Only Apple, Yes, But Only Tim as Well

John Gruber of Daring Fireball wrote a great piece called “Only Apple” where he laid out a solid case that, in many instances, only Apple could deliver the type of experiences and devices that make up a huge part of their success. I suggest you read it when you have time as it delivers a great perspective on what Apple can do vs the competition.

One particular passage stood out:

Here’s a tweet I wrote during the keynote, 20 minutes before Cook’s wrap-up:

Microsoft: one OS for all devices.
Apple: one continuous experience across all devices.

That tweet was massively popular, but I missed a word: across all Apple devices. Microsoft and Google are the ones who are more similarly focused. Microsoft wants you to run Windows on all your devices, from phones to tablets to PCs. Google wants you signed into Google services on all your devices, from phones to tablets to PCs.

Apple wants you to buy iPhones, iPads, and Macs. And if you don’t, you’re out in the cold.

Apple, Google, and Microsoft each offer all three things: devices, services, and platforms. But each has a different starting point. With Apple it’s the device. With Microsoft it’s the platform. With Google it’s the services.

And thus all three companies can brag about things that only they can achieve. What Cook is arguing, and which I would say last week’s WWDC exemplified more so than at any point since the original iPhone in 2007, is that there are more advantages to Apple’s approach.
Or, better put, there are potentially more advantages to Apple’s approach, and Tim Cook seems maniacally focused on tapping into that potential.

Apple’s vertical integration allows them to be able to deliver this “one experience across all devices” and in many ways this is what really attracts people to their products. Sure, they are well designed and look cool but it’s the consistent experience across all their products I think really captures the Zen of Steve Jobs and what Tim Cook has a laser focus on as CEO.

However, I would like to suggest Tim Cook’s influence inside the company has become critical to Apple’s future and, while still being guided by the spirit of Steve Jobs, he clearly has made key decisions that, if he were around today, I don’t think Jobs would have made.

A specific one that comes to mind is a larger iPhone. Jobs was focused on the iPhone being designed for one handed operation. That is why every iPhone since its launch in 2007 has had a smaller screen compared to the competition. While I suspect he was still alive when they were thinking about moving the iPhone screen to 4 inches, I believe he would have balked at an iPhone any larger than the 5s. If the rumors are correct and Apple will deliver a 4.7″ and perhaps even a 5.5″ iPhone, this would have come about due to Tim Cook and his less dogmatic approach to the market demand for larger smartphones.

Another area I see Tim Cook’s hand is in the softer media approach Cook and team have deployed since Jobs passed away. Apple is still pretty strict on who they invite to their events but I have talked to a lot of bloggers and analysts who in the past were shut out under Steve Jobs and are now being invited to events on a relatively regular basis. I believe Tim Cook’s approach to the media is much more pragmatic than Jobs’ ever was. To Steve Jobs, the media was more of an enemy than an ally. Tim Cook appears to see the media and analysts as an important vehicle to deliver Apple’s strategic messages. He has taken this new approach which I think has really paid off in terms of how the media sees Tim Cook and Apple these days.

I also think he has dramatically impacted the working conditions on Apple’s campus. I have heard many stories of how people at Apple loved Steve Jobs but his overpowering presence created a lot of tension among his top managers when he was around. In fact, I witnessed this in person during Jobs’ first stint at Apple. Not long after the Mac was introduced, Jobs and then Apple CEO John Sculley asked me to come over and review a specific product campaign they were working on. While in that meeting a junior executive popped in and told Jobs something he did not like. He went ballistic on the guy. He told him he was an “idiot” and did not have a clue what he was doing. I remember Sculley and I looking at each other and being very embarrassed for the guy Jobs was yelling at. But that was Steve Job’s management style back then and it was one reason he was fired in 1985.

The good news is, when he came back to Apple in 1997, he had mellowed and I hear he was not as confrontational as he had been in the past. But he was still a towering figure and when he was around there was a lot of tension among those who had to deal with him all of the time. Now I hear the campus environment is much less stressful and while there is still a lot of pressure to deliver, I suspect the overall tenor of the campus environment is much different under Tim Cook.

Tim Cook has been very good for Apple in many ways and I have no doubt he will take Apple to its next level of success. As Gruber points out, only Apple can deliver a great continuous experience across devices. I would add only Tim Cook could have kept Apple moving forward and make important decisions on creating new larger iPhones that should give Apple a monster end of the year. Only Cook could have softened Apple’s approach to the media as well as create a more balanced and easier work environment for Apple employees, something I think is really important for those who work the long hours at Apple to deliver what Jobs’ liked to call “insanely great” products.

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Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

36 thoughts on “Only Apple, Yes, But Only Tim as Well”

  1. As anyone who has read any of my posts can tell, I’m a huge Apple critic, and even I can tell a difference in the company’s posture, for the better, under Cook. The behavior on the other hand…

    Your relay of Gruber’s message is appreciated.

    “Apple wants you to buy iPhones, iPads, and Macs. And if you don’t, you’re out in the cold.”

    Gruber’s right, but it’s not necessarily IMO a good thing in all ways. It’s got a “if your not with us, you’re against us” feel to it. If Apple can’t deliver it, or doesn’t deem it worthy, the user doesn’t get it. It’s a “company first” not a “customer first” position.

    This “vertical integration” is synonymous with “Apple is your MANDATORY IT department”, and it’s the “mandatory” part that gives me hives. Anyway, one company can’t do it all, but the user deserves it all if they choose. If they don’t, well, no one forces you to “salt your soup”. You can have it as is.

    Much has been said, correctly, about MS’s bundling of IE during the anti-trust years. That pales in comparison to a single, mandatory, Apple owned store on iOS. You could argue that Apple is not a monopoly, but once you buy in, it is. It also doesn’t make the practice any less distasteful even if it’s legal. I think the press needs to stress this, almost as a standard disclaimer, as much as they correctly did the “640 K limit” back in the day.

    1. Turn the telescope around. Or just turn around.

      Any tech company that does not deliver the whole hardware-software-services stack is cheating, playing with half a deck. MS&G could not give two figs what garbage users experience. Just so they get paid.

      Only Apple takes the job of great user experience seriously. Only Apple has never and will never let somebody else mess around between its products and users. Only Apple delivers great UX.

      1. Not giving MS&G a bye. I’m not a fan of anyone. If Apple is as good as everyone says they are, they should be able to delivery experience + latitude for those that want it. You think I root for Windows or Android? I don’t, they are just the lesser evil to those that have taken the time to learn their tools.

        1. I’m ranting. Why are Google’s glasses seen on a par with the iPhone as innovation? Frivolity by comparison.

          Your edit. See my edit.

        2. “If Apple is as good as everyone says they are, they should be able to deliver experience + latitude for those that want it.”
          That may be your assessment, but it is not what Apple claims to do, nor is it a goal they claim to shoot for. They do very much sell an experience, but they have never implied that “latitude” was part of that experience. In fact it is plainly obvious that the experience they sell is dependent on their tight curation of said experience. It may very well be that latitude is part of the experience you want. If so, you will have to look elsewhere to find it. But blaming Apple for not selling something you want is like blaming McDonalds for not offering table service. That was never part of the deal to begin with.

          1. I disagree. If McDonalds competitors offer table service, then I have every reasonable expectation from McDonalds to provide it-if they want to gain or keep me as a customer. It’s also proper for me to point out McDonald’s shortcomings. That’s part of what competition is about.

            Coming back to experience, there’s no incompatibility between a curated user mode and an un-curated supervisor mode. It’s been in BSD, from which OSX and iOS have been derived from the beginning. So no obstacle to the experience for you, and no obstacle to control for me. Alas, it’s not to be.

    2. So then its just as distasteful that an Xbox One only has the Xbox Live service and content store to purchase software, or that I can’t run PS4 games on my Xbox One despite the hardware being identical? Or that Microsoft decides which indie games are allowed into their XBL store, while PS4 has a much more open approach to allowing indie games? There’s nothing at all unique or distasteful about having a curated environment. Just because the computer industry is accustomed to having the ability to install software from any source they want doesn’t mean that HAS to be the norm. Gaming platforms have been closed/curated for decades. They are software platforms just like a PC/smartphone.

      1. If you consider the Xbox One a computer, then yes. It’s a gaming console tied to a TV. That’s what vertical integration means to me. Focused function, not integrated ecosystem. But even so, yes, I agree that the owner of the device should be able to install software form other makers if they choose. I own gaming consoles (for the kids) but I never use them.

        I think you would agree that a tablet or a phone is a more general purpose instrument than a gaming console. And, for what it’s worth, the same restrictions present on Metro are just as distasteful to me. The ones that have the desktop side, however, suffer from no restrictions. The Metro side is an optional subset.

        1. It’s nice to hear from a well reasoned and insightful critic. Here’s a thought…

          You write “Anyway, one company must do it all..” Please forgive my intentional misquote, but I misquoted to make this point: There are several problems in computing that //require// one point of ownership to //ever// get done. (After getting done by some trailblazing team, others follow and duplicate.)

          Apple’s already owned (and mostly solved) these problems:

          – online music (solving for massive piracy)
          – computer in your pocket (the original iPhone)
          – eliminating almost all malware threats (free and frictionless OS updates, sandboxing apps, app pretesting and policing)
          – tablet UX (preceded by 10 years of failed Windows tablets)
          – identity (Touch ID, A7 (Secure Zone), location discovery)
          – iPhone UX
          – Continuation across devices (Mac OS/Macs and iOS/mobiles playing well together)
          – Peerless service, support, and repair
          – Retail 2.0 (Supporting bricks and mortar vs Web based sales)

          And in the near future Apple will trailblaze…

          – mobile payments
          – health and fitness systems
          – home automation
          – the world of headphones!

          1. Thank you for your considered response. Your misquote is appreciated. 🙂
            I remember when iTunes came to the PC. At that time you could get legal music from several store including Musicmatch, and Real. IN fact, Real made their software able to directly control an iPod, so the user didn’t have to rely on iTunes alone. Apple sued, and won. Nobody, however, asked the owner of the device which store they wanted to buy from and which software they wanted to run their device. I would say, it’s the owner’s exclusive decision.
            Coming to Apps. There were several legitimate repositories such as PowerPC4All, Handango, Mobileplanet, etc. They carried software for WM, Symbian, Palm, etc. The shopper had choices, including using their manufacturers site exclusively. That’s the owner’s decisions again.
            Regarding updates. Yes Android has an issue. IMO, for me, it’s worth it to have the choices of devices I (we) have available. This is where one company can’t do it all. I only buy flagship devices, and so I guess I have less of a problem.
            Phone and Tablet UX is entirely subjective.
            Continuity of devices. Yes, I would expect computers, being the versatile machines that they are, to be able to have continuity. That’s software. It’s doable cross platform. Perhaps someone would make an Android App that is compatible with Macs for continuity. They sure wouldn’t need anyone’s permission, and we will probably see it before we see legitimate Blu-Ray on a Mac.
            Support and repair: I’ve had experiences across both ends of the spectrum, including the best to the absolutely arrogantly worst from Apple.
            Everything else you mention has been done already. Whether they trailblaze, we will see, but it will be their own incremental contributions.

          2. Congrats Klahanas for going totally out of point from the original article.

        2. When Apple released the iPhone, it was not a “personal computer,” instead, it was a phone, an iPod, and an internet communicator. As a phone, there was and still is a significant responsibility to not compromise the cellular phone system. And given the Windows PC malware issue of that time, it was appropriate to sandbox and lock down the system. If you remember, there were non-stop weekly Windows updates, and daily, if not hourly, virus checker updates, to impede your productivity.

          Although iPhone has power like a PC, and can run apps like a PC, Apple has not ever categorized iPhone as a PC, so in that sense, an iPhone owner should not ever expect to be able to install software from other makers/stores. One may think it’s a PC, but Apple doesn’t, and so one shouldn’t expect PC capabilities. Instead, Apple believes its iPhone is a new kind of post-PC type of device.

          That said, over time, Apple has cautiously and selectively allowed some PC-like aspects to become accessible, though one still cannot create an app on iPhone. For example, in iOS 8, Apple will allow its take on inter-app communication, and make a file system visible to the user. I think this gradual “computer” capability growth will continue at this cautious pace. However, given the consumer demand for even more security and privacy, I wouldn’t expect much relaxation on apps or the App Store.

          Given the lack of consumer demand for access to additional app stores, and readily available options (i.e. Android, rooting, PC) for those who think such access is a make-or-break purchase criteria, I don’t think Apple is allocating resources to figure out how to make it possible to install software from other makers/stores in a secure manner. Instead of making iPhone like a PC, Apple is allocating its resources to perfecting many of the millions of new things that can now occur with always-on, always-connected, always-with-you post-PC hub (and wearable) devices.

          1. Also given Apple’s history with third party developers pretty much stymying forward development of their platform (Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Flash, Quark, MS Office, Motorola/IBM with the PowerPC to name a few), and not even to mention all the third party drivers that muck up the stability of any system I think Apple took a very smart approach to the smartphone and tablet. I had to reboot my old WM 6 and 6.5 phone sometimes several times a day. All this on top of their concern for the phone still being able to be used as a phone, this was smarter than anyone else and the right thing to do.

            By the way, I actually had no problem with the MS IE bundling/system integration. If that was the way forward for a company, seems to me it was their right to do so. That was the weakest argument in the anti-trust case.


          2. Totally agree it was the weakest argument in the anti-trust case. But it had teeth. The real disgusting aspect of MS of that day was using undocumented Windows function calls in MS Office, giving them an unfair advantage in Office Suites. That’s as far as technical obstacles.

            As far as business practices, it was coercing OEM’s to buy a Windows license for each PC it built regardless of OS installed,

            I would say Apple’s practices go far beyond even that.

          3. IIRC, MS was guilty of using a monopoly in one market (PC Operating Systems) to gain an unfair advantage in another market (PC Internet Browsers) because MS would not allow its hardware vendors (who buy its OS) to set competitor browsers as the default browsers.

            If MS itself was the only hardware vendor for its Windows OS, there would’ve been no case. If MS did not have an OS monopoly, there would’ve been no case.

            Apple did not create a OS market (because Apple is the only hardware vendor for iOS), thus, it can own its whole iOS ecosystem. The market is not OS, but ecosystem/platform. Apple’s ecosystem does not have a monopoly – iPhone is slowly getting to almost 10% of all mobile phones.

            That said, although Apple’s practices aren’t illegal, one might not like them. But who does Apple’s practices harm? Did those people have other choices so that they did not have to enter (or can leave) Apple’s ecosystem? Were those people misinformed or deceived into entering Apple’s ecosystem?

          4. There most certainly would have been a case. “Bundling” was central to the case. Imagine if MS did make computers, furthering the bundling.

            Apple’s practices harm me as an iPhone owner by censoring content and applications, and prohibiting alternate stores available on my device.

          5. You view it as being harmed but others view it as being protected. In any case, the iPhone/iOS owner voluntarily makes the choice to enter and to stay, knowing that she will be “limited” to the App Store and its millions of curated applications.

          6. Right, functionally there really are no limits. Most everyone who buys an Apple device is accomplishing what they want to accomplish. Those who aren’t move on. It is like trying to deny Michigan doesn’t have the most shoreline of any state in the US because it isn’t on an ocean. However, no one who wants _ocean_ front property buys in Michigan.


          7. Well, there is still no porn. Like you say,
            those who want that can join one of the other ecosystems/platforms.

          8. Ironically, I did hear that the #1 mobile device for accessing porn sites is the iPad. Apparently no one is being limited by lack of porn apps.


          9. I guess that’s an example of how little impact the “closed” iOS experience has on its users, and why very few users are bothered by it.

            Apps = well-protected, Safari = less-protected, Jailbreak = not protected

          10. Bundling is not illegal. The bundling was only relevant in that it was the process that tied the OS market to the browser market. The illegal action was tying, in that MS used its monopoly in one market to unfairly compete in the second market. In the end, the case was settled by forcing MS to allow PC vendors to include non-MS browsers. MS did not have to remove IE. If MS had made its own PCs and only included IE, and there were no other PC vendors (i.e., MS did not sell its OS to anyone else), that would’ve been legal. If MS had made its own PCs and only included IE, and there were other PC vendors who could include non-MS browsers, that would’ve been legal.

          11. IIRC, MS was trying to move the OS UI to a browser based system. They were really trying to more deeply integrate the browser to the system. Eventually, it wouldn’t have just been the default, it was to be the system. Frankly, if I were them I wouldn’t have wanted to relinquish the OS stability to Netscape either.


          12. As a software engineer, I was aware of the benefits of what MS was trying to do. If only they were not a monopoly. Or if only they had recognized their legal situation, and were willing to accept a not-as-good solution of having other browsers be included by their “partners.”

          13. Of course, Apple makes computers. But one of the points of their Post-PC discourse, is that what we know as computers is different now.

            The PC/Mac is just one class or one view of a computer. iPhone is a different class or view of a computer with new rules and uses. Xbox/Playstation/Apple TV are still additional classes of computers with its own rules and uses. Just like the PC was a different class/view of a computer when compared to the IBM mainframe or DEC mini-computer.

          14. Try this: Apple only makes computers. Always has. Always will.

            Even its purported wrist device apparently has a screen, memory, and processor. Voila. A computer.

          15. That was a brilliant response. Thank you.

            Once the SDK was released for developers (and presumably owners) to write Apps, all bets are off. They can’t (or shouldn’t) have it both ways. Develop, but we (Apple) decide what you’re allowed to develop, and after the fact no less. Especially regarding the iPad.
            With all the claims about iOS devices being PC’s, and I agree not by Apple, then it MUST open up if it’s a PC. It must open up anyway. Unless the software developed is illegal (such as malware) who is anyone to say what you can do?

            It’s like a Architect building a house, but putting in the contract that you’re never allowed to smoke inside it. Really?

          16. Apple is not only the architect, but also the owner, of the whole iOS platform or ecosystem. So maybe look at this through my admittedly-not-perfect-analogy: Apple has built a huge condominium (or maybe a sprawling gated community of detached houses, or a shopping mall condo).

            Consistent with applicable federal/state/local laws, Apple sets rules about who can buy a unit (senior citizens, adults only, etc), and limits on activities within the condo for security/safety/aesthetic/maintenance reasons, etc. If you buy a unit, you have certain rights to do what you want within the condo and your unit, but again, there can be limits regarding pets, late night sound volume, wall penetrations, external antennas, commercial/business activity, subletting, garbage disposal, upkeep, common area use, visitor access, etc. These rules are all made known to potential buyers prior to their investing.

            (One could argue iPhone buyers don’t know what they are buying because it’s not written on the box or in a manual, but iPhone buyers, at least in the US, generally have 14 or 30 days to return it without any penalty.)

          17. Except that the ownership is not defined that way. You own that device, and the individual chip housing the firmware, though not the firmware itself. Like a song, that copy is yours, but you can distribute it. These are purchased devices, not leased, co-op’ed, or condo’ed. There is no board either, as would otherwise be required.

            But still, I’m glad to hear you admit it. When you buy an Apple device, you do not own it. Even Apple petitioned the Librarian of Congress that jailbreaking is a violation of the DMCA. It’s exactly this that I was admonishing the press about in my opening comment.

          18. We clearly agree on legal purpose. So switch to the gated community analogy where you own the house, but are still bound by the rules of the community that you agreed to.

          19. I love the way you think and the way you explain your thoughts. Here’s the thing:

            Yes, it’s turning out to where you are entering a gated community, where you “might” know the rules. The rules evolve and appear out of the ether. May I suggest a formal contract closing with each device-replete with attorneys representing both sides. Clearly we are not just buying a gizmo, we are becoming adherents to a lifestyle.

            One can unwittingly become a member of the community. Hey, I just bought this house, I also bought some cool furniture (movies, ibooks, TV episodes) in the store that came with it. I’ll fill in the missing furniture with stuff from my apartment (mpg’s, wmv’s, flv’s). What I can’t? When I move out, I’ll just take the furniture with me. What? I can’t again? Oh, dear…

            I think awareness is underestimated, and under served.

          20. This type of content rule has been in place since iPod. Music and video were restricted to iTunes (which includes PC), with Apple’s nudge (Jobs memo) eventually leading to DRM-free being agreed to by the labels. So consumers have had over ten years to experience iTunes restrictions so I don’t agree that awareness is low.

            Regardless, unlike iPod, iOS owners aren’t restricted to buying from iTunes. If this freedom is important, one can shop at Amazon, B&N, Google, etc for content that can be used on most other ecosystem’s devices. (Well, maybe not for Hachette books on Amazon.) For movies, there’s also UltraViolet, but it seems content owners overwhelmingly choose purchasing simplicity over the ability to take content elsewhere. (Also, consumers are shifting to subscription services, which have apps on iOS and other ecosystems.)

            There is a “lifestyle” aspect to this. In studying iOS/Mac owners around me, the bottom line is most of these owners now trust Apple. They trust Apple to do right by them. They want Apple to make decisions; decisions that simplify but that can also reduce our choices. They trust Apple to include what is necessary for the device’s expected jobs to be done; and to exclude stuff that might compromise
            security/safety/privacy/ease-of-use. Whether geeks or tech-dumb, they don’t want to have to sort through the features on lots of different models (i.e., Tab S, Tab 4, Tab 4 Nook, Tab Pro, Note, Note Pro, Tab 3, Tab 3 Lite); they want Apple to do that and simplify our choice to just screen size/display quality, weight, storage capacity, color, and cost. And for those features that might be essential for the 10-20%, they trust Apple to provide add-ons itself or make it possible through 3rd-parties. When there are conflicting demands, they trust Apple to do what is best for the whole ecosystem, including changing rules.

            For example, my wife has eight siblings, and many nieces/nephews. When I first met them many years ago, I had my Powerbook, and I quickly found them to be anti-Apple. So I kept my mouth shut. Their first mp3 players were not iPods, their first smartphones were not iPhones, and their first tablets were not iPads. They even bought netbooks. But today, 17 of their 21 smartphones and tablets are iOS devices. None of them care about iTunes content being restricted.

            I’m not deluded to think Apple is anywhere close to perfect. At times, it falls short of that trust (although it’s still better than most other companies). Thus, I value your thoughtful criticism. Apple does need to hear where it might be falling short or breaking the trust. So tying this back to the article, I think Cook fully understands that this trust is a crucial component of Apple’s brand, and thus he continues to articulate Apple’s values, and listen for consumer input.

  2. Tim Cook has been great for Apple. He does seem like much more of a pragmatist than Jobs was, and that actually fits better with Apple’s ‘do what works best’ approach. Given Tim’s skill set I can’t imagine a better choice to guide Apple as it scales up to and beyond a billion users.

  3. I think another area where Apple will benefit from Tim at the helm, is less legal issues. I think Tim would have better thought through the implications of “No Poach” agreements and finessed the book deals with the publishers to avoid legal entanglements (though I think Apple was wrongly convicted in that case).

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