Apple has now achieved superpower status and is working on a starship HQ. That means that the company has the money, resources, and influence to achieve almost anything it desires.
In turn, some of the things it does makes us worry. I’ve noticed that the list of things that get worried about includes:
- Final Cut Pro X
- The Mac Pro’s fate
- The potential merger of OS X and iOS
- Less than vigorous Thunderbolt support
- China’s workers
- AutoSave and Versions in Lion
- Sandboxing and the future richness and capabilities of Mac apps
- Apple’s onerous 30 percent cut of everything
- The iBooks Author EULA
- The monstrosity called the iTunes app
- The oversimplification of essential apps and tools
- ___________ write-in candidate
Why is this happening?
Superpowers Always Worry Us
Countries and companies with superpower status naturally worry us. They also become targets as well as rich fodder for heated discussion. That keeps writers fully employed.
For example, with great respect for these wonderful countries, which I would love to visit, we don’t worry about Belgium attacking Iran. We don’t worry about Switzerland colonizing the moon and seizing it for its own use. Some charming, small countries mind their own business, but other smaller countries are always sizing up the superpowers of the world, wondering what they’ll do next that’s in the superpower’s interest, but not theirs.
Large countries and large companies have interests and the means to achieve them. It can be worrisome.
Deathstar (credit: ShutterStock)
The Role oF Secrecy
Apple has long used secrecy as a competitive advantage, to get a leg up on the competition, to enhance its competitive abilities and to surprise and delight us. But occasionally, the best surprise is no surprise.
Examples of surprises that gave us pause are, I think, the new Final Cut Pro X, sandboxing and the specter of a merger of OS X and iOS that would, somehow, hinder our abilities to be as in control — and thereby as creative.
These are not happy surprises because Apple’s secrecy dictates unilateral action.
Worse, as we know from the military, secrecy can morph from being a natural, shrewd policy to protect intellectual property to becoming an end in itself. The larger the target company (or country), the larger the paranoia becomes. Questionable policies that weren’t practical or affordable before suddenly become, somehow, essential, leading to unfavorable news.
Why We Worry About Apple
Occasionally, nowadays, Apple’s surprises are looked upon with dismay instead of pure glee. As Apple’s customer bases shifts and grows, some worry that Apple no longer feels allegiance to those who stuck with Apple through thick and thin over the years. That creates worry.
Worry, uncertainty or overactive imagination? All of the above
Even more so, creative artists fret that Apple will take away, for its own interests, what we most enjoy about our Mac life. That’s crazy nonsense of course, but some writers seize the moment to stir the pot and get attention, seizing upon our overactive imagination.
Of course, other companies worry too. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), it became evident that other companies were worried about Apple seizing the initiative in the TV industry and stealing their already paltry profits. They should be.
What to do?
First, technical columnists need deep insight into Apple. For example, if Apple were to cancel the Mac Pro, just for the sake of argument, it would be easy to run wild with speculation that Apple might, someday, cancel the whole desktop line. In fact, the Mac Pro may just be making enough money. The interpretation of superpower motives is essential.
As Apple moves sharply towards sandboxing, it might be easy to speculate that Apple will someday turn our creative tools into mindless toys, iPads, solely for the consumer masses. When all that we care about is threatened, demagoguery seeps in.
Ill-formed speculations make for interesting, if not alarming, editorials that, in turn arouse the ire of other writers, and the Mac echo chamber becomes abuzz with sturm and drang.
Apple is in a situation where, like any superpower, the slightest feint or movement can be misconstrued. Because Apple can almost do as it pleases, gloomy specters arise at every point. That affects predictions and turns them pessimistic — for example, the prediction of the early demise of the iPod classic and iPod shuffle last year. Or that Apple might discontinue the entire Mac line, a notion that’s emerging but is nonsense.
Of course this doesn’t even begin to address those writers who, historically, haven’t cared for Apple and its products. So we can expect them to pour gasoline on any glowing embers and make matters worse.
I think that readers hunger for a continuing, intelligent discussion and assessment so that they, as Apple customers, can better understand what they have at hand, what they need and what they really want from Apple.
Sure, sometimes Apple gives us things we didn’t know we needed, but the rest of the time, it’s important to communicate to Apple what, as a community, we do need and want to preserve.
What Can Apple do?
Apple still needs corporate secrecy to maintain its competitive advantage. However, strategic moves can also made to ease unwarranted fears. For example, if the Mac Pro sales are way down, that could be taken constructively that Apple hasn’t met the modern needs of its customers. Perhaps it’s time for a newer, sleeker, smaller, better designed, faster Mac Pro that does meet our needs.
Mac Pro - time to retire or redesign? (Image credit: Apple)
If Apple were to telegraph at this summer’s WWDC that OS X 10.8 is going to preserve the basic structure and tools that creative artists need and love, that would go a long way towards stopping endless speculation cold in its tracks.
Sometimes, the easiest and most honest questions asked of Apple by journalists call for a simple affirmation rather than a stonewall. When we pass that on, the confidence of customers grows.
In other words, there are subtle things Apple can do to encourage and delight its customers without giving away its intentions for future products. Apple executives aren’t accustomed to thinking like that because their superpower status is relatively new.
But if they did, we could focus more sharply on all the positive, fabulous things Apple is trying to achieve. And we’d all sleep better at night.
Deathstar image credit: Shutterstock