Was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passionate about Apple and the products the company created under his realm? Along with his passion Jobs had an eye for good design. Those two traits made Apple the powerhouse electronic product leader of the 21st century.
Yet, Jobs knew that any technology company with passion and design for great products also needed manufacturing, engineering, and supply chain expertise. That’s where engineer Tim Cook put his mark on Apple. My perspective as an Apple customer, watcher, and sometimes critic, tells me the traditional order for Apple’s success has been passion first, coupled closely by design, and made workable by engineering and manufacturing.
Chicken Or Egg?
Ideally, and Apple has some evidence of this taking place, great products would come from a balanced blend of vision, passion, design, engineering, and manufacturing, business components that set a company apart from competitors.
In the past few years something has changed. Apple’s famous design aesthetic has been copied incessantly by Chinese knockoff makers; PCs look like Macs, Android smartphones look like iPhones, and with the exception of Microsoft’s surface, most tablets look like iPads. In the meantime, Apple hasn’t excited the masses with a new product since, well, I’m not sure when.
Watch sells in respectable numbers but only until those numbers are compared– unfairly, of course– to iPhone’s sales records. The MacBook probably sells in respectable numbers, too, but it’s also the only new model to grace the shelves in years. Apple doesn’t even sell a 5k displays to complement the beautiful but neglected Mac Pro.
In some respects, Apple’s competitors have advanced the state of the art beyond Apple’s own territory. New Windows PCs are thinner, lighter, and faster than anything Apple makes. Chinese smartphones have hardware that meets or exceeds the iconic iPhone at less than half the price. Despite the iPad Pro, iPad sales continue to decline.
What’s missing at Apple 2016?
If previous success was defined as an elegant blend of vision, passion, design, engineering, and manufacturing capability, then something is out of whack at Apple. Where’s the vision? Or, put another way, where’s the visionary? Design honcho Jonny Ive seems absent, while manufacturing gurus Tim Cook and Jeff Williams have squeezed the company’s processes so hard that Apple drips with profits even while the product line languishes as yesterday’s news. The engineering talent at Apple has brought us many wonderful innovations in recent years; from Touch ID to 3D Touch to Force Touch to industry leading graphics performance, but they’re sold alongside products that have antique screen resolution, or haven’t seen even a modest upgrade in years.
Something is out of balance at Apple. Who’s the visionary? Where’s the passion? The designs are beautiful, yes, but are no longer easily differentiated from copycat competitors. Engineering and manufacturing prowess abounds, but seems more in tune with massive gross margins and profits than in devices that excite the customers and calm the critics.
Apple needs more mojo.