Truth And Lies About Apple

on November 18, 2013

I regularly provide analysis of the computing market, trends inside Silicon Valley, the current state of the smartphone wars. This week, I offer instead my observations on Apple. Starting now…

The persistent view among analysts that Apple can (magically) go down market, whenever they want, is, in my view, utter nonsense. It’s the same as suggesting Burberry, for example, can be WalMart. Apple is high-end, high-margin, brand and image focused, and companies cannot magically transform their market approach. To remake their products, their hardware, to radically expand customer service and to effectively give up the lead role in their global retail footprint — all necessary to go down-market — would make Apple no longer Apple.

To those that point to the iPod as some sort of proof that Apple can go down market, even that is wrong. The iPod was (always) a high-end flash drive with minimal computing capabilities.

That Google continues to develop and support services optimized for iPhone is all you need to know about those who scream that IPHONE IS DOOMED. They are either ignorant or they are lying to you. Why do you continue to reward them with your attention?

Google’s biggest mistake was wildly overpaying for Motorola, which continues to be a noose around the company. The second biggest mistake, however, was saddling iPhone users — for years — with an inferior version of Google Maps. I am not the only one that now uses Apple Maps almost exclusively. I suspect they have learned their lesson, the hard way.

In the most recent Apple patent trial, Phil Schiller stated that “almost everyone” at Apple works on iPhones, not Mac. This is true. It’s also remarkable. The iPhone was an unexpected blessing for Apple, raining down more in profits than anyone ever imagined it could. But, Apple’s management team still doesn’t get the credit they deserve for effectively re-making Apple, once the Mac company, into the iPhone company.

The next iPhone will be just like the new Nokia Lumia 1520. Large display. Unapologetically plastic. Colorful. 20mp camera.

Apple will be forced to develop a “phablet” because the market wants larger display devices. For most, a phablet is simply a better alternative to buying both a smartphone and a tablet. This is especially true for Apple, with its over-priced iPad line. Steve Jobs intended iPad to rest in sort of that middle ground between laptop and smartphone. A great idea for those who can afford three devices. The vast majority of the world cannot.

iOS 7 is beautiful. There is a core design flaw, however. The world is eagerly embracing the visual web — Pinterest, Snapchat, the new Twitter. In an increasingly mobile, real-time existence, visuals convey a great deal of information in an instant. iOS 7 runs counter to this trend. Note that your iOS 7 device insists on using text even where visuals would obviously work better, such as when telling you the current weather. Jony Ive’s legend is no doubt secure, but I expect iOS will quickly evolve to incorporate more visual elements. Form should follow function and most of the time the market wins.

With Rockstar, Apple becomes a patent troll. Rockstar is absolutely no different from Lodsys. That said, there is absolutely validity to Jobs’ thermonuclear war. There was nothing available like the iPhone or like the iPad until the iPhone and iPad. Intellectual property and design should be protected and compensated. On this, I fully stand behind Apple.

I have covered the smartphone wars as long, as diligently as anyone on the planet. Nonetheless, despite the growth of iPhone and the global smartphone market in general, I never thought it would be easier for me to buy more and better software for Apple products than Microsoft products.

Nintendo is hurting. Sony is hurting. We recently discovered that Xbox may not even be a money-maker for Microsoft. The premiere gaming company in the world is…Apple? I know, shocking. At least for those of us who grew up on PCs and game consoles.

The new iWork is so bad primarily because of Apple’s insistence on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ software strategy, forcing the product to be the same on a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop. This will always fail. Giving it away won’t change how bad it is. The only question now is, how long before Apple abandons this silly notion and gives us a productivity suite that works well?

As bad as the new iWork is, Apple does not get the credit it deserves as a software company. iTunes may not be on every desktop, but its close. iOS is now on hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets. Mavericks is on millions of laptops. Apple’s global software presence is approaching Microsoft’s. This was even recently unthinkable. Even more, Apple’s software is on a larger array of usable devices — tablet, phone, laptop, desktop, set top — and built for multiple modes: touch, keyboard and voice. Remarkable achievement.

Every tech blogger I read, and I think I read them all, is a poor stock analyst. Please do not buy or sell stock, whether $AAPL, $AMZN, $GOOG or other, based on what a tech blogger says. Ever. They are cheerleaders. Save your money.

The next Apple app revolution will be…email.

Email, that boring, dated, derided yet almost universal tool, used — with great reluctance — for personal and professional reasons, is on the cusp of a revolution. At least, I hope so. Here’s an example of what I think Apple will do — what I think only Apple can do. Use the Open Table app, for example, to make a restaurant reservation. Now imagine that the reservation confirmation email you receive contains visually appealing, pre-embedded Yelp reviews of the chef’s best dishes, a PassBook coupon, Facebook credits, Foursquare check-in rewards, your friends list for those having dinner with you, and Apple Maps directions to the restaurant. This is all contained within the email. All secure because each ‘chunk’ of personalized app data is run only through Apple servers. Speed, simplicity, convenience, enhanced benefits. Think Google Now, only on steroids, because Apple will allow its massive app ecosystem to take part. Delivering it all through iOS Mail servers is a nice little knife in Google’s side, as well. That’s my vision, at least.

I look forward to your comments on what you think is true and what you think are lies.

Next week: Truth and lies about Silicon Valley