“Whither” means “to what place or state: whither are we bound?” Wither means “dry up; wilt, droop, go limp, fade, perish; shrink, waste away, atrophy.” Following Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), we now know “whither” Apple is headed. Their base is strong and they seek to expand it by stealing share from Android and up-selling the Mac. Is that enough to make Apple’s base grow? Or is it a strategy that all but guarantees Apple’s base will stagnate and wither?
Apple’s base is incredibly deep and strong.
Over 100 million iPods;
Over 500 million iPhones; and
Over 200 million iPads.
Over 800 million iOS devices sold overall.
Over 230 million iOS devices sold in the past 12 months, alone.
Over 130 million of those 230 million iOS devices went to new users. That’s a lot of new users and that’s the polar opposite of “stagnation.”
89% of iOS users are running Apple’s latest iOS 7 operating system. By way of contrast, only 9% of Android users are on Android’s latest operating system, Kit-Kat.
Over 80 million Macs sold. Note that 80 million Macs is only a tenth of the 800 million iOS units that have been sold.
Over 40 million of those 80 million Mac users are running the latest Mavericks operating system. That’s a 51% adoption rate, the fastest PC adoption rate in history. By way of comparison, after two years, Windows 8 adoption is at 14%.
While overall PC sales have declined by 5% over the past year, Mac sales have actually increased by 12%. Again, this growth is important for our later analysis, so please make a mental note of it.
iOS and OS X
iOS and OS X users combined are rapidly approaching one billion users.
Apple will easily reach the milestone of 1 billion iOS devices sold this year. ~ Horace Dediu (@asymco)
Over 9 million registered developers, up 47% since 2013. Let me repeat that. Apple’s registered developers have increased by an astonishing FORTY-SEVEN PERCENT in the last year alone. Again, this is the very opposite of stagnation.
Everyone keep in mind that Apple Is Doomed ~ Alex Wilhelm (@alex)
Undoubtably, Apple is doing better than well today. However, that still leaves unanswered the question of tomorrow. Where will Apple’s future growth come from?
Apple has a lock on the premium MP3 ((The MP3 Market is fading fast.)), Smartphone, Tablet and PC ((Desktops and Notebooks)) markets. Apple’s grip on these market is very stable and not being seriously challenged. However, growth, not stability, is what one strives for. How then is Apple going to grow?
In his excellent analysis, “GROWING APPLE AT WWDC“, Ben Thompson of Stretechery breaks down the only two ways Apple can grow — either by stealing share from others or by up-selling to their existing client base. Today we’ll examine how Apple is trying to steal share from Android. Tomorrow, in my Insider article (subscription required), I’ll take long look at how Apple is trying to up-sell the Mac.
Stealing Share From Others
There are three ways for Apple to steal share from Android. The first is to expand sales into areas where only Android is for sale. That means expanding its base of carriers. Apple is doing that, so I won’t dwell on it here. The second way is marketing and the third way is to reduce barriers to entry — to eliminate “deal breakers” that might prevent Android users from switching to Apple devices.
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half. ~ Lord Leverhulme
During the World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple went out of their way to trash Android. This was not an accident. If Apple wants potential customers to switch from Android to Apple then Apple has to highlight where Android’s problems lie and how Apples products serve as the solution to those problems.
— Apple pointed out that Android users were often unable to upgrade to the latest operating system and over one third of Android users were still using an operating system four or more years old. These users are not getting great new features, not running the latest apps and not getting security updates (and it shows.)
— Apple highlighted their own spectacular (97%) customer satisfaction ratings.
— Apple harped on the many privacy concerns that surround Android and Google products.
— Apple hammered Android on their lack of security, and in so doing, added the term “toxic hellstew” to the computing lexicon.
Renee Richie, has written an excellent article wherein he notes that Apple wants to be seen as number one where it matters most: engagement, affluence and value. This is not a new message. Apple has hammered home this theme over and over again.
We are unique position of having world class hardware, software and service skills under one roof, which enables us to provide an unparalleled user experience to hundreds and millions of customers. Working with our vibrant developer community we have built a large and thriving ecosystem. We are winning with our products in all the ways that are most important to us, in customer satisfaction, in product usage and in customer loyalty. ~ Tim Cook
With iOS 8, Apple battles Android on its own turf, allowing its users more choice. ~ Gigaom (@gigaom)
In addition to marketing Android’s weaknesses and iOS’ corresponding strengths, Apple can steal share from Android by making it easier for Android users to switch. One way to do this is to remove barriers; to eliminate “deal breakers”; to annex popular, but unique to Android, features and make them their own. Apple did this, with a vengeance, at WWDC 2014. A few examples:
- Third-Party Keyboards
Looks like the big news at WWDC is iOS becoming a power-user operating system. ~ Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken)
Tim Cook and Craig Federighi’s Apple?
Apple’s efforts to add geeky Android features to their own products may just be a market response — an attempt by Apple to attract more Android users. However, I think it may also be an area where the current management of Tim Cook and Craig Federighi diverge from their predecessors, Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall. Steve Jobs was a purist and I’m guessing he wouldn’t have wanted to use scarce resources to create features that he didn’t think were important to mainstream users. And make no mistake about it — because this mistake IS being made all across the Technosphere — many of the features Apple added on Monday are totally unnecessary to mainstream users.
One of the unique aspects of Apple has been its willingness to embrace counter-intuitive realities. For example, Apple alone seems to understand that the more you limit what a computer can do, the more likely it is that it can reliably do the things it can do. Another example is choice. Apple knows that simplifying a product has nothing to do with eliminating features and everything to do with eliminating the burden of decision making from its users.
[pullquote]The features we clamor for most are the features that normals use least[/pullquote]
This is, of course, heresy to the Technoratti. We live in our own little geeky bubble and don’t realize that the features we clamor for most are the features that normals use least. Being un-empathetic is a human condition, but neckbeards like us have raised obliviousness to an art form.
Apple is doing the things we told ourselves they’d never do in their stubbornness. ~ Gabriel Visser (@gvssr)
Hmm. Stubborn, ey?
When a person stands their ground and we agree with them, they are principled. When a person stands their ground and we disagree with them, they are stubborn. It’s all a matter of perspective and if there’s one thing the tech crowd is lacking, it’s perspective.
All we know is that the power features we so dearly love are essential TO US. Therefore, we assume these features must be essential TO EVERYONE. As Apple has demonstrated over and over and over again — it just ain’t so. Normals buy Apple products, not despite the geek features they lack, but BECAUSE they don’t have to deal with all that geekery.
Steve Jobs was a fanatic and we loved him or hated him for it. Tim Cook strikes me as a more practical sort of man. I’m told Craig Federighi is a bit more geeky than Scott Forstall was. It should, therefore, have come as no surprise to us that Apple was bending a little and becoming a little bit more Android-like.
It should have come as no surprise — but it still did.
Whither Apple or Wither Apple?
So, is this a good thing or a bad thing for Apple?
In the short run, it is great for public relations. The pundits and the techheads and the acolytes of “open” are eating this up. Google the words “Apple” and “WWDC” and “open” and you’ll find a dozen or so articles praising the “new” more “open” Apple.
My 2¢: for the past few years it’s felt like Apple’s only goal was to put us in our place. Now it feels like they might want to be friends. ~ Cabel Sasser (@cabel)
You know who needs a friend, Cabel? End users, that’s who. Because when developers become more important than end users you get — Microsoft.
Putting developers “in their place” — which is, to say, placed behind end users — is exactly what Apple should be doing.
So in the short-run, developers and geeks are loving the new friendlier, more open Apple. But how is that going to play in long run? Will the “new” Apple be a better Apple; a more successful Apple? Or has Apple begun to lose their way, betraying the very core of their being?
The Argument Against
There are a couple of very good arguments against Apple’s new approach. And, ironically, they come from no less a source than Tim Cook himself:
We believe in the simple, not the complex. ~ Tim Cook, Acting Apple CEO, January 2009 FQ1 2009 Earnings Call
We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. ~ Tim Cook, Acting Apple CEO, January 2009 FQ1 2009 Earnings Call
We don’t believe we can do things at the level of quality and link things as we want to between hardware, software and services so seamlessly if we do a lot of stuff. So we’re going to stick with our knitting with only doing a few things and doing them great. ~ Tim Cook
The Argument For
On the other hand, there’s this:
It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. ~ Steve Jobs
Can we make a product that we all want? We think we’re reasonable proxies for others. So those are things we’d ask about any new product category. ~ Tim Cook
Steve Jobs, Scott Forstall, Tim Cook and Craig Federighi all believed or believe that they were or are “reasonable proxies” for others. The proxies have changed. The products will too.
The technology isn’t the hard part. The hard part is, what’s the product? Or, who’s the customer? ~ Steve Jobs
As Steve Jobs said, the hard part is knowing who your customer is. So long as Tim Cook and Craig Federighi keep the customer in mind, no one will much mind if they make Apple just a tiny bit geekier.
Tomorrow, in my Insider’s article (subscription required), I will take a hard look at the second part of Apple’s growth strategy: up-selling the Mac. It’s very counter-intuitive to seek growth in a shrinking market and one has to question how much of an impact this strategy can have. However, without question, up-selling the Mac is completely aligned with Apple’s business model and it may have much more upside that one would initially think.
UPDATE: The follow-up article, entitled: “Up-Selling The Mac” is now available, here. Subscription required.
72 thoughts on “Whither Apple Or Wither Apple?”
This WWDC was the most positive thing I have seen from Apple since the unfortunate loss of Steve Jobs hampered them.
A reinvigorated Apple with a strategy they are confident in.
I love that they are incorporating more software features that Android users claim as barriers against switching, and I expect they will have the HW feature many claim as another barrier (optional large screen phones) in the fall, opening the door for many Android migrations. This will hurt arch rival Samsung more than any court case.
I love that they are going to push more on the Mac. The PC market isn’t dying, it is adjusting from being the only point of access, to being one of many points of access, but it will remain an important market. Companies that have cost structures dependent on massive volume PC sales will falter, some could fail. But a company that never had those volumes could look to increase share of the new smaller market and do better than they ever did before. Macs didn’t have nearly the down quarters that the overall PC market did, and they are up last quarter.
It looks like Apple will be competing more fiercely for each individual segment of the market, but that is the tip of the iceberg. Because it looks like the Apple strategy is to convince more and more people to have the whole Apple ecosystem, your PC/Phone/Tablet/TV Box all tightly integrated with each other, interacting ideally with your current physical reality in the ideal manner.
I think this is a compelling message, and I don’t think any other company is remotely close to being able to deliver that kind of cohesive integrated ecosystem, as Apple is.
As far as extra openness causing complexity that detracts from the simplicity that makes Apple great, I think that is a trivial worry. Apple will not abandon their principles, and isn’t like iPhones are going to get so complex that you will have to switch to Android.
I see a resurgent, confident Apple and that is going to be a worry for their competitors.
“Because it looks like the Apple strategy is to convince more and more people to have the whole Apple ecosystem, your PC/Phone/Tablet/TV Box all tightly integrated with each other, interacting ideally with your current physical reality in the ideal manner.”
I think your right about “PC/Phone/Tablet/TV Box all tightly integrated with each other…” this leads me to believe Apple is sprinting to tightly integrate Macs with these other Apple devices.
From that, I deduce TC’s promised land is one where Macs run on an Ax application processor. Apple wants to be the first computing company to displace motherboard architecture with a single //indestructible//, cool running, never flagging Ax chip.
Isn’t this the meta strategy that we see forming today? A7 has been 64bit for a year and we still see no 64 bit “A7 killer” in phones. (Rumored for Xmas?) Is Apple really going to deliver A8 this year? If so, the game’s over. Apple wins on continued and ‘holy shite” chip development.
Apple marketing, are you reading this? Time to sign MC Hammer and “Can’t Touch This”!
That is often rumored but would be a Massive step back for Macs, turning them from full fledged laptops/desktops into netbooks/netboxes.
It is NOT happening. While the A7 is a great chip, it is nowhere near the CPU performance of even an Intel i3. Even lowly chromebooks have switched mainly from ARM chips to Intel, even though the are Architecture agnostic, for the better performance, and that is only running Web Apps.
Not to mention all Mac SW is x86 native. It would take years to convince SW developers to switch architectures. For what? So Macs can run much slower?
This would be Apples “Windows RT” moment. A total bonehead move we will never see, while someone competent is running Apple.
“While the A7 is a great chip, it is nowhere near the CPU performance of even an Intel i3.”
You might be wrong on this. Imagine an i3 running in a phone – not going to happen is it? Imagine an A9 running fanless in a laptop. (It won’t match Intel’s i5 or i7, but it will weigh about 1.5 pounds and be good enough for 100% of the needs of the 90% of the users who don’t crank out large spreadsheets or edit videos.)
Apple’s ace up their sleeve? They are relentless and will develop the Ax series of chips to deliver mobile performance much faster than Intel or the ARMy can.
I agree, unless there’s a leap power-wise (I suppose it’s not impossible) or some other huge advantage we’re not aware of, Apple is unlikely to take a step backwards. More likely is simply an expansion of continuity, a seamless experience on all Apple devices and within what I’ve been calling the Apple Network of Things, with the iPhone as the hub for at least the next few years.
World class. Cook’s an articulate bloke and maybe means it both ways: High quality tech and also something anyone anywhere would not be ashamed to bring home to meet mama. The best for the rest.
“Normals buy Apple products, not despite the geek features they lack, but BECAUSE they don’t have to deal with all that geekery.”
Spot on. There’s an argument to be made that Apple is the most open tech company offering the most freedom and choice, simply because their products are more accessible to normal people. Heresy indeed.
In the introduction to iOS 7, Ive talked about how people are now used to working with multi-touch and so it is time to forge ahead, away from the highly representative buttons and analogies to real life. I think this is what is at the heart of all these iOS 8 initiatives. Apple believes that people are now using iOS 7 to its max and it is now time to add more features, these features will extend what was currently possible and be very natural to use. This is in contrast to Android’s approach which is give them as many features at the start, hope they are not overwhelmed and will figure them all out. And that is what power users love, but it happens to be overwhelming for many users.
Spot on. I think whether by design or sheer serendipity, Apple has perfected a playbook for feature expansion of their devices. For a brand new product, especially if it’s in a brand new category, they will start out with a simple feature set, calibrated just enough so that early adaptors (who tend to be more technologically sophisticated than the average customer) can figure out the functios simply by mucking about the device and yet advanced enough to be fun and interesting, even compelling.
It is very important to get the complexity level just right with this first cohort of customers because: 1. They will be the initial source of word-of-mouth recommendations for the product, and 2. They will be your free and easily accessible tech support for the next round of new customers. If the first cohort decides it doesn’t like the product (too complex, too boring, etc.), that doesn’t necessarily doom it but it just got burdened with a steeper climb towards full consumer acceptance.
Through every round of product upgrades and new additional cohort of customers then, the rate of feature expansion is critical to keeping the word-of-mouth not just favorable but enthusiastic, and maintaining the competency of the corps of free tech support. The latter is critical for attracting new customers to a more mature, hence more complex product. That free tech support provided by the relatives, friends, and even acquaintances could make or break the sale of an iPhone 5s to someone who has never owned a smartphone before.
What I described is not about the quality of the feature set, it’s the rate at which it grows through each product upgrade. We’ve seen it especially with iPod, iPhone, iTV, and iPad. We’ve seen it done very badly with Google Wave and my favorite negative example, Windows Media Edition. It might have been a great product with no bugs whatsoever but a feature dump as big as WME is almost guaranteed to drive prospective customers away. Apple has perfected the art of Mama Bear Feature Expansion. Not to much, not too little, but just right.
This was by accident, in that Steve Jobs was one of the co-founders of Apple. He was one of the few co-founders that was NOT an engineer or programmer by trade. He understood the way a non-programmer’s mind works much better than most others.
“Steve Jobs, Scott Forstall, Tim Cook and Craig Federighi all believed or believe that they were or are “reasonable proxies” for others. The proxies have changed.”
I think most people expected negative consequences from the changing of the guard. Few considered that there might actually be positive consequences. It will take more time for these changes to fully manifest, but I sense so many positives from the subtle changes in the character of Apple.
In the Jobs/Forstall days it seems like collaboration was downplayed, while competition between internal groups was emphasized. With Cook/Federighi that has been reversed. There’s still fierce debate of ideas, but collaboration and openness between groups seems to now exist to a much greater extent.
That attitude of collaboration and openness has now extended to the developer community. I think Apple still considers the customer their highest priority, but developers are now treated more as partners rather than mere tools. Priorities have not changed, attitude has.
Although these changes are subtle, I think they’re also powerful. Gruber and others who have contacts inside Apple have commented that there’s a sense of renewed purpose. They want to prove that it wasn’t all Steve. And they want to discard some of the negative vibe from the Steve ’n Scott days. The developer community senses that and now share that renewed excitement in creating great new products for consumers.
Whither Apple? Onward & upward!
John you say you’re a recovering attorney but you’re not recovering. You still do an infinite amount of research. You can take John out of the profession but you can’t take the profession out of John!
Thank you for your kind words. They are appreciated more than you can know.
“When developers become more important than end users you get — Microsoft.”
No. When nobody has the foggiest idea what to do in the consumer space, you get Microsoft.
I’m beginning to think Tim Cook is the second incarnation of Steve Jobs: somewhat less brilliant but a lot less cranky.
Actually Jobs was the second incarnation. He founded Apple twice.
Yes he did but now it’s like he’s advising Cook, with the changes I mentioned.
One more quote from Steve Jobs towards the end of his life, addressed to Tim Cook: “Don’t do what you think I would do, just do what you think is right.”
Initially there had to be some fear and hesitation: “Are we sure we can figure out what’s right without Steve Jobs being around, and once we do, can we execute it successfully?” I think every Apple employee on the stage at this WWDC was confident that the answers to those questions are “Yes, and yes!” That is a big, positive step for Apple to take.
I think another encouraging sign is hiring Angela Ahrendts and buying Beats. These things imply that Tim Cook “knows what he doesn’t know,” and isn’t afraid to bring in new people to give the organization new knowledge. I also like the idea of “sandboxing” Beats so that Apple can learn from them gradually without either the Apple or Beats way of doing things being damaged in the process.
“Initially there had to be some fear and hesitation.” – Bruce_Mc
I very much respect that opinion but I’m not so sure it’s true. Hear me out.
Many people have suggested that Apple has turned a corner; that they’re re-born; that they’ve had an attitude adjustment. But think about it. Many of the things shown at this keynote were 3, 4 maybe even 5 or more years in the making. (One example would be the Swift programming language that was started 4 years ago.) Perhaps we’re misinterpreting what we’re seeing. Perhaps Apple has not been in mourning; perhaps they haven’t been uncertain; perhaps they haven’t been hesitant to take the reins and steer the company in a new direction. Perhaps, instead, the management and employees at Apple have been grinding their teeth in frustration as they had to wait, wait, wait for the technology they were working to go on line.
Perhaps this isn’t the new Apple at all. Perhaps this is the Apple that grew stronger and taller year after year after year — and suddenly burst into bloom for all to see.
I agree. I think Apple’s confidence stems from knowing that lots of stuff they were working on has finally reached fruition. Tests are being completed, and many many things are falling into place as planned (and hoped for). The devices that are coming this fall are headed to production very soon, with some key component parts likely already in production.
“But think about it. Many of the things shown at this keynote were 3, 4 maybe even 5 or more years in the making.”
I thought about that before posting my comment. There are so many stories about last minute changes in Apple products and plans. The magnetic latch on the Titanium Powerbook. Glass instead of plastic on the first iPhone. Those are two that come to mind quickly.
What was introduced at WWDC this year is likely not the same as what was planned years ago at the start of each project. The same is true for the hardware that will be introduced in fall. There has been plenty of time and opportunities for the current team to put their mark on these older projects.
I definitely agree that there was a lot Apple knew about but couldn’t talk about at last year’s WWDC. And if a larger iPhone shows up this year, that will be cause for relief as well.
We can disagree about how easy or difficult it was to keep going after the loss of Steve Jobs. I don’t have any inside info about it. Everyone seems over it by now, both inside Apple and outside.
A bit off topic: a current leadership change I am fascinated with is the one at Microsoft. Nadella is clearly trying to turn the oil tanker in a different direction without losing too much momentum while doing so. Not an easy job, and it’s interesting to watch him at the wheel.
Nadella says Microsoft isn’t interested in competing with their partners. Clearly they are, so either he’s lying to the public or he’s lying to himself. Either way, his words mean nothing.
Exactly. Is there any doubt that Steve Jobs left a roadmap for at least a decade? And that Apple has planned (and is planning) many years in advance? There seems to be an assumption in much of the analysis of WWDC that Apple has suddenly changed. That is not the case. Most of what we’re seeing today has been in the works for years. Only small details can be changed at the last minute. Things like Swift cannot be cobbled together in six months after a sudden decision to change direction. The broad strokes of Apple’s vision have not changed, we are simply becoming aware of specific elements as they are revealed.
Could not agree more.
“Most of what we’re seeing today has been in the works for years. Only small details can be changed at the last minute.”
I disagree for two reasons. First, projects do change over time. I have a hard time believing that the appearance of the new iOS and OS X are just the way they were planned when Jobs was alive.
Second, projects also get cancelled. Saying no has always been a big part of Apple’s success. What was in the works back in the day that Apple has subsequently said no to?
“Is there any doubt that Steve Jobs left a roadmap for at least a decade?”
I’ll go for five years, but not much more than that.
You misunderstand. Of course projects change over time, some features or projects are changed/cancelled, that is obvious and is not in dispute. But the major items we saw in this WWDC were simply not started six months ago as a reaction to various market forces, they’ve been in the works for years. Did some details change? Of course. But the ‘big picture roadmap’ for what we’re seeing now has been around for a long time.
“I’ll go for five years, but not much more than that. The iMac, iPod, and iPhone were not even on five year roadmaps.”
For some items it might be five years, for some it might be twenty. What I’m talking about is that Jobs (and others at Apple) had/have ideas about jobs-to-be-done, and it could take a long time for the technology to catch up in order to make something available to the masses.
For example, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jobs was thinking about health info, payment systems, home automation, solving TV, the general Apple Network of Things, and lots more. If I can imagine those things and how they fit into the life of a consumer, then certainly Jobs did. Apple has at least a decade of work (or more) to build out all these ideas. It is quite silly to think Apple doesn’t have plans at least ten years out. The Apple Newton dates back to the late 80s for goodness sake!
Now of course things will change, accelerate, stop, etc, as opportunities transition and technology changes, but the big picture ideas are already in existence. Apple knows what problems they want to solve, the hard part is the implementation because that takes a lot of time. Which is exactly my point. Excellent implementation takes years, when Apple finally shows us something, it has been in the works for a long, long time.
I guess I choose to continue to be silly and to misunderstand.
Walter Isaacson’s biography says, “Jobs began pushing for a portable music player in the fall of 2000.” MacTracker app says the iPod was introduced in October 2001. Apple even bought an OS from an outside vendor for the first iPod. The iPod was not the result of long term thinking.
That’s not quite right. The iPod was the result of Apple’s (Jobs) digital hub strategy which was formed in the late 90s (arguably earlier but let’s just say late 90s). The digital music devices at the time were crap and Apple took advantage of the opportunity (which existed because of the digital hub strategy) and ramped up the iPod in a year.
So you are correct about the timeframe of the product itself, but there’s more to it than just the time spent building the product. That’s really the core of my argument, you can never just look at the finished product itself, so much more is behind it.
The iPod is a good example of taking advantage of an opportunity, and that does happen from time to time, but it is the exception, not the rule (and there is often much longer term strategy/thinking behind it). With both iTunes and the iPod, Apple accelerated development by buying key components from outside.
Beats is another good example. The roots of that deal go back many years, but on the surface it looks fast, if that makes sense.
Apple’s long term thinking is not a competitive advantage. Every big tech company has a few people in an office somewhere writing out corporate dreams. It’s Apples ability to execute in the near term that sets them apart.
We obviously disagree on the value of Apple’s long term planning. I think it is incredibly important, coupled with Apple’s patience, obviously.
Looking back, one can see Apple moves forward on only a few major vectors (Jobs used the word “waves”). That requires making strategic decisions.
One can also see how the advances and expertise gained from Apple’s few products complemented and built upon one another. And how Apple didn’t launch some expected products when the technology was available because another step or prong seemingly hadn’t first been established. Because of this, I’m more likely to believe there was/is a longer-term plan in place.
What makes Apple great:
1. Brilliance, Genius – the ability to come up with a new product that people didn’t even know they wanted.
2. Logistics – Great artists ship. Apple more than doubling iPhone production year after year is just insanely great.
3. Corporate culture – The ability to cannibalize existing products and to quickly move the best people from one project to another is a big strength for Apple.
4,5 (tie) – Cafeteria food and long term roadmap
We know from other sources that iPod was an exception; that Jobs completely missed the digital music revolution because he had Apple focused on digital video. Apple was working hard on iMovie and adding DVD-RAM drives to its Macs. Jobs realized his mistake and turned the company on a dime — which led to buying SoundJam, and hiring Tony Fadell to spearhead bringing an iPod device to market in less than a year.
So, without a doubt, there have been and will be future devices/services that Jobs hasn’t included in his 5-year/10-year plans. For example, though Apple began hiring many security/privacy experts while Jobs was alive, I’d believe the fingerprint sensor wasn’t at the forefront of their thinking, and thus, the need to buy Authentec.
Other “exceptions” that “we” know about include iMac and, from the time touch was involved, the iPhone.
I don’t think I’d put iMac on the list (I assume you’re referring to the very first one back in 1998) as Jobs hadn’t been back for long enough to have made a long-term plan.
As for iPhone, Apple was developing a phone (in response to the Motorola ROKR mess), and in parallel, was developing multi-touch for a tablet. So those bigger strokes were in place, and the change was to move the multi-touch technology to a phone first.
A friend mentioned an alternative view of the Authentec acquisition: Apple may have been developing fingerprint sensors as part of their long-term plan, but decided at some point that they had to buy the patents. They may have even planned for a as-late-as-possible purchase of Authentec, so as not to tip off copiers, er, competitors, any earlier than necessary. This kind of interpretation would be analogous to what some believe happened with Apple’s purchase of FingerWorks back in 2005. And might also be what happened with the PrimeSense purchase last year.
You may be on to something. When I saw Extensions, I was like “THIS is how multi-tasking is to be done on Post-PC devices; not multi-windows and stuff.”
And when I saw Continuity, I thought “THIS is how we transition between different form factors and devices, not by converging them into Franken-Devices like the “5-in-1″s that Asus were proudly (proudly!) showing off at Computex.”
“Tim Cook knows what he doesn’t know.” This is a very excellent point. A good leader has to see the weaknesses in his organisation, and the gaps in his own capabilities, and then cover them accordingly.
People always talk about how “Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs” as if it’s purely a bad thing; but now we’re slowly seeing that in quite a few ways, Tim may be a better CEO for Apple than even Steve.
There is no doubt in my mind that Tim Cook IS a better CEO than Steve Jobs. But for all Jobs’ faults — and they were legion — I’d suffer them all again to have Steve back. He was mercurial but his bursts of genius made the roller coaster ride — even with all its stomach churning up and downs — well worth the ride.
I definitely agree.
Absolutely agree. We all miss Steve. He was the one person who truly stood in the intersection of technology and liberal arts/humanities.
1) As a daily iOS user i look forward to iOS 8, which looks to be amazing. And amazingly like Android which is a definite plus.
2) It is pretty comical for Cook to trash the platform Apple is so blatantly copying. If Android was so awful, why include so much of it in iOS 8? Why even talk about Android?
3) Attacking a competitors product is almost never a winnable argument. You never hear the CEO of BMW thrashing yugos. He doesn’t have to, and it would only make him look foolish and petty.
“It is pretty comical for Cook to trash the platform Apple is so blatantly copying” – Anders CT
I’m writing an article on this and I hope it will be done by next weekend. I’ll ruin it by telling you the punchline: With Apple, the “how” is often more important that the “what”.
Thinking about this still (if it means anything, that’s high praise from me to keep me thinking about something). I would go a step further and say the “why” is most important. Apple, I think, does its best to avoid the trap of utilizing, much less creating, technology for the sake of technology. Not that doing so is intrinsically bad or flawed or inferior, that how many things that are utilized come about. And not that Apple is flawless in this pursuit (video on the classic iPod anyone?).
But remembering Jobs’s desire to change the world and his and Apple’s maniacal focus on the end user, the question that needs most to be answered first to Apple, IMHO, “Why do this? Will doing this, adding this, creating this make someone’s life better?” Not just their computing life, but their day to day and moment to moment life. To Apple, empowering the _individual_ is the best way to change the world. This is the pinnacle of Modernity. I know I beat this drum fairly regularly, but it is so blatant to me the philosophy that underpins most all of Apple’s decisions and strategies.
Android may have the feature first, but usually (not always) when Apple finally adds a very similar feature, it will be easier-to-use/intuitive, secure, and conserve battery life. This concept generally goes beyond what most analysts, journalists, and even commenters grasp, but mainstream users readily get it and use it.
Anders, The tech press gives Android/Google a free pass when reporting (compared to Apple). Tim Cook is simply trying to manage the narrative by providing some observations that should be critically examined and reported on but are not.
“Can we make a product that we all want? We think we’re reasonable proxies for others. So those are things we’d ask about any new product category.” ~ Tim Cook
While I “get” (I don’t like grok) what he wants me to think that means, the RDF lingers on…
“Personal by Proxy”, or…”what does your fridge say about you”. /s
Though I often disagree with you on geekery and rigidity of design, at least as far as computers go, this is a very well done article.
“Though I often disagree with you on geekery and rigidity of design, at least as far as computers go, this is a very well done article” – klahanas
You are very gracious. Thanks much.
Le’ts not over generalize though, and especially not fall into the trap of blindly marking checkmarks for stuff that’s deeply different (I’m sure Apple love when we do that though):
– Apple didn’t introduce Widgets (which live on the home screen), but interactive notifications (nidgets ?), which is nice but not the same. Android’s Widgets let you see all relevant info right on your home screen, iOS’s don’t.
– iOS’s extensibility is very limited. The default browser for exemple cannot be changed, I’m not quite sure waht else still cannot either (texts ? AppStore ? Maps ? …?). Again, Apple’s brand of “extensibility” is much more limited.
“Apple didn’t introduce Widgets” ~ obarthelemy
So what? Alexander the great didn’t invent the phalanx either but he damn well near perfected it. Do you want your product to be the first or do you want it to be the best? The answer should be obvious (but obviously, it isn’t).
“iOS’s extensibility is very limited” – obarthelemy
One man’s “limited” is another man’s “safe, secure, ad-free, virus-free and private”. That’s the beauty of the free market. We get to choose the product that is best for us.
Well, you’re making a list, as if Apple now had Widgets and extensibility. They don’t have widgets, and they have very partial extensibility. It’s not a matter or being first vs being best, it’s a matter of actually having the goods.
I thought it was clear what Widgets are. Obviously it isn’t.
Apple used extensibility in the context of inter-app communication/embedding providing extensions to an app’s current functions. It’s not exactly the same as the software design/engineering definition of extensibility, but related.
I tend to think of replacing default apps as replaceability and not having anything to do with software extensibility at all. I suppose it could be seen as OS extensibility.
Apple introduced Widgets on April 29, 2005 in Mac OS X Tiger as mini-applications for its Dashboard. Dashboard is not the Mac home screen but an adjunct screen that could be called up from any application with a click or a swipe. At the time, most thought Widgets were an extension of the Desk Accessory concept Apple introduced in 1984 with the Macintosh OS.
Others had used the term widget prior to 2005, such as “web widget.” In late 2006, the W3C began standardizing the term widget, generally in the context of embedding in a web application. In the mobile world, there existed Java ME widgets, and Google added this type of functionality to Android’s home screen in April 2009.
In summary, the term “widget” refers to small, simple applications (in many different contexts), and has really nothing specifically to do with home screens.
Many of the features haven’t been asked for by the mainstream but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful to said group.
“Many of the features haven’t been asked for by the mainstream but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful to said group.” – lucascott
You’ve reversed what I’ve said. It’s very true that the mainstream don’t ask for what they want or need because they are not the experts in the field and they cannot be expected to make such judgments. That is the job of the computer designer.
However, what I said was that many of the features provided during the keynote were edge cases and not aimed at the mainstream. That, is a very different thing.
Very well put, but those decisions are often too “mainstream influenced” and deprive those on the other side. It need not be so. A premium brand carries premium expectations, not only “mainstream influenced” expectations. More inclusion would be good.
Do I understand that this benefits Apple? Of course. Do I care? Of course not, I’m a buyer.
This confuses me about you. On one hand you say Apple can’t do everything. And then you come along and expect Apple to do everything. That is not the hallmark of “premium” in any industry.
I expect them to have the features everyone else has, add their own, but most importantly not to impede me.
Why would you expect that? Have they given you any reason to expect that?
The state of available devices and features sets my expectations. I expect the premium brand to at least meet that, and to further exceed it. This is in addition to providing a joyous experience. When it comes to computers, being the versatile things that they are, I expect the maximum in versatility for my buck.
Why would I rely on Apple to set my expectations?
Otherwise it is just an irrational leap of faith to expect something of a company that has not promised any such thing.
Just as it’s a leap of faith to entrust someone from whom you are buying to make exclusionary choices for you. Not that I’m accusing you of doing this…
Regardless of expectations, if you expect something from a company that has promised no such thing, it is an irrational, unreasonable Kierkegaardian leap of faith. if I have learned first hand by both research and experience what a company offers, that is an act of faith. I imagine all initial purchases are a leap of faith to some extent, assuming no reasonable experience.
And you said “I expect them…” without Apple giving you reason to expect any such thing. That’s on you.
No it isn’t, whether I buy is on me. I’m the customer. Since they don’t meet my expectations, I don’t buy.
Sounds like a pretty ridiculous definition of “Premium”. That’s a little like expecting a Porsche coupé to have four doors and other features of a mini bus so that it doesn’t “impede” me putting a babyseat in it.
But in Apple’s case, software is very much part of the feature set that is integral to the product. Apple concentrates on a specific feature set and makes the foundations of iOS as strong as possible.
The Android world may seem very broad, while the iOS world may seem very narrow (and thus impeding) at first glance; but the iOS world is far deeper, and much more will be built upon it, stretching far higher.
All the surveys showing what actually gets done with smartphones, places iPhones very high against all Android phones put together (not just on a comparison basis of one Android user to one iOS user). This implies that Android users are indeed “impeded”, because their so-called freedoms and features, though legion and there in theory, are more for the sake of spec lists than any practical use; the presence of many of them is meaningless, due to their poorer implementation and complexity of use.
Therefore, Apple’s vertical integration and narrow/focused but deep approach is actually a strategy that does deliver freedom in any practical sense of the word: and that is already evidenced by the fact that developers have taken the tools and run with them, creating amazing, useable apps that far outrun and eclipse the apps on other platforms. More will follow, as this WWDC has opened some new doors.
Cars are often poor analogies to computers. Here’s where yours breaks down…
A computer is a versatile instrument, a car is a vertically integrated instrument. In computers a Porsche CAN carry a baby seat and a truck CAN outmaneuver and out run a Porsche. That’s exactly a major part of a computer’s beauty and utility.
“The iPhone is premium, because what it does it does better. And though you can compare lists and say it “does less”, its users nevertheless do more with it.”
I wholeheartedly agree that a device that is easier to use, will find greater use. No question. Think of my objections in terms of Apple’s devices are easier to “saturate” in terms of utility and function. Ease of use, in their case, often comes at the expense of “expert features”. It not need be this way.
But you’re also implying that the mainstream won’t find many of these features useful or desirable. I strongly disagree. Third party keyboards especially. Have you seen the top charts in the App Store? There’s several fake little “customize your iPhone” apps that “customize” the status bar or the dock color. I highly suspect that Swype and other third party keyboards will quickly jump to the top of the charts when they launch.
Just because the “geeks” have been the ones demanding these features, doesn’t mean that the mainstream user won’t jump all over these advancements when iOS 8 launches. Like I said in my previous comment, this is exactly what Apple does, they take niche geeky concepts and implement them in an intuitive manner that is safe for the end user. The burden is still on the developer to properly implement the API. Contrast to Android where the gates are completely open and the developer does not have the same burden of responsibility to give the user a safe experience. Craig even emphasized this during the keynote, saying that keyboards will run in the most restrictive sandbox.
“But you’re also implying that the mainstream won’t find many of these features useful or desirable. I strongly disagree. Third party keyboards especially.”
By this time next year, I guarantee you that 80% of Apple iOS user base will not only not use third party keyboards, but they will not have even HEARD of them.
Something like 95 to 98% of buyers of desktop, laptop and mobile computers never change their systems options EVER. NOT EVEN ONE, NOT EVEN ONCE.
We geeks always overestimate the attractiveness of geekiness. Most people are more than satisfied with the default settings.
I know geeks that still prefer iPhone’s keyboard to any Android offering. Not all geeks are created equal. Mostly, but not all.
“Apple knows that simplifying a product has nothing to do with eliminating features and everything to do with eliminating the burden of decision making from its users.”
From an artistic director of a company I once worked for:
“Less, perfectly served, is often just right”
I wouldn’t say Apples become “geekier” at all. Apples specialty has always been to make “geeky” things approachable and intuitive. Everything in iOS 8 is no different. Apple has done things like this countless times on OSX. Just look at Automator. They made an intuitive automation tool for average users to use without learning a scripting language. Extensions in iOS 8 (and OSX) is no different, the burden is still placed on the developer to properly implement the API so the end user can’t get themselves into trouble. In fact, they’re even deprecating Dashboard in favor of OSX Extensions, which is LESS “open.” Apps must use the Extensions API and be in the Mac App Store in order to get a widget in Notification Center. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dashboard completely gone in the next version of OSX.
Apple has always been laser focused on creating the most powerful platform for end users, and the richest development environment for developers. WWDC 14 shows that Apple is still very committed to these goals.
“They made an intuitive automation tool for average users to use without learning a scripting language.”
Almost nobody uses it. I rest my case.