

        1. I think that Apple has failed to meet all of their goals with iCloud. Still, even at far less than perfect, their cloud efforts are massive and underrated by their detractors.

          1. Agreed. One key area for me is file/space management on iOS devices. The iPad is the primary computer for my kids (they each have one), and even with 64 GB it isn’t enough storage. iCloud isn’t large enough per device and local storage via iTunes isn’t good enough. It can be done, but it’s not what I expect from Apple, too awkward, too many steps involved. I suppose a couple terabytes in iCloud per iDevice would solve my problem.

    2. Klahanas, you have a deep-rooted hatred of vertical business models.

      “Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out.” ~ Sydney Smith

      1. I’ll start with the quote about prejudice. It’s not prejudice, because in reality, I’m an angry customer. So yes, my “hatred” (I prefer contempt), certainly not prejudice, was “reasoned into me”. In the 2008-2010 period I spent well over $10K on Apple products. Just as they were starting to get really weird with their controlling behavior.

        During that time, after a botched firmware update, I was refused an AppleCare repair on an iPhone due to non-existent water damage. The water sensors were clearly exposed to the air. Paradoxically, a jailbreak fixed the phone (and the water damage as well, I assume). I was ultimately vindicated when Apple had to admit the water sensors could be triggered by humidity and settled for $53MM.

        Also, after getting my first MacBook in 2008 (which I loved), I gave it to my daughter and went to the Apple Store and bough the exact same 2009 model. Little did I realize, they had removed the Expresscard Slot, which I promptly discovered when I got home. I did not set up the computer and went back to the store, the very next day, to exchange it for the 17in model, which I didn’t really want, but retained the Expresscard Slot. I was, of course, willing to pay the difference. I was told I would have to pay a 15% restocking Fee!!! Over $330 to have the right to exchange! So, I kept the one I foolishly bought and no machine has EVER left me so “wanting”. At the time Apple decided that their users don’t need fast external drives and that USB2 and FW800 sufficed.

        But more substantively. I’ve been a computer enthusiast since 1980. I will not favor limits on the very liberating freedoms PC’s have provided. Apple, by imposing their vertical integration (I prefer exclusive integration) has censored computers and forced themselves as a de facto IT department over their users. Always, of course, to their own whims and favor. So I feel it important that these counter arguments be made and not swept under the rug.

        Just so you know where I’m coming from…

        1. Doubt is the origin of wisdom. ~ René Descartes

          Doubt is often the beginning of wisdom. ~ M Scott Peck

  2. I take issue with the idea that Apple doesn’t have iWork for non-Apple devices. That is what the online versions of iWork are for. From what I can see iWork is an attempt to undermine the need for Office on iOS devices.

    1. You are absolutely correct. Apple DOES have iWork in the cloud. However, the purpose of iWork in the cloud is not to proselytize iWork to people who don’t own Apple products, it’s to allow non-Apple users to easily and seamlessly work with Apple owners if the choose to do so.

      Same tool, slightly different targets.

  3. “A Jewish woman had two chickens. One got sick, so the woman made chicken soup out of the other one to help the sick one get well. ~ Henny Youngman”

    That’s just wrong on so many levels.


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