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.
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 @mac.com and @me.com and now @icloud.com 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.
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:
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.