Alright, you’ve been a Mac user for awhile and you have opinions on what Apple should be doing to the PC for the rest of us. But consider this. Apple has nearly ten times the number of customers who have never ever used a Mac, but have used iPhone and iPad.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and took the reigns of the beleaguered company, one of the first things he did was kill of an assorted laundry list of peripheral products and focus attention where it was deserved. The Mac. That was Apple’s bread and butter but not its future.
The iPhone Company
To be fair about the Mac as Apple’s flagship product, that hasn’t always been the case. It was from the 1980s to the early part of this century, but the iPod and iTunes music store is what brought Apple to the non-Mac masses. At one time, Apple had more iPod customers running iTunes on Windows than it did on the Mac. With the iPod, the Mac began to become a second class citizen and that hasn’t changed.
I know Apple has tens of thousands of employees, but a large chunk of those are involved in the retail operations. This is my guess about how Apple handles products. The company has a core of engineers and designers and developers– not more than a few hundred total– who run around the company, hopping from one product to another, juggling precious time and resources, to implement changes for future updates and upgrades.
Think about that situation for a moment.
My hypothesis explains why some software and hardware goes for years without much attention, then a new model pops up on the market, often without fanfare or executive attention. The new iPad Air 3 is a good example (that’s not the actual name, but it fits). New iMacs? The engineers and designers are busy on the iPhone. New Mac Pro? Ditto. They’ll start. Just as soon as they’re done with the next generation… insert the product you’re waiting for here… Apple gadget.
Apple’s once flat organizational structure was great for a company with a handful of products. The small line of Macs and iPods. But it should be obvious to everyone, including Apple, that a seemingly flat organizational structure isn’t churning out new products as fast, or even upgrading products as fast as it once did. Yes, every Apple product makes money, but the iPhone is Apple’s bread and butter and accounts for nearly 70-percent of revenue and profits, so guess which product among the many gets the most attention and resources?
iPhones are upgraded every year, like clockwork. What else? Nothing. Some Macs go for years without an upgrade or even a minor speed bump. Ditto for the iPad Pro. The most notable change in years is the $329 price tag on the latest iPad. Otherwise, iPad is same old, same old.
Apple sells hardware to make money. Software and services go along for the ride. Hardware is the sugar daddy. A hardware company needs more hardware to grow and prosper. Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, Watch, Apple TV, AirPods and Beats headphones all contribute to the bottom line, but also make Apple a more fragmented company. Sure, these products work well together, perhaps more than any competitors products, but the future is a demanding mistress and requires more products. Apple hasn’t done much yet in the home, yet if ever there was a time and place in the space time continuum ripe for a walled garden of secure devices, it’s the home. And what are Apple’s famed engineers, designers, and software developers doing these days? Getting ready for the next iPhone.
Technology gadgets of today are complex, complicated, and often do not play nice nice with each other. The future will only bring more technology product fragmentation, not less. Apple is the curator of premium products in an era of growing fragmentation fraught with security and privacy issues; the company we depend upon to bring order and organization to a complex technology world. That means more products. Apple has riches beyond compare, more profits than many competitors combined, and save the iPhone, it cannot upgrade many products on a timely basis. Apple has the money but cannot generate the needed resources. Why not? Are resources that scarce? Or, is Apple becoming timid and misguided?
Fragmented technology will only become more so and we need a company who can design and build ever more products that work well together give customers the privacy and security we all want and need.
Is Apple that company?