Someone once said, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’ In a world wrought with a constant stream of social and technological change, how do we view Apple today vs. the Apple of yesteryear?
Is the Apple of today much different than the Apple that built the Mac, the iPod, iTunes, and the iPhone? Or, is Apple morphing into an entirely different kind of company?
Apple, We Hardly Knew Ye
My history with Apple goes back a couple of decades, back to the era where it looked as if Apple would not survive Windows, but was pulled out of the ashes by co-founder Steve Jobs.
There are few Apple products from the past two decades that I have not used. I’ve been excited and exasperated.
Allow me to state up front that, from my perspective, through the years, Apple has become more like Apple, and not less like the Apple we knew and loved.
This is especially true during the second coming of Steve Jobs, but it appears that even now the ghost of Jobs reigns over the company.
How so? Isn’t Apple different now with CEO Tim Cook at the helm than it was under Jobs? Not much. Under Cook, Apple is somewhat kinder and gentler and more social than under Jobs.
I’m doubtful that Jobs would have approved of the stock buyback plan that Cook cooked up, but that has little to do with how Apple reflects itself to customers.
Under Jobs, Apple launched then ditched the Xserve, an entry into the enterprise which didn’t fare well. Under Jobs, Apple cut the price of the iPhone to stimulate demand when it met with supply. Under Jobs, users experienced more than a few disasters. MobileMe comes to mind. Under Cook, it was Apple Maps.
Apple’s strength, then, as now, is the integration of well designed and functional hardware with software that’s usable by mere humans. Hardware and software designs at Apple came from different groups. In the new Apple they’re melded under iconic designer and Jobs’ buddy, Jony Ive.
Steve Jobs didn’t hesitate to ax deputies or disparage or discard those that didn’t meet with his approval, or which caused the company distress. Fred Anderson comes to mind. Tim Cook was quick to dismiss Jobs’ protege Scott Forstall when Apple Maps reached fiasco stage.
Apple, under Jobs, was amazingly disciplined and launched products that the company preferred, rather than kneel to the demands of tech media pundits. The PC netbook comes to mind. Apple skipped that fad and the Mac is the most profitable of all PC computers.
Back in the day, Apple took risks. The iPod was Mac only, not Windows. Apple dumped the IBM Motorola PowerPC coalition for Intel CPUs when those company’s wouldn’t bend to Jobs’ will. Today, Samsung is getting dumped as a component vendor because it dared to compete with Apple’s products.
Through the years under Jobs, Apple doggedly avoided the trappings of marketshare, instead maintaining margins and profits that are the envy of the PC, tablet, and smartphone industry. That remains the same under cook.
Jobs received high marks for being a charismatic showman, though I think that had more to do his storied history than actual charisma. Jobs wasn’t a great speaker but commanded attention during keynotes because of his insightful commentary. That said, Apple’s trinity of executives– Cook, Schiller, and Ive– still captivate, though they do not inflame.
What’s missing today is the ‘one more thing‘ that had Apple followers salivating for the next insanely great product. I miss that. There’s still time for Tim Cook to bring it to the masses as Apple rolls out new products this fall. ‘One more thing‘ is a comfortable throwback to the past that incites followers today. If Tim Cook can pull that off in the coming months, Apple will be fine, and all is right with the world.