Let’s face the facts and call it like it is. Apple has a maturity problem. Our favorite Mac maker’s meteoric rise and resurrection carried a certain brash hubris totally befitting an underdog computer maker which fought the fine fight against far greater technology giants.
Those days are gone. Apple is the technology giant, not the upstart with an attitude. Apple is maturing as a company and that means change. Change for good, yes. And change that’s not necessarily an improvement for the future. Here’s why.
40 Is Middle Age
Apple as a company turned 40 a few days ago, and if most of us live, on average, into 80-ish or so, that makes Apple a middle-aged company. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in his second coming, the company was a still a teenager at 18. Today Apple is 40 and is run by an aging gentleman who has enough money to retire several times over.
Those gifted with youth make decisions and conduct their daily business far differently than those who are afflicted with experience. Steve Jobs was willing to take risks with a younger Apple than Tim Cook, who measures his steps more carefully, and exercises his position of responsibility with visible care.
It was Steve Jobs who guided Apple into OS X, then the risky retail stores, then iPod and iTunes. All considered as decisions with great risk. Jobs created and managed the environment at Apple that moved the company away from anemic PowerPC chips and into Intel Inside. It was Jobs that took the risk to launch iPhone and iPad, to buy a chip design company, and set the stage for Apple to become the world’s richest and most valuable company.
All of that occurred before Apple hit 30.
Today’s Apple under Tim Cook is focused less on risky new product moves with potentially great payback than it is on being a good corporate and social citizen. It is Cook who led the company to introduce stock buybacks and dividend payments. It is Cook who led the company to create clean energy and product initiatives. It is Cook who gives Apple a visible public conscience.
If Steve Jobs was the genius child executive, it is Tim Cook who is the mature, middle-aged leader, and that, combined with four decades of product designs and now over one billion customers, makes Apple a mature company.
What’s wrong with that? Maturity is good, right?
While one can remain a genius from childhood and adolescence to old age, it often seems as if a genius does his best work while young. That was true of Apple in the 1980s. It was true when a young-at-heart co-founder returned to the company in the late 1980s and set Apple on a remarkable product growth period. The youthful vigor and risk-taking that Jobs brought to Apple left with Jobs’ passing five years ago.
Since then, Apple’s only new product of substance is Watch; a wonderful device yes, but still an iPhone accessory, and a device which has not caught the public’s fancy the way the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad have.
Apple has a maturity problem and it’s not likely to go away. Ever.