Any notion that we Apple watchers can determine what Steve Jobs would or would not do to a present day Apple is an exercise where futility meets reality. Nobody knows for sure, but Jobs loved simplicity and discipline, and Apple’s product lines these days are anything but either one.
Way back in the day Jobs introduced the famous 4-quadrant Mac product line. Remember, that was back when Jobs ruled with an iron thumb, and Apple and the Mac were mostly synonymous. Apple was the Mac. The Mac was Apple. That’s not true today, so what would Jobs think?
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Henry David Thoreau was correct. Simple is better. We live in complicated, convoluted times, and our gadget hungry ways have demanded devices that can do everything and do it better every year.
Jobs’ 4-quadrant Mac approach was the ultimate in simplicity. In a few short years Jobs had managed to whittle down Apple’s enormous and confusing product line to the basics.
That simplicity worked well for the Mac and Apple. The company shed financial losses, gained a bit of marketshare, and, importantly, revenue and profits grew. The quadrant had legs, too, and as the Mac line grew in number it remained basic and simple.
What you see above is a little complexity settling in to the simplified quadrant. These days the Mac line– indeed, every major product– has less simplicity. What would Steve Jobs think of a Mac line that starts with an aging Mac mini, and even older MacBook Air, then a MacBook that is priced the same as the entry-level MacBook Pro, and a Mac Pro model which nobody buys because Apple already announced something better is coming soon– an iMac Pro and a new modular Mac Pro?
See? Complexity has set it. Sit down because it gets worse.
Today on the Apple Store you can find a gargantuan line of iPhones that range from $349 to $1,149– iPhone SE, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and the hosteling iPhone X. Each of those comes in multiple colors and configurations and for different carriers. iPad has similar issues starting at $329 and roaming up to $1,279.
Watch might be the most confusing line of all. The Series 1 starts at $249 but Watch Series 3 with LTE quickly moves to $749 with matching Milanese Loop watchband.
Personally, I think Jobs would be proud of some of Apple’s products– iPhone X comes to mind– but eager to get rid of a few, too. Goodbye, iPad mini, MacBook Air, Mac Pro. Apple designs and manufactures a growing number of elegant and user friendly products but each product line is cluttered. Could Steve Jobs simplify Apple’s product lines? Mac in one quadrant, iPhone in another, iPad in another, and Watch in another? What about Services, Apple’s fastest growing and second largest revenue and profit stream?
Honestly, I think Jobs would be pleased to show off the Retina 5k iMac and the recent MacBooks. iPhone X? Of course. Watch? Definitely. Put iPad Pro on the list, too. But the quadrant of Apple in 2017 would not be Apple at the turn of the century.