That Steve Jobs was a product marketing genius should be obvious based on Apple’s current line of products, and the company’s enormous profitability. Jobs and his genius are gone. The next great thing isn’t in sight. So, is Apple really, truly, deeply doomed?
Genius vs. Opportunity
To hear the technology pundits decry Apple’s seeming lack of innovation since Jobs died, you could be excused for thinking that he designed, manufactured and personally distributed every Mac, iPhone, and iPad in the 21st century.
Jobs was a genius and visionary, yes. How about if we try to get over that and realize two things. First, Jobs had the vision of what needed to be. Second, Jobs had the power to make it happen.
Is there anyone else at Apple with vision and power?
Think about that question for a moment. Is there? The answer is obvious. Not on the surface; not that we can see, and, frankly, because Apple is Apple and secretive by nature, we cannot see much of what is going on behind the scenes.
Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, of course, but Apple hasn’t exactly suffered under his reign, has it? The company is prosperous, products have improved (look at Macs, iPhones, iPads now vs. those launched by Jobs), but where Jobs disrupted markets, Tim Cook has merely managed the operation.
Innovation vs. Disruption
Closer analysis shows that Apple has disrupted other markets, including how tech products are sold at retail (look at the copycat retail stores by Microsoft and Samsung), and how software is distributed (nothing competes with iTunes, or Apple’s app stores).
What has not happened under Tim Cook’s watch is a new product category; a new industry disruption. Innovation and progress, yes, disruption, no. At least, not yet. It’s not as though Steve Jobs disrupted industries with a new product line every few years, as if on some kind of schedule.
The Mac launched in 1984. The iPod in 2001, 17 years later. The iTunes Store didn’t launch until 2003 and took five years to become the dominant standard. The iPhone launched in 2007, but the iPad didn’t hit the streets until 2010.
Since then, crickets.
That Apple is doomed to failure or a repeat of the Windows vs. Mac wars of the 1980s and 1990s is a shortsighted argument that overlooks the obvious. Apple is busy working on iterative innovations to the current product line, and likely very busy on transformative disruptions of other industry segments.
And Apple doesn’t care much whether technology pundits think the company is doomed. There are other geniuses at Apple and they’re busy doing something. But what?
iWatch, iGlasses, iWear, iTelevision, and iPayments are just a few opportunities that come to mind. They’re all large, viable business segments, but nobody rules any of them; no single company is leading the future or even changing the present.
He Said What?
Donald Drapkin, the founder of Casablanca Capital has an opinion on Apple.
I think Carl is right about Apple, they should give back the $159 million [sic], and it is trading at a ridiculously low multiple.
Shades of Michael Dell on what Apple should have done way back when, right? For a guy sitting on a pile of other people’s money, Drapkin doesn’t have much imagination.
If you look at the last earnings release, the iPod is disappearing. People worry that the iPhone is going to disappear, mainly for the same reason, that there’s tremendous competition.
Yeah, the Mac has and has always had tremendous competition, yet it owns half the PC industry’s profits. It’s a good thing Apple didn’t listen to that kind of advice.
And the iPad, which is a brilliant product, is also coming up against tremendous competition. So while the company is going to earn money for a long period of time, and is terrific, I think Carl’s right, I just don’t think without Steve Jobs there’s that next great thing.
Does that not sound like a wealthy man with little imagination? If not Apple, whom?
I think Google has the guys that create the next great thing.
I spit up a $7 latte all over my iPad when I read that. Google? Beyond a search engine with targeted advertising, what product has Google ever made successful for any company other than Samsung?
See? More crickets. Even Android’s huge marketshare has not translated into success for any company not named Samsung. Google makes public plenty of projects the company is working on while Apple remains quiet. Yet it’s Apple with both the reputation and the genius to actually bring products to market.