To paraphrase a famous astronaut from a space mission in the last century, Cupertino, we have a problem. Apple Inc. is run by two executives who are not what they appear to be and the proof of this problem is right in front of us.
Today’s computers, whether they be traditional PCs and Macs, or members of the mobile device era, Android and iPhone smartphones, are made up of the obvious. An engineered design and components; the parts we hold in our hands and use. Design and manufacturing. That’s Apple’s problem.
Parts Is Parts
The two executives I refer to are the two that basically run Apple. Jonathan Ive is the design genius who, as a teenager, fell in love with rounded corners and has yet to understand alternatives. Tim Cook is the supply and operations genius who made the trains run on time.
That team, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, made Apple what it is today. What’s that? A marvelous technology gadget maker of the highest order. Highest? Yeah, unless you want the latest technology. Then you’ll need to wait because the supply chain doesn’t work well these days. Highest? Yeah, unless you want the latest product components that competitors use. Then you’ll need to wait.
I know what you’re thinking.
Jeffrey, can you give me some examples of these issues Apple’s experienced executives have with design and manufacturing?
First things first. From his return to Apple in 1997 to his death in 2011, Steve Jobs managed to launch the iMac, Apple retail stores, iPods and iTunes Music Store, move the Mac to Intel Inside, launch the iPhone, open the online App Store, and introduce the iPad to the world.
Not bad for a decade or so of work, right? Tim Cook helped to run the day-to-day operations that made those products successful. Steve Jobs died in 2011 and I remain convinced that Apple’s genius died with him.
What happened after Jobs died?
The Mac as platform stagnated beyond belief. Mac Pro was a disaster. Mac mini seems on life support as an aged and downgraded afterthought to a platform that seems like a corporate afterthought. All the Macs have fallen a few generations behind hardware from PC manufacturers. Attention to detail and design? Have you seen Magic Mouse 2? You can’t use the mouse while it’s being recharged. What’s with that?
After Jobs died the iPad languished for years as the big ugly cousin to iPhone (the device which seemed to receive all of Apple’s attention). iPad? Giant bezels. One generation behind the iPhone CPU train. After Jobs died it seemed as if Apple forgot that products needed to be upgraded and improved on some sort of a regular schedule.
What’s New Is Old Again
Jobs died, Apple coasted along, but the two main executives in charge of design and operations appear lost. Design genius? Genius must mean rounded corners because they’re everywhere. I get it. Think Porsche 911 design or Coca-Cola bottle design? Distinctly visible and easily identifiable for what they are. Such products are differentiated from competitors.
But rounded corners? Every Apple competitor has them already. PC, tablet, smartphone. Crisp it up a bit, Jonny boy. Then move on. Rounded corners are not the ultimate design form factor. Why can’t I buy a Magic Mouse that can be charged while I’m using it? It’s pretty. The curves are nice. I enjoy the feel. But the old Magic Mouse would accept new batteries when the old ones died. Fix that already.
Wait. There’s more.
Apple needs to place a want ad in the classifieds for a supply chain genius because Cupertino has a growing supply problem. Macs are late. iPads are anemic. AirPods are hard to find. At least we have Watch, right? But hell, Dell has 8th generation PC hardware. Microsoft has 8th generation PC hardware. Apple touts the Mac mini as a wonderful 4th generation Intel-based device.
What is this issue with selling old products as if they are new? Who else does that? Samsung introduces new Galaxy S-models, Edge-models, and Note-models every year. We get new iPhones that look and work exactly like last year’s models which are on sale with models from the year before and the year before that (we’re talking about 2017 to 2016 to 2015). That’s just wrong. Apple gets away with selling older models as if they are new simply by discounting the price tag.
Wait. My bad. If I think about this situation the right way the I can clearly see the genius.
Design chief Jonny Ive and CEO Tim Cook are absolutely geniuses. They manage to pass off old designs and old technology as if they are new, and in return Apple’s customer base lines up at the distribution trough, fully convinced they’re buying something brand new. Meanwhile, Apple’s vaunted executives laugh about it all the way to the bank to cash bonus checks and sell stock.