Young companies move and change quickly; sometimes by vision, sometimes by market necessity, sometimes simply to escape catastrophic death from misdeeds and bad decisions or competition. Apple has gone through every change expected of a company started by brash young men and now controlled by middle-aged white men.
Go West, Young Man
Apple’s entire history as a company– from startup in a garage to gargantuan technology behemoth with riches beyond compare– as been one of disruptive, innovative changes which have placed the company’s logo on a steady stream of modern products; Apple II, Mac, iPod and iTunes Music Store, iPhone, iPad, even Watch.
Along the way, Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs often was willing to bet the farm on the next great thing (and he missed a few revolutions, too), an attitude that remains far removed from today’s Apple where change is incremental far more frequently than monumental. Jobs was quick to ditch the Apple II, Apple II, and even the Lisa in favor of the Mac. Upon his return in 1997, Jobs axed dozens of products and projects to get Apple into shape sufficient to build upon past successes while setting about to invent the future.
If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.
— Eubie Blake
Apple took great risks during Jobs’ tenure. Mac Cube. iMac. Apple Stores. iTunes. iPod. The switch to Intel Inside the Mac. iPhone. iPad. Even Watch is said to have heritage from Jobs’ health issues years ago.
The Adult Apple
On the surface, the Apple of 2016 seems far less juvenile and exciting than Apple of just a decade or so ago. Apple under Tim Cook is about supply chain economics, manufacturing prowess, design esthetics, incremental product improvements, dividends, stock buybacks, and public relations (Cook hobnobs with government officials far more than Apple’s co-founder) than it is about taking a risk to move the state of the art forward.
Lord save us all from old age and broken health and a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.
— Mark Twain
If Jobs was about risks that paid off and moved both technology and company forward, Cook is about managing and mitigating risk regardless of the potential payoff and sometimes in spite of it.
Apple of 2016 is an adult, and not just a young adult. A 40-year-old adult of the kind that worries about investments and property and proper attire vs. earth shattering changes to the technology that will advance mankind.
Apple of 2016 has begun to put on a few pounds, takes much longer to make decisions on products and strategy, and like more than a few of the top executives, needs to exercise more frequently to avoid the growing paunch that comes with middle age.
In youth we run into difficulties. In old age difficulties run into us.
— Beverly Sills
Watch is a great product and much beloved by many millions of Apple’s customers, but it’s a perfect example of a safe product that doesn’t blaze itself, the company, or customers into new territory; Watch is an extension and, therefore, an accessory to iPhone. Otherwise, what has Apple done that is fully, wholly, completely unique– a risk taken– since Jobs’ health problems curtailed his day to day efforts to move the company forward?
I long for a brash, combative, agitating Apple that works against the grain of mediocrity and shows defiance in the face of encroaching middle age.
How young can you die of old age?
— Steven Wright