Much of the criticism over certain product shortcomings is well deserved as Apple hasn’t exactly caught the collective world’s hair on fire with anything new since the iPhone in 2007. There have been glimmers of hope. Mac Pro. iPod Pro. Watch. AirPods. But the dearth of product hits in nearly a decade has many calling for Apple to spin off the Mac, or reduce the produce line to something the company’s aging executives can manage while tooling around in expensive cars or hobnobbing with government elite around the world.
Do. Not. Simplify.
There are times when a solution to a massive problem stars us right in the face and you just can’t see the forrest for the trees. Way back in the day, back to when Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the company was a mess of products, and losing money by the truckload every day.
Jobs trimmed the product line. Out went the printers and cameras and the Newton and beige and plenty of engineers and executives who didn’t like his leadership style. Jobs slashed products because most of them were not making any money, most were a drain on engineering talent, and most customers– remember, that was back when Apple and the Mac were synonymous– were fully confused about the Mac’s product line.
Jobs outlined his short-term vision. A consumer Mac notebook, and a professional Mac notebook. A consumer Mac desktop, and a professional level Mac desktop. Consumer. Professional. The quadrant graphic was beautiful, instantly understood, and brought clarity and focus to Apple’s manufacturing and marketing efforts.
The rest is history, so to speak, and today Apple is the most valuable company on planet earth, and has 1-billion customers who love the products. But shortly after the quadrant made its appearance at a Macworld Expo event, Jobs through the idea out the door. Along came the iMac, then Apple Stores, the Mac Cube, iTunes, the iPod, the iTunes Music Store, the iPhone, the iPad.
So much for a simple product line, right?
Today there are calls for Apple to simplify the Mac line again. MacBook as the entry-level Mac, MacBook Pro for, well, pros. Small screen iMac with larger screen and more powerful iMac. And, to keep it simple, kill the Mac Pro and the Mac mini.
I have a problem with that extreme, but I understand the sentiment. Critics say both Mac Pro and Mac mini are already dead and won’t see a refresh in 2017. That’s too bad. The Mac Pro has a crazy price tag and can’t easily be upgraded. Ditto for the Mac mini. Change that, Apple. The company’s product line elsewhere seems cluttered with a mishmash of models. Take the iPad line. Please.
There are two iPad Pro models that use Pencil, but nothing else iPad does. There’s an aging iPad Air 2 not updated in a few years, an iPad mini 4 with Touch ID, also not updated in awhile, and a very aging iPad mini 2. This is easily fixed. 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Pencil. 10.9-inch iPad Pro with Pencil. iPad Pro mini with pencil. That’s the high end of the line. To attract the budget hungry crowd, add both a 10.9-inch iPad and a 7.9-inch iPad mini. That’s it. Oh, and make them all micro-bezel and running the latest Apple designed A-Series CPUs. Stop shortchanging the customer by selling old products as new.
What about iPhone?
On the surface, it appears simple. iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, then the comparable iPhone 6s models from last year at a lower price, and the entry-level iPhone SE. Predictability and surprises must go hand in hand. Next year, introduce a new entry-level iPhone SE with the 4-inch display and do it every year. You have the parts and the price is competitive with Android plastic, despite the screen size. In 2017, introduce the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus instead of an iPhone 7s or 7s Plus. That whole ‘s’ thing is getting old. The newer models get the most colors. The mid-range models from last year get fewer colors, fewer and lower storage options, and the entry-level model fewer colors still.
Color sells. And that’s too bad because it makes for an inventory nightmare, so, Apple, don’t go all crazy on colors; add a few, drop a few. Keep it simple.
As much as we might like a simpler, less seemingly cluttered product line at Apple, the reality is this. Apple sells a few hundred billion dollars in gadgets each year. Name another company that does that. Apple’s product line is full of profitable products. All of them make money, despite the extensive variations and inventory nightmare. Kill the Mac? That’s stupid. The Mac is hugely profitable. Dump Watch? Why? It’s like owning Rolex.
Instead, simply improve each product on a timely and consistent basis. Apple does this with iPhone. Every year, like clockwork; new iOS, new iPhones. What about Mac? What about iPad? What about Watch? There’s no rhyme or reason to any of Apple’s other product release schedules because it’s Apple we’re talking about here, right?
We do what we want, when we want, and how we want, because we’re Apple.
Perhaps. And perhaps that worked back in the day, but that was then and this is now, and Apple has a growing number of customers who have moved onto other product lines without an Apple logo.
iPhone sales are down. iPad sales are down. Mac sales are down. Watch might be doing OK during the holiday season, but Watch isn’t exactly catching the world on fire, iPod wise. Revenue is down and profits are down. That means some of those 1-billion customers are not happy with the product line as it is and have found solutions elsewhere.
Forget merely simplifying the product line, Apple. Get better at building products customers want to own; products so good that new customers arrive in numbers greater than the falling customer numbers you have now.