In the original movie, Kansas native and prepubescent Dorothy was told The Wizard of Oz could get her safely back home and she endured plenty of trials and tribulations before making it to Oz to face the Wizard who refused to grant her requests. Toto, Dorothy’s dog, pulled back the curtain to reveal that the Wizard was a charlatan, pretending to project a fearsome image.
How is that like Apple, circa 2016? Read on.
Great And Powerful Oz
The Wizard shouted to Dorothy and her friends, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” Why? Because the Wizard didn’t want anyone to know he was just a man, lost in Oz himself, and no capable of helping Dorothy. So it seems to be with CEO Tim Cook who appears lost in his role as head of the world’s most valuable company, the Wizard of technology, Apple Inc.
The company’s products still appear to be Apple-like, but it should be obvious the company is somewhat lost and definitely unfocused in recent years. Sure, new products are well designed and desirable, but there are problems with each new product, each new launch, and where the company is going not even the brainy Scarecrow knows.
What about Edward Snowden? Regardless of whether you think of Snowden as the people’s hero or a soon-to-be captured and convicted felon, he risked his life to expose the U.S. government’s misdeeds against friendly governments and worse, against its own citizens. So it is with Apple loyalists and experienced Mac users. Just as the Wizard of Oz created an undue and undeserved mystique around his rule, for years CEO Tim Cook has talked about the company’s product pipeline, and each year Apple spends many billions of dollars on research and development, but it seems as if most of those promised products remain a promise buried in the pipeline.
Since Steve Jobs died in 2011, what hath Cook wrought?
Sinking revenue and profits, Apple Watch, and AirPods (which just started shipping). Yes, every year we get new iPhone models, and they’re good, of course, but mostly variations on a theme. Ditto for the iPad Pro. It’s a great device, but the only new aspect of the premier tablet is the Pencil. Apple TV? Apps help, yes, but changing channels with apps is a painful un-Apple-like user experience vs. a standard cable TV connection which is instantaneous.
Tim Cook has become The Wizard of Oz. And I’m not the only one with that sentiment.
Mark Gurman on Tuesday:
Interviews with people familiar with Apple’s inner workings reveal that the Mac is getting far less attention than it once did. They say the Mac team has lost clout with the famed industrial design group led by Jony Ive and the company’s software team. They also describe a lack of clear direction from senior management, departures of key people working on Mac hardware and technical challenges that have delayed the roll-out of new computers.
Music and video guru Peter Kirn:
This is a company with no real vision for what its most creative users actually do with their most advanced machines
Apple VP of Marketing Phill Schiller four years ago:
Nobody turns over their entire line as quickly and completely as we do at Apple. We’re really proud of the engineering team and the work they do to do this quick so you can get the exact product you need.
The Mac Pro hasn’t been upgraded at all in three years, and only the MacBook Pro has seen more than a middling refresh since then.
Tim Cook this week:
The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world.
Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.
No mention of the Mac Pro, or the Mac mini, or why the aging MacBook Air remains an embarrassment within the product line when compared with Windows PC notebooks.
Apple developer Marco Arment:
Reading between the lines: the Mac Pro is very likely dead. To Tim Cook, the iMac is the desktop, period.
Goodbye, Mac Pro. Goodbye, Mac mini.
Tim Cook speaking as the Wizard of Oz:
I think it’s that ‘change the world’ attitude and boldness that’s deeply embedded in our culture, that ‘good isn’t good enough.’ All of this is the fuel for everything else that we do.
I use The Wizard of Oz to criticize Apple’s recent dearth of new products and innovation, and the obvious problems in the Mac line, but also because the Wizard fulfilled the needs of the Scarecrow with a diploma, the Lion got a medal, and the Tin Man received a heart-shaped watch, but he left Dorothy on her own before leaving Oz completely. Tim Cook, as the Wizard, seems content to give money back to Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man shareholders, and spend tens of billions to buy back AAPL stock, but can’t afford or can’t bother to improve the Mac lineup. How is Cook different than the Wizard?
What saved Dorothy from living in Oz forever? Divine intervention. Glinda returned and instructed Dorothy to tap her Ruby Slippers together three times and repeat, ‘There’s no place like home.’ It was a fitting ending but the Wizard of Oz didn’t help Dorothy at all. Likewise, Tim Cook seems intent on maintaining the status quo, so it should be obvious that Mac, iPhone, and iPad users will need divine intervention to get new products that wow the customer base again.