How Apple’s Mid-Course Corrections Drive Professionals Crazy

| Particle Debris

There are many technical and enterprise professionals who come to depend on Apple's hardware and software. In fact, their livelihood may depend on these products. Then, when Apple makes a course correction, the howling begins. It's happened so many times with Apple, it's hard to keep count. It's time to size up the howling, the aftereffects and the opportunities.

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Apple has its business to attend to, and other companies have theirs. That's a frequent source of partnership, but also a cause of potential friction. In the case of the Final Cut Pro X snafu, video editing professionals were generally appalled with the changes and limitations of the new app, and they steadfastly clung to the previous version.

Apple, on the other hand, almost always understands the impact of its actions. For example, in previous times, Apple needed the support of scientific and UNIX professionals in order to promote (Mac) OS X. In time, as the iPhone and iPad became the vast majority of its business, Apple's emphasis on the UNIX and scientific aspects of OS X mostly dried up. There were bigger fish to fry.

Here's another example. A decade ago, when universities and research groups saw the power and simplicity inherent in rack mounted Xserves, they built clusters with huge computational power. In time, Apple saw high performance computing and clusters as a low ROI market, and moved on to tablets and smartphones. These changes in direction allowed Apple to grow enormously as the company left progenitor markets behind.

Similarly, when Apple saw a market opportunity to simplify Final Cut and broaden its appeal in the larger population of casual video editors, it seized the opportunity. The same goes goes for the late 2013 Mac Pro.  It's a giant leap forward, but some professionals are still tied to the concept of the massive box with all kinds of internal expansion and storage. Or a rack mounted server. That's not where Apple wants or needs to be nowadays.

One might wish that Apple had consulted closely with its curent base of video professionals and stuck with them, but that's not how Apple rolls. Apple has never felt, deep in its bones, that it has an iron-clad obligation to support certain niche markets because doing so ties its hands with respect to growth in broader markets. I've seen that very process over and over, going all the way back to the (infamous) abandonment of OpenDoc in 1997.

When this happens, the technical professionals get in a huff and declare that Apple has lost its way and made them martyrs. Because these professionals are experts in their field and their business has been affected, the hostility is heightened. But in the end, Apple always does what it thinks is best.

From time to time, Apple risks making a mistake, but I can't recall one that severely damaged Apple's growth prospects. The bottom line, is that when Apple does go its own way, creating a palpable sense of betrayal, it's always fodder for criticism that gets blown out of proportion by those whose business it is to criticize Apple.

Another, perhaps beneficial side effect is that some smart business people can jump in and fill the void that Apple has left. Different professionals have different needs, and often another company can cleverly fill the gap and make some good money. The way to do that is with an aggressiveness that makes Apple look bad, but then business is war.

Some competitors fight more charmingly than others, and that's the focus of the first item on the next page of news debris that highlights an ingenious video smackdown of the Mac Pro. When you read what appears to be a cool, objective analysis on the Boxxtech page, keep all the above in mind.

Next: The week's tech news debris.

Comments

ibuck

criticism that gets blown out of proportion by those whose business it is to criticize Apple.

It’s sad (and strange) that doing this is a career or way to advance one’s career.

palenoue

It’s been my experience that people who worry about all those things mentioned in the video never actually _do_ anything with their computers.  They just tweak and hack their computers to make them faster and more powerful, then brag about it endlessly to everyone who has a “lesser” computer. 

Meanwhile, people who do things, real things, with their computers will just add a card or two and get on with their jobs.  And they’re much more interesting to talk to.

John Martellaro

palenoue:  While there are technical professionals who have specific hardware needs, your point is very well taken.  It’s not the price of the hardware, it’s the quality of your mind and what you can achieve. And that’s why, as you say, those people are so interesting.

ibuck

JM, congrats on the milestone, and we hope there are many more to come.

PS: So Mac Pro users are thinking outside the Boxx ?

CudaBoy

John, John, John, the King Of Spin….. I owned Macs since they came out in the 80’s and I guess as a musician and graphic artist you’d call me a “niche” Apple user today. The truth is the Mac success was almost completely because it was useful for Pros and semi-Pros -  sequencing software, page layout software (Aldus), and Photoshop 1.0. and so forth pretty much quickly put out of business a lot of typesetting and photo houses. The average Joe didn’t plunk down 4 Grr plus software for nothing. This was serious stuff in pre-Internet days. Please DO NOT confuse today’s Apple Inc. - the one that sells sugar water, I mean phones with Apple Computer.    - honestly, if you substituted ANY other company name for Apple’s in the above piece - the iHorde here would go apoplectic.

ibuck

Cudaboy, how do you know…

The truth is the Mac success was almost completely because…

Those weren’t the reasons I bought my first Mac in 1984, nor any of the 7 Macs I’ve bought since. Nor was that software mentioned installed on them.  Are you thinking the people who frequent this site are gullible or easily misled?

CudaBoy

<<Are you thinking the people who frequent this site are gullible or easily misled?>>
I sold them, here in Los Angeles, that’s how I know. Nobody is going to re-write history on my watch.
I would be curious to know WHY you would buy a $12,000 in today’s money box in 1984?  What software that doesn’t fall into the above categories did you use or use after that??  Pray tell.
My point is today’s Apple has abandoned Apple Computer in favor of phones because they found success - bully - my stocks love it - but don’t BS me into this “iron-clad obligation to support certain niche markets because doing so ties its hands with respect to growth in broader markets” crap because as I said before, that “niche” was the SOLE reason the Apple Computer company took off. I can say that because if Pros didn’t adopt the music and graphics programs at $500 - $1000 a pop along with the $5k hardware there would’ve been no Apple.

palenoue

John said: While there are technical professionals who have specific hardware needs, your point is very well taken.

But those people don’t brag about it with a smug smirk like the guy in the video does.  They just say flat out they need specific things and leave it at that.

CudaBoy, have you taken a close look at the computers/laptops/tablets used by engineers and scientists?  They are overwhelmingly Macs.  In a documentary about CERN’s hunt for the Higgs-Boson a friend who was positive “real scientists don’t use toy computers” challenged me to count brands with him.  It was 21 Macs to every 1 windows/android/unknown.  Same ratio for shots of NASA engineers at meetings.  If Apple really was offending specialized niche “pro” markets they wouldn’t be so popular among specialized niche “pro” markets.  Yet they are.

furbies

The BoxxTech folks do have a point (sadly)

It’s why I got a Early ‘09 Mac Pro.
Xeon Quad 2.66 processor. Has 16GB of ram (which I believe is the max), has 4 regular 3.5” HDDs and an SSD for the OS etc. and PCI-e for expansion (extra USB via PCI-e. (want to get a eSata card))

This is where I reckon Apple has dropped the ball.
Now don’t get me wrong, the new Mac Pro is an amazing piece of design & engineering, but having to have more boxes & cables just to get the same amount of storage or to add hardware interfaces is going backwards.

Please Apple. Please consider reintroducing a form factor not unlike the tower Mac Pro….

CudaBoy

palenoue, I don’t argue that at all…if the paradigm shifts to other form factors for actual useful computing and Apple’s tabs are there, great. I see those Macbooks on PBS at JPL all the time…that’s great but the truth is the Enterprise is still 95%+ Windows despite the hipster .000% that work at CERN or other places and choose to read email or text from an Apple product, yet do NOTHING with it.  You lumped in 3 different devices in your 1st sentence,  and since Android rules the mobile world, and Windows rules the OS world, I’m wondering what your point has to do with John’s assertion that Apple owes nothing to the people “what brought them there”.  I actually lost MY point !!!!!

ibuck

CBoy, it’s probably no revelation that others do not see the world as you do. Nearly all of us have experiences, preferences, biases, filters that support our view of the world. I bought my first Mac due to the GUI and ease of use. But irrespective of that, it seems true that past results do not guarantee future results. Apple “is skating to where the puck will be” rather than looking backward to where it was. Tim Cook has repeatedly said that Apple wants to make great products, rather than focusing solely on market share. They have good margins and good profits doing so. That’s a different view of the industry than their detractors or competitors. And it is working for them. You might say they are ruling the computing profit world.

JonGl

John- Congratulations on the 4400 posts! I’ve enjoyed them all. Thanks! And wow, it’s been a long time. wink

Robbo

I believe we have it wrong with the MacPro in it’s current form. It does look like its been a good seller and I could see Apple bringing out larger and maybe smaller versions of the same form factor. A larger version would have dual CPU’s, more internal storage, more or better GPU’s. A smaller version would have the lower end versions of the Xeon CPU and just on GPU.

dgerzeeboy

“...the truth is the Enterprise is still 95%+ Windows despite the hipster .000% that work at CERN or other places and choose to read email or text from an Apple product, yet do NOTHING with it.”

I work in movie and TV post production, literally a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Have for years. Mac dominated. You’d be laughed off a mixing stage if you asked where the Windows machines were. Even the receptionists are running OSX. Final Cut Pro: the industry picture-editing standard. Ditto Pro Tools (audio editing) for Mac.

This is not a niche market. Apple knows where it’s pro-users live, listens and responds. When they reinvented Final Cut Pro a while back, to the nearly universal horror of picture editors everywhere, Apple heard the roof cave in and fixed it. Fast. Quality, customer service and reliability. Their latest foray into the world of mobile (where “Android rules” because every smart phone maker than runs ‘Droid has no other choice) is the golden cherry on the cake, while Cupertino could give a rodent’s tushie about whining critics.

Frank Lowney 1

I’ve been using Apple gear since 1984 in non-profit organizations so I’ve seen a lot of this.  The thing that hurts is that you get zero warning that something you depend on is about to disappear or get changed to the point where it will no longer serve the purposes that drove you to invest in it in the first place. Then, there’s the silence that follows the decision to deprecate this or that. You’re left to guess or figure out that X is gone and is never coming back.  Forget about a helping hand in transitioning.
All that said, it was still way more fun than what my Microsoft using collleagues were going through – predictable boredom.

wab95

John:

Great comments on the mid-course changes.

I happen to be in a profession that, perhaps, is either somewhat insulated from the sharp end of most of these changes, or is robust enough to have options, including third party apps, that materialise in time enough not to break my workflow stride in any substantial way.

As just one example; back when Apple were still using the PowerPC chipsets, I used the Windows emulator for interfacing with a Windows-only proprietary information system required at an overseas research facility. When Apple switched to the Intel chipset, and MS announced their discontinuation of the emulator, my initial response was pithy but unquotable. However the new solution, which became apparent prior to the rollout, was better than the old one. Indeed, the entire migration from the old to the new chipset, and all of the software and workflow disruptions that some complained of did not affect me, or insofar as my immediate orbit was concerned, most colleagues in profession. And, any minor disruptions I experienced, for example syncing my old Handspring phone/organiser to my Mac using Avantgo (I think that was the name) were more than compensated by first new third party apps (I forgot the name - something I switched to in 2006) and then an Apple syncing solution before the arrival a year later with the iPhone.

My point is that, in my personal odyssey with Apple (whether private or professional), I have found that, more often than not, if something is an important feature one of three (arguably four) things happen: 1) a third party quickly comes along with a fix; 2) there is an inherent solution imbedded within Apple’s change; 3) Apple comes along with either a fix or a substantially better option; 4) I adapt to the change by altering my workflow and tools.

While these options will not always work for everyone, my sense is that they work for a substantial enough fraction of Apple’s client base that the company continues to enjoy both loyalty and growth.

Very nice picks this week in your Debris lineup. Sadly, duty calls and permits no time to comment, other than to say I particularly enjoyed ‘The walking dead’, ‘Nadella courage and reality’ and ‘atomic chips’. The latter is something of an interest of mine that I try to follow, and anticipate seeing in commercial production during my professional life-time; at least one can hope.

Lancashire-Witch

I wonder what was wrong with iWeb that it needed a mid course correction?

Apple may have good reason for changing direction after leading their customers down a dead end path but I wish they would sometimes explain their thinking.

Meanwhile I’m still running FCP7 on a G5 - slowly!

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