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.

Markets, Not Pundits, Matter

pundit |ˈpəndit| noun | An expert in a particular subject or field who is frequently called on to give opinions about it to the public.

I write about tech. I like to pretend that I’m an expert. So I guess I could describe myself as a pundit.

An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less. ~ Nicholas Murray Butler

Sadly, I’ve become discouraged with many of my fellow pundits. (Present company excepted, of course!) Oh, there’s the click-baiters (and the master-click-baiters) out there, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about people who take their opinions seriously…but perhaps just a bit too seriously.

A man is getting along on the road to wisdom when he begins to realize that his opinion is just an opinion.

I can only assume that many of these pundits have miraculously learned how to write without learning how to read because, if they could read their stuff, they would surely stop writing it.

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving in words evidence of the fact. ~ George Eliot

Let me just throw out two quick examples for your consideration:

  • In the Summer, Apple announced iOS7. Pundits were horrified. Tasteless. Childish. A sure sign that Apple was doomed.

    And the public reaction to iOS7? Oh yeah, a big hit.

  • In the Fall, Apple announced a gold iPhone 5S. Pundits were horrified. Tasteless. Childish. A sure sign that Apple was doomed.

    And the public reaction to the gold iPhone? Last I heard, gold iPhones were being sold for as much as $1,800 a pop on eBay.

New Apple product X is announced. Pundits & analysts say X will fail. X breaks all previous sales records. Step. Rinse. Repeat. ~ Nick Bilton (@nickbilton)

I’m not saying that Pundits shouldn’t express their opinions – of course they should, and in the strongest terms.

I have opinions of my own, strong opinions, but I don’t always agree with them. ~ G.W. Bush

All I’m saying is that we should keep in mind that it is the opinion of the market — not the opinion of the pundit — that matters. The pundit votes with their opinions. The market votes with their dollars. The market wins every time. We should be trying to shape our opinions to reflect the market not pretending that the market is a reflection of our opinions.

I am a thinker with writing problems. ~ John Kirk

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no trouble with stirring the pot. As a former attorney, I can find a problem for every solution. But stirring the pot is supposed to improve the stew, not burn it.

Be a fountain, not a drain. ~ Rex Hudler

Arthur C. Clarke once said that new ideas pass through three periods (in the minds of critics):

— It can’t be done.
— It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing.
— I knew it was a good idea all along!

It’s a given that critics will always think this way. But if we’re doing our job as pundits, we should be watchful of – and cautioning against – falling into the traps set by stages 1 and 2.

It may be asking too much to expect Pundits to act as Prophets, but is it really asking so very much that they not play the role of fools and jackanapes?

You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Author’s Note: I’ve been twittering a lot of late. Come join me @johnkirk and get your tweet quoted in my next article (…or not).