Apple is Falling Behind Customer Needs

| Editorial

In a strong economic climate, Apple has been able to dictate its vision and sell customers on the constraints imposed on them by Hollywood. We get that. However, it may be shrewd of Apple to also start thinking about giving customers what they crave and need instead of forcing them into a corner.

The consumer electronics industry is robust. Anything that can be conceived of can be implemented in digital logic. Often, that goes overboard with wannbe products that fall flat, and we depend on Apple to provide that coherent vision that makes our complicated cyberlives better.

Even so, I think I am seeing a trend by Apple, derived from just a little bit of arrogance that essentially says, because we know how to integrate hardware and software and because we are experts at developing user interfaces to complex electronics, we donit have to give customers what theyive been craving.

The more Apple works with the entertainment industry, the more the constraints are felt. Back when Apple was Apple Computer, they had total control of their platform and were beholden to no one. As a result, we got nice surprises at Macworld, and we got hardware that served us. That generated a lot of loyalty to Apple.

Nowadays, Apple is increasingly constrained by not only its own partners but by its own internally imposed constraints in a company thatis growing very rapidly. As a result we get things like a 30 month interval between Tiger and Leopard, and Leopard shipped with the Active Directory interface broken, a Finder file move bug that could result in data loss, and a looming 10.5.2 update, said to be near 400 MB, that fixes what Apple should have been fixing in the spring and summer of 2007.

Thereis more. QA testers and coders for Leopard were cannibalized for iPhone. Few developers got the Leopard GM in time to really wring it out and get feedback to Apple. Developers have been waiting for a very long time to build applications for the iPhone and make some money. The Apple TV almost died before Apple was able to learn how to work with Hollywood. The vision and hopes for extinguishing the HD disc industry, which isnit going to happen, rests on an Apple TV that has all of 100 HD titles.

Also, Apple customers have been waiting for several things, and theyire not getting them. Theyive been craving a new generation of LED backlit cinema displays. Theyive wanted a desktop Mac thatis more powerful than a notebook, but doesnit have eight cores, four fans, and cost US$3,000. Theyive been waiting for desktops and notebooks with HD drives for both high definition movies and immense, removable data storage. Theyive been waiting for notebooks with the mobile version of the powerful Penryn. Theyive been waiting for a 3G iPhone. On the more fanciful side, but still within grok range of the Mac culture, many have been craving an iTablet for couchtop viewing of video, Safari and Wi-Fi, medical work, and remote management of a Mac.

As Apple increases its customer base, it will find it harder and harder to shoehorn all its customers into the same mold. In that sense, the MacBook Air, as Stan Beer observed, will appeal to a very small segment of Appleis customer base and not move the needle much on overall Mac sales. Other more important service to the Mac community by Apple has simply dropped between the cracks.

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