Color me a firm believer in perspective. I believe that humans have the right to their opinions, and regardless of how stacked the facts might be, it’s likely most of us view the same thing differently.
Let’s take Apple as my test case. Apple’s numbers– relative to competitors– are stellar; great balance sheet, incredible profits. That’s one perspective. Another is that Apple has enormous debt, and revenue is going down. One positive, one negative, both true. Here’s another. Apple is a grown up company and a growing number of people don’t like that.
Wherefore Art Thou, Child?
Shakespeare’s phrase may be misused here, but the meaning is not. For much of co-founder and resurrection artist Steve Jobs’ early years in the second coming, Apple was synonymous with the Mac; the underdog we knew and loved, the company that bravely stood up against the Wintel status quo despite all odds, the company that always hung by a thread, just a step or two away from being a footnote in the history of computing, much as the iPod is now.
A funny thing happened along the way to the 21st century and reality. Apple’s once heart and soul, Steve Jobs, got old and sick and died. Oh, and Apple grew up. I don’t like the grown up Apple.
They say wisdom comes with age and perhaps Apple under CEO Tim Cook is wiser than the company ever was in days gone by– it’s certainly richer than Jobs ever dreamed– but the youthful exuberance and hubris epitomized by Apple’s co-founder and was part of the charm seems to have been lost.
Cook has been running Apple’s operations since coming on board back in the last century. Marketing guru Phil Schiller has been on the company’s executive leadership team since 1997. Design honcho Jony Ive has been at Apple even longer. While the company has more diversity among management ranks than ever, the most youthful presence belongs to software leader Craig Federighi who came to Apple from Jobs’ NeXT in 1996.
What’s missing from Apple these days is the in-your-face hubris Jobs brought to the executive suite; an attitude about putting a dent in the universe that seems to be missing in Apple circa 2016.
One can argue that Apple has grown fat and rich; able to squeeze profits from an aging product line, but unable to capture the imagination of customers who yearn for the hope and surprise of ‘one more thing.‘
To be honest, Apple’s products remain wonderful examples of modern hardware technology in the computer age; iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were surprises based upon dampened expectations; whether market driven or Apple inspired. The new MacBook Pro models would be drool worthy if not for the fact that even more exciting technology is available elsewhere for less. Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL phones take better photos and can charge up to 70-percent in 15-minutes and compare favorably against the new iPhone line.
Microsoft gets kudos for re-inventing the personal computer that Apple invented; giving it a touchscreen which compares well in television commercials if not in real life– and all the way up to a desktop PC that doubles as a giant drawing tablet. Whether the market responds positively or not remains to be seen, but Apple is viewed as the status quo while competitors try on the innovator’s hat.
To be brutally honest, as much as I remain impressed with Apple’s market position I have come to view the company more as an adult without a sense of humor and lacking an obvious raison d’être, than the Apple that wowed customers with ‘one more thing’ and re-invented whole swaths of the technology industry, seemingly on-the-fly and by-the-seat-of-Jobs-pants.
Look at the company’s cash hoard, product line, and executive staff. The company now suffers from a wealth of riches but needs to be driven as if it all ends on the next big bet. As a company, Apple is a grown up and I don’t like it.