Whatever Apple’s strategy may be for current products or future products, it’s not exactly visible. Last week I read an interesting analysis that said Apple’s strategy in the ‘smart home’ race is threatened by Amazon. Maybe so. Maybe not. But whatever the strategy may be, can you see what it is or where it’s likely to lead the company?
Apple’s business strategy– as much of it as can be seen– seems to be more of maintaining status quo– profits, bonuses, dividends, buybacks– than it does venturing into the great unknown of technology’s future. Amazon gets kudos for Echo and Alexa leading the way, but Apple has sold as many Watches at more money each, and that venture is considered by the same critics as pretty much a failure.
So, what is Apples strategy?
Profits And Bonuses
We have to remember that Apple is a hardware company. Despite price tags on a few software packages in the past, Apple has always been a hardware company. That’s where the profit is. Apple has some services– media and applications– but those directly support the hardware first model. If Apple is all about hardware, then where is Apples hardware future?
Hardware introduced under Steve Jobs’ reign from 1997 to his death in 2011 was a laundry list of the technology we all know and love and use today. Mac. iPod. iTunes. iPhone. App stores. iPad. Since his death Apple has introduced newer versions of every product, plus the Watch and more recently AirPods. What did I miss? Oh, yeah. Apple bought Beats for headphones and music subscription services.
I worry more that Apple’s executives have been devoting too much time to trials and dispositions in various lawsuits, then rewarding themselves for their efforts with high pay and bonuses, all the while anesthetizing shareholders with buybacks and dividends, a series of actions which leaves customers wanting product upgrades and advancements that somehow are in a pipeline somewhere but which take many years to see the light of day.
Yes, the iPhone gets upgraded on schedule every year. It should because it’s Apple’s cash cow. It’s not as if the Mac or iPad or anything else Apple sells are anemic; they’re merely anemic by comparison. They all are profitable beyond their competitors. But even the iPhone has plenty of inferior components; other smartphones have better cameras, higher resolution screens, longer battery life, and all the major third party applications most of us use these days are also available on Android smartphones and tablets.
The MacBook Pro received a much criticized upgrade late last year, but the Mac Pro, introduced in 2013 has never seen a single upgrade. The Mac mini and iMac both are in need of upgrades. Half the iPad line has not been upgraded in a couple of years, and the high end iPad Pro models suffer from technology introduced in 2015.
What Of The PA?
Siri was launched with iPhone 4s back in 2011 and exists on over 1-billion iPhones, iPads, and Macs. What does Siri do as a personal assistant? So far, decent dictation and a few parlor tricks, yet it’s Amazon’s Echo and Alexa which get the rave reviews despite running on only a few million devices. Somehow, Echo has carved out a home strategy niche in the minds of technology watchers that has Apple on its collective heels with everyone wondering what happened to HomeKit.
Amazon claims about 250 devices already are certified to work with Echo and Alexa, while Apple’s HomeKit– on the market far longer– has only a few dozen certified devices. That tells me that Apple’s famed control freak mentality has gone into overdrive and the company is moving at a snail’s pace compared to competitors.
CEO Tim Cook needs to find Steve Jobs’ whip and then learn how to use it. Sure, Apple knows how to make money hand over fist, but mostly on the products Jobs built, not those Cook inspired.