How many products does Apple sell? If you answered “a few dozen” then you’re pretty close. Among the major product lines there’s iPhone, iPad, Mac, Watch, Apple TV, AirPods and Beats headphones, and a growing list of accessories and services.
Those don’t count. Accessories come in an abundance of styles and variations, and there’s a rich cottage industry that provides even more. Apple’s major products bring in the major revenue, but I argue that Apple’s customers need even more product choices.
Pro, Consumer, Mobile, Etc.
Not long after co-founder Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he divided up the basic product line into a four quadrant product grid. Back in those days, of course, it was all Mac, so the grid was Consumer and Professional, and Desktop and Portable. That grid just won’t work these days, because almost everything Apple sells is portable.
Go down the list. Mac notebooks, iPad, iPhone, AirPods, Beats headphones– all are as portable as you can get. Even the professional line has changed because so-called professionals use all those devices in their work– from Mac to iPhone to iPad, and about the only difference between Pro and Consumer is the price tag, which simply evokes how much storage or RAM is in each device.
It’s not my intent to mess with Jobs’ four quadrant product grid– that’s dead already– and it’s not my job to tell Apple CEO Tim Cook who is a professional user and what they need (although I think someone should have pointed out how bad the Mac Pro was for professionals), but I can tell you that Apple’s customers need more product choices and Apple can afford to give it to us.
This perspective applies to all of Apple’s major hardware products, but let me use the Mac as an example. We can choose from the diminutive Mac mini, or a few models of iMac, plus multiple notebooks, and the Mac Pro still exists. For now. Unlike Steve Jobs who seemed completely unafraid to make a new product compete with current products, Apple 2017 doesn’t seem to appreciate internal competition.
That explains why the Mac mini was dumbed down a few years ago. I say we need an entry-level Mac mini, plus options to make it as powerful as its size will allow. Let the customer choose. The same thing goes for iMac. An entry-level device with a 21-inch Retina display is OK, but why isn’t there a 27-inch (or, larger) Retina display running an Intel Xeon inside? An iMac Pro?
Apple calls the MacBook Pro a professional level machine but it’s not. Yes, it compares favorably with specifications from other manufacturers, but RAM remains limited to 16GB, graphics are anemic to modest, and storage is no longer user accessible. You can’t even swap out a Mac notebook battery? What’s with that?
How about this? A MacBook notebook, a MacBook Pro (but with a different name) in the mid-range, and a high end model with more user configuration options. Apple can afford to do it so why not?
I see a similar opportunity with iPad. The $329 entry-level model can compete well with anyone’s tablet, and even with cheap Chromebooks and Windows 10 S devices, but there still needs to be a mid-range option and a high-end model for professionals willing to pay more for faster CPUs, more RAM, more SSD storage, and other options.
Even the iPhone does not have enough product spread. iPhone SE is a good device but why can’t Apple come out with new models of each product segment each year. Instead, Apple sells last year’s iPhones as if they were new, but with a $100 discount. That smacks of customer gouging to help prop up Apple’s already gross profit margins as the expensive of customers who don’t know exactly what is happening when they save that $100.
Apple spreads the product spectrum with newer products, including Watch and Beats headphones. Watch starts at $269 but easily escalates toward $1,000 but not based upon device capability as much as fashion and materials. Beats headphones can be purchased for as little as $100 but easily escalate to nearly $600 with plenty of models in between.
Why can’t Apple do the same with Mac, iPhone, and iPad? Technology these days is all about choice. Other than Watch, and arguably, Beats headphones, Apple just doesn’t give customers enough choices.