Why So Many Observers Think Apple is in Trouble

| Hidden Dimensions

“Immaturity is the incapacity to use one's intelligence without the guidance of another.” -- Immanuel Kant

Apple's customers highly approve. They are joyously emerging from Apple stores with armloads of products. Sales per square foot considerably exceed Tiffany & Co. Analysts like the numbers and think Apple is doing fine. So why is there an undercurrent of disenchantment amongst some Apple observers?

We're dealing  with a company that always moves relentlessly forward. In order to leave the past behind, Apple has had to carry our emotions forward in the timeline. Occasionally some clarity has been required to adjust our sights and expectations. Steve Jobs made sure that we always understood -- or at least could strongly suspect -- why Apple was doing what it did.

A case in point is Blu-ray. Many observers clamored for Blu-ray as a follow-on to the SuperDrive, but we just knew that Steve Jobs didn't think rotating chunks of plastic was the future of personal computing. There was that undercurrent of our understanding, despite the nagging of mainstream, conventional wisdom. mostly in the PC world. Steve Jobs said it out loud: "Blu-ray is a bag of hurt."

End of discussion.

To define the process more properly, I'd say that Steve Jobs would insert his mental notes into our technical consciousness. We had our attitude adjusted. Then we'd move on.

Thought Experiments

In my review of the iPad mini, I said that the 1024 x 768 display at 163 ppi is fine for watching HD movies. And yet, there are many observers who feel that a Retina display would have been better -- ignoring the battery life and cost challenges. There is much technical quibbling on this.

I can imagine a scenario, if this had happened in the past, where a customer sends Mr. Jobs an email and says, "I am annoyed that my iPad mini isn't true HD (1368 x 720). The response might be something like thunder from the clouds.

We had to do that for app compatibility. That display is gorgeous, and I promise, you'll never miss those few extra pixels."

And that would be that. Mainstream attitude adjusted.

Note that this is quite a different matter than whining about what Steve Jobs would do. Rather, its a business observation about how Mr. Jobs subtly guided our expectations in the past so that we learned how to accept both the giant steps Apple made along with the compromises.

Or consider the issue with iPad mini pricing. I can imagine Mr. Jobs sitting in on an earnings report and casually noting: "That's the required price point for a high quality 7-inch tablet in 2012."

And that would be that. Mainstream attitude adjusted.

There have always been compromises by Apple. We overlooked them when we were brought to understood the larger picture. (Although sometimes we struggled with some RDF.)

A New Apple

These days, CEO Tim Cook has elected to run Apple in a quieter, business as usual manner. This has a lot of advantages for a company maturing into the tablet technologies and the post-PC era. It's an essential element of management style as Apple grows. (It should also be part of our maturity as writers.)

As a result, nowadays, the Apple community doesn't have those Steve-notes to guide and solidify technical judgment. Everyone's running amok. Writers who don't really understand Apple are adrift with their own speculations or over reactions to mistakes -- and there's no authority figure to set them straight. Tim Cook has no interest in it, and only Phil Schiller sends the occasional clarifying email in response to a customer -- that ends up getting published.

Without that stabilization of technical consciousness, many are grousing, mystified, unable to create a precise focus on what Apple is doing to satisfy its customers.

The result of this seems to be a writer's malaise, not an Apple malaise. Apple is cranking out fine products, making a boatload of money, competing vigorously, adjusting its executive team so that they can work in harmony, correcting mistakes, and continuing to push the limits of technology. Apple will likely generate US$50+ billion in Christmas quarter revenue.

Many observers, however, are having trouble adjusting. They're rudderless, left with no bracing technical insights from the most public, forceful technology visionary ever. Left to their own imaginings, some are left to drift aimlessly, waiting for that next instructional Steve-note. One that isn't going to come.

___________________

Sinking ship via Shutterstock

Comments

Andhaka

Maybe not Retina, but for the price of the Mini I’d hoped for a better screen, at least at par with the other 7 inches tablet.
i know, I know… th eMini is NOT a 7 inches tablet and a new resolution would mean extra work for developers to adjust their apps, but still there’s 7 inches tablet with better screen resolution and DPI than the Mini at 100 buck less. wink

Cheers

Dr. Hannibal Moot

Excellent Observations. I’ve had to shake my head in disbelief as I’ve been reading the latest articles of Apple’s demise lately. The company has never done better nor had a better line-up of products going into the Christmas season, yet shareholders are panicking and writers are “chicken-little-ling” all over the place.

Calm down, buy an Ipad Mini, pick up some Apple stock at a bargain price, and relax.

John Martellaro

Dr. Moot. Well said.

Ziggy

The future is a is a variable to which we grasp:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c3/TARDIS2.jpg/220px-TARDIS2.jpg

The present is a fact:
https://www.google.ca/finance?client=ob&q=NASDAQ:AAPL

The past should never be forgotten:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxOp5mBY9IY

Respectfully

geoduck

When people don’t know, they assume the worst.

Lee Dronick

Putting Apple in a headline is a good way to get page hits or people to watch the TV news segment. It is even better if there is a hint of scandal or trouble.

Mikuro

The company has never done better nor had a better line-up of products going into the Christmas season, yet shareholders are panicking and writers are “chicken-little-ling” all over the place.

I have to disagree with this. Obviously Apple’s products are getting better. I mean, they’re not going to come out and say “look at the new iPad! It’s slower and has a dimmer screen, and runs fewer apps!” In absolute terms, their products are better than ever.

Relatively, though? No. Not even close to their strongest showing.

This is not so much because Apple as slouching as it is because the competition is coming on strong like never before. It wasn’t long ago that the phrase “Android tablet” would merely elicit chuckles and eye-rolls. Google turned the tablet world on its ear with the Nexus 7, and by all accounts the new Nexus 10 is a fantastic product, as well. Less than a year ago, if someone asked me what tablet they should buy, there would have been no question: iPad or nothing. iPad had no serious competition. Not so anymore.

And it’s not just the hardware. It’s the software. Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is leaps and bounds better, and 4.1/4.2 (Jelly Bean) is better still. Android no longer feels “flimsy” like it used to. The user experience on Android rivals iOS’s for the first time. And more and more, I hear people—not just geeks, but normal people—getting tired of living in Apple’s world. Simple tasks like copying files to or from an iOS device are made hair-pullingly difficult with iTunes and the 90s-era concept of syncing a phone to one (and only one) computer. These are non-issues on Android. And Apple Maps has turned Apple into a joke. I’m not sure they’ll ever really repair that damage to their brand.

I got my first Android phone two years ago, for the simple reason that it was cheap and worked with my cheap service plan ($25, about a quarter of what I would’ve paid for an iPhone plan with the biggies). It was absolutely a poor-man’s iPhone. Shittiest smartphone you could imagine. But this is not the case anymore. Android is not a poor-man’s iPhone anymore. It’s a damn fine OS, with damn fine hardware. I actually WANT it now. In fact, I ordered the new Nexus 4 just yesterday, and I’m excited. It looks amazing. I don’t look at iPhones and sigh wistfully anymore.

Market-wise, Android is also much stronger than before. Android’s smartphone market share has exceeded 50%, and last quarter the iPhone was dethroned as the top-selling smartphone by the Galaxy S III. I see SIIIs everywhere. Android is no longer an “alternative”. It’s become an EASY CHOICE, and that’s a big deal. Apple was the only easy choice for years and years.

As for the iPad Mini…..well, Apple is getting bit in the butt by a certain lack of foresight: iOS is not built to be flexible with resolutions, and certainly not aspect ratios. This is a technological problem that’s tying Apple’s hands. It made them look stupid with the iPhone 5 (it’s hard to imagine Steve Jobs even tolerating such an ugly solution), and it’s making the iPad Mini a much less appealing product. But there’s no easy solution, because Apple laid a poor foundation.

nealg

Mikuro,

To answer a couple of points in no particular order and not being comprehensive about it.

Just because you are satisfied with Android does not mean that everyone is. The last iPhone holdout of my colleagues just bought an iPhone 5 and he likes most of the things about it but he likes it much better than his year old Motorola droid which was already a replacement for a previous phone that had broken down on him within the past year.  Some of the things are not as customizable as he would like but he likes that it just works. The battery life on his Droid was so bad that he needed to keep it plugged in constantly in order for it to stay on.

I just upgraded my iPhone 4 to a 5. Whole process of moving everything over from my old phone, including 15 GB of pictures and 10 GB of music among other things and the whole process took what appeared to be about a half hour or less. And everything works. That is what I like about Apple and its products.

As to Apple and its iOS, i find most people like that it just works and it is something familiar. Maybe we live in different universes with people who see things totally differently. I still see mostly iPhones around but I am starting to see more Samsung phones around. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference, with Samsung having copied the heck out of the iPhone.

I do know some people that have gone to an Android phone from an iPhone. Some are happy and some are not. Going in the opposite direction, I find the same thing but I do find that most people who switch from Android are happy with their iPhones.

I find it interesting that everybody now knows what Jobs would think about products, when most couldn’t predict what he was going to go with when he was alive. I think that Jobs probably had approved of the design changes in the iPhone 5 as well as the layout of the iPad Mini before he died because the changes would have had to have been in effect from the time before he died.

I have not heard that the Nexus tablet is setting the world on fire because the biggest problem is that with all the fragmentation in the Android system, most Apps are built for a smaller phone screen and don’t look good on the bigger screen. I have heard that the hardware and software have improved though.

In the end, I hope you are happy with your new phone when you get it. Really, all these things are are tools to help us get things done in the real world. I want something familiar that just works for me and I like Apple products. I hope Android and its products do the same for you.

CudaBoy

Apple’s stock is down 20% since Sept. No new products for eons excepting the late-to-mkt. Mini which is neither mini in size or price. No NFC/true Hi-Def/quad core cpu (no maps or Flash!) yet 2x the cost of the competition.  No Smart TV. No innovation for years now. I fear a Microsoftian lack of vision with competing divisions replete with in-fighting…. it’s already started. Cry not for Apple, but it will be fun to see their hubris bite them in the ass. 20% is a good start.

Paul Goodwin

AAPL is double what it was 2 years ago. That’s freaking amazing. The stock prices earlier this year were a feeding frenzy anomaly. About a year ago, I thought it would be at $550 by March 2013.  That’s from a Best Fit Straight Line of what it did in 2010 and 2011.  That may be the reality. It’s one healthy reality. Driven by continued great products by a truly great American company. Most of the writing and critiquing these days is from truly bad writers that can only get in print with sensational anti-Apple drivel with no foundation in fact. The state of news reporting is at an all time low.

mblaydoe

There have always been Apple-haters from the beginning. “GUI will never catch on! Command line forever!” Of course the high priests of DOS felt threatened and had to lash out when it turned out anybody could make a computer do things and did not need them quite so much after they put so much time and effort into learning all those arcane commands.

Some people just like getting a reaction and as we see in this very thread, it works.

And of course nothing guarantees click-views like saying something bad about Apple. Easy money for lazy pundits.

CudaBoy

“Driven by continued great products by a truly great American company.”
That’s not even a sentence writer boy, There goes your credibility.

Paul Goodwin

Sorry CudaBoy. The space detector-auto-corrector stuck a period and a capital in there. It was meant to be part of the previous sentence. And I’m not a writer. I’m an engineer, but i don’t like bad grammar either. I’m not looking for credibility. I stated a couple of facts that anyone can verify by looking at a historical stock price plot. Then I made a comment about a great company based on my observation that hundreds of millions of people have selected Apple products in those same two years. I sure didn’t think I said anything that would cause a “writer boy” comment.

CudaBoy

No biggie, Paul. I just thought if we dismissed some valid points because they were badly written we’d be in a world of hurt nowadays.
Your stock comments are interesting and not untrue but are kind of beside the point imo regarding this “haze” over Apple lately.
I believe when Apple went Sony with the phones, pods and tabs with the usual design elan long used on their computers but unfamiliar to the PC masses it created this frenzy that pushed Apple stock psychedelically high in the wake of those cool new toys with the Apple Industrial Design ethic. Talk about Reality Distortion Field! But, those products and a huge mark-up can work for only so long. Technically spec-wise and feature wise Android products are much newer, some are I dare say cooler (NFC,fingerprint ID,quad core cpu) and they ALL are damn sure affordable by anyone. Apple was late with a non-mini, and they do tiny l’il upgrades every 6 mos to “old” products w/no New products in years….I’m just sayin’.... after this initial saturation of the world with iDevices, the devices might well have been passed by by the next young’uns. Mark my words. Or, dis me now and believe me later, lol.  Hey, do click views matter in a chat, or are those comments also ridiculous???? ...as if differing opinions need justification.
Where can I get one of those Space Corruptor Auto Collector thingys?

Dr. Hannibal Moot

I love writing about the tech world simply because of the drama and passion that people have for certain products. Truth is, all the companies have their hi’s and lo’s, goods and bads. I have Ipads but I also have 2 Android tablets and a Blackberry Playbook. There are pros and cons to all of them.

I am not an Apple fanboy nor am I an Android geek, but here’s the reality of the tablet world as I see it; currently Apple is king by a far cry because of it’s entire ecosystem that they have spent years building. They are the current masters of a good total consumer experience. Period.

Writers, techies, geeks like us, even the companies themselves, sometimes forget that 99% of the consumers could care less about specs like dpi, processor speed, SOC’s, etc. All they care about is the end user experience. That’s what Steve Jobs understood most of the time, and that is what has brought Apple to where they currently are.

Android and Google will not even come close until they figure out a way to monetize search from the mobile platforms, and especially the tablet platform as well as give the majority of consumers a premium experience. Android does not make money for Google; search does. It will become increasingly difficult for Google to focus on innovation and customer satisfaction as you start having investors breathing down your neck about profits.

Google is willing to take a loss just to come up with a product that “out-specs” an Apple product. The problem with that is what good is the highest pixel per inch if developers aren’t making apps to take advantage of it.

And even though there is now more Android cell phones on the market than Iphones, Apple users still spend more time and use more apps than Android users. Those stats were out just today actually.

Google has to find a way to actually make money from Android along with making better quality hardware as they have done. And they cannot build a long lasting foundation by under-cutting prices and profit to spite their competition.

The other area where Apple is making inroads and Android is very quickly going to be shut out of completely if they don’t get their security flaws fixed is enterprise. Apple has more to worry about from Microsoft and even RIM in this market.

What I’ve seen as of late from the writers is the “root for the underdog” mentality; that human desire to see the guy at the top get knocked down. I find it amusing when I read someone writing about Microsoft in that “come from behind / Rocky” format. I guess it’s still too recent for me as it seems not so long ago Microsoft was the juggernaut and everyone cheered for Apple and Mac. And FYI, Google ain’t no small guy underdog either.

The biggest threat to Apple’s reign could be Apple themselves if they don’t keep egos in check and resist the urge to get complacent. They’ve shown glimpses of it at times already. Ask RIM about how bad that can be for business.

For the time being, Apple is still at the top and will be for a while yet.

Boyd

I have come to the conclusion that people just love to complain. If Apple would of put a Retina display on the iPad mini then people would complain about how apps are not compatible and have to be re-written. Apple generally has the users best interests in there thinking. They did the same with the iPhone 5. I like to use the iPhone with one hand. I don’t want a huge phone. I think it was a great idea that they did not put a retina on the iPad mini. People just love to complain. They feel entitled. They feel entitled to the best. They look at specs to much and not the overall user experience. Apple has provided me with some of the best computing experiences I have ever had on both OSX and with iOS. When they cease to do that then I will look elsewhere.

CudaBoy

“I am not an Apple fanboy nor am I an Android geek, but here’s the reality of the tablet world as I see it; currently Apple is king by a far cry because of it’s entire ecosystem that they have spent years building. They are the current masters of a good total consumer experience. Period.”

You sound like a fanboy. Apple does not come close to readability on a stupid-cheap “electric paper” Kindle, not even close at 4x the cost and that is not a “spec detail”. Nor is lack of NFC or 4g speed, or battery replacement on and on. Those aren’t details, non replaceable batteries aren’t funny!
That ecosystem you tout is EXACTLY why Android is the #1 platform for mobile computing. An ecosystem can be good - or it can be an irritating bunch of personal vendettas resulting in expensive products that don’t have a Map app that works, does not adopt to changes quickly if at all (see mini) and basically is sliding by (losing share of course) by doing small incremental and in the case of the new phone ugly slapdash changes to an old design. The ecosytem will be the downfall. That, and the lack of direction, in-fighting and no new products will be enough to keep Wall Street worried. Don’t forget, while you are mentioning what people don’t care about, they don’t care about the ridiculous profit margins Apple makes, talk about moot point.

iJack

Small nit.  ‘True HD’ doesn’t begin at 1368.  Anything more than 480 horizontal lines is considered HD, so in the US, HD starts at 720p.

Mikuro

I have not heard that the Nexus tablet is setting the world on fire because the biggest problem is that with all the fragmentation in the Android system, most Apps are built for a smaller phone screen and don’t look good on the bigger screen. I have heard that the hardware and software have improved though.

Not sure who’s saying that, but it hasn’t been my experience. I don’t have a Nexus 7 myself, but I’ve used my friends’ a fair bit, and haven’t seen any problems. I was actually impressed by how well apps that were designed for small screens on now-ancient Android versions work. Fragmentation doesn’t seem to be a huge problem anymore. Again, Android has made huge leaps in the past year (and it wasn’t half bad last year, really).

Android was designed from day 1 to accommodate different screen sizes, resolutions and aspect ratios. The layout system they have is really good at dealing with these differences. Apple decided to standardize on one resolution and aspect ratio per device, and has been stuck going double-or-nothing with resolution increases. It’s a tough position to be in when you can’t change just a little bit or improve incrementally.

I find it interesting that everybody now knows what Jobs would think about products, when most couldn’t predict what he was going to go with when he was alive. I think that Jobs probably had approved of the design changes in the iPhone 5 as well as the layout of the iPad Mini before he died because the changes would have had to have been in effect from the time before he died.

I don’t think there’s any big problem with the iPad Mini. There was no way for Apple to do anything else, really—that’s the problem. Apple’s design decisions over the past 5 years might be holding them back. I hardly think it’s going to kill Apple, but I’m very interested to see how they go about solving these problems in the future—because I do believe they’ll need to at some point.

As for the iPhone 5, I don’t know what Steve would’ve said, but I know that it was ugly and did not have the Apple polish that I’ve come to expect—and that Jobs was known for enforcing. Again, this would not have been an issue except for those same design decisions I keep mentioning. They’re becoming a thorn in Apple’s side. I can’t say they were a mistake at the time, but they present challenges now.

As for the “just works” point, different things “just work” on iOS and Android. I have an older iPhone in addition to my Android phone. As an example of something that just DOESN’T work:

I naturally have my iPhone synced with my home computer. If I’m at my work computer, or any other computer, and want to copy some mp3s to my phone….....well, if there’s any way to do this, I haven’t been able to find it (and I’ve asked around on iPhone forums as well). When I plug into iTunes, it tells me it has to erase everything to sync to that computer. I don’t want to sync. I just want to move a few mp3s, one-way. I suspect iCloud makes this easier, but I haven’t had the chance to play with that yet. The whole iTunes experience seems like a throwback to the iPod era, when it was just music and the iPod was a “slave” device.

OTOH, for the things iTunes actually does WELL, like playlist syncing, I have yet to find anything nearly as good on Android.

I don’t see Apple dying or anything like that, but their market dominance seems to be over, and they’re not competing against half-baked crap anymore. The difference between Apple and their competitors has never been smaller, IMHO.

As for me personally, I need to head to an Apple store and play with the iPad Mini a bit. I’d like to get a good iOS device so that I can get the best of both worlds. There are a few apps for iOS I want (and have bought, even) that just don’t have equivalents on Android.

Paul Goodwin

The display on an iPad 2 is crisp , clear, and highly contrasted and bright. Text displays beautifully. The iPad 2 resolution is 1024-by-768 resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi). The iPad min resolution is 1024-by-768 resolution at 163 pixels per inch (ppi). The text displays beautifully on my iPad 2. I haven’t gone and looked at an iPad Mini yet because my iPad 2 is still a nearly perfect device for what it was designed to do. Text has displayed great on every Apple computing product I’ve owned (starting in 1988). I’m quite sure the iPad Mini type will display fine.

The Map app works fine. I don’t see what all stink is about. You type in a location name or address; it shows on the map. You hit the Route button and it shows you the route. You hit the Start button and drive. I don’t see any advantage in it over the Google Map. But for what I do with it I don’t see any disadvantage either.

“The Ecosystem will be the downfall.”  What? That’s a real head shaker. Yeah. That highly integrated and secure system of computing devices, music players, music, video, and apps that surpasses all others and keeps getting better will bring them down. Even the pro-PC and Windows sites will give you that same honest assessment.

As for the subject here, with new iPads, iMacs, iPhones, Mac Minis, will all likely create a very healthy 4th qtr. The announcements changing AAPL to Strong Buy are already starting. We’ll see in six weeks from now whether the stories will still be about Apple’s “problems”.

secret classroom review

“Immaturity is the Incapacity to use one’s intelligence without the guidance of another.” - Immanuel Kant Apple’s customers highly approve. They are joyously emerging from Apple stores with armloads of products. Sales per square foot considerably exceed Tiffany & Co. Analysts like the numbers and think Apple is doing fine. So why is there an Undercurrent of Disenchantment amongst some Apple observers?

secret classroom review

Paul Goodwin

According to Apple’s recently reported financials, it has plans to open between 30 and 35 new stores in the coming year, with 75 percent of those springing up outside of the U.S.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Of course you’ll miss the extra pixels every time you see your 16:9 aspect ratio movie plastered on a 4:3 aspect ration screen. You get significantly fewer lines of actual picture and ugly black bars to boot. This is the 16:9 era for video. It’s been so for more than 1/2 a decade.

Adamc

@Mikuro

Your words -
Apple is getting bit in the butt by a certain lack of foresight: iOS is not built to be flexible with resolutions, and certainly not aspect ratios.

It is not lack of foresight it is one of not wanting to fragment their products. Is it such a bad thing.

As for your beloved android you said the resolution is scalable but look at the work the developers have to do to accommodate all the different screen size.
So it is a great idea?

@Bosco
16:9 is great for watching video but the iPad mini is meant for more than just watch video and much much more. Besides it can also do 16:9 but can a Nexus do 4:3. Looks like it is not that flexible even though so 21st

One more thing let’s look at Amazon.
The expectations of the analysts is the expectation of growth but they didn’t take into consideration the products they are selling have very low margins. Although their revenue grows but the bottom line which is their net profits are minimal when compared to Apple’s and the last quarter they made a loss. And yet their P/E stands at 2786.88.

ziggy

I thought that we were talking about Apple and not Android here.  But okay…

Let me just paint this picture for you.

in 2020 your TV, your thermostat, your garage, your house, your car, pretty much anything you can think of will be smarter in some way - at least I hope it will be.  The innovation that was smartphones and tablets is behind us.  These are commodities now, just as they were 10 years ago. 

Here in lies Apple’s challenge, commodities, most especially mobile phones have over the course of their existence been extremely low margin earners.  An Apple investors hedge is on its high margins off of this sector, and yes its a wealthy sector, but as the reality that mobile is commoditizing sets in, margins will drop and Apple will have to look to another area for growth or find a way to beat off the cheaper competition offering an arguably on par product. 

But that’s part of their challenge, the other part is the simple fact that though a system such as the ‘wretched Android scum’ does lend itself towards fragmentation, this perceived issue will likely also serve it as a benefit for future smart appliances.  If Samsung, Sharp, Sony, Mitsubishi (wow that’s a lot of manufacturers from a small geographical area, just wanted to point that out to you as well) can drop a simple Android OS (or similar) into your fridge, your microwave or a camera, then you’d better bet they will.

All this lays the path which shows that the next innovation lies in expanding the network rather than replenishing it with a replacement device.  Apple can be a player here, but another part of the challenge comes in asking whether you think they’ll be building all of the appliances in your home?  If not, where will they be moving to?

Mikuro

@Mikuro

Your words -
Apple is getting bit in the butt by a certain lack of foresight: iOS is not built to be flexible with resolutions, and certainly not aspect ratios.

It is not lack of foresight it is one of not wanting to fragment their products. Is it such a bad thing.

As for your beloved android you said the resolution is scalable but look at the work the developers have to do to accommodate all the different screen size.
So it is a great idea?

Flexibility is different from fragmentation. This is not an either-or.

The weirdest thing to me is that Apple has actually thrown away some of the strengths of their API. Now, I don’t have much experience developing for iOS, but I do with Cocoa on OS X, and the APIs share a lot. With Cocoa, Apple made it quite easy to design flexible layouts. Not only is Cocoa flexible, but Apple’s developer tools make it even easier—much easier, IMHO, than competitors. Why not do the same thing on the iPhone? Nobody has ever complained that supporting resizable windows or multiple resolutions on OS X leads to “fragmentation” or excessive burdens on developers.

I’m not saying it was the wrong decision at the time, but like all design decisions, it’s a tradeoff, and we’re seeing the negative side of it now.

Again, I need to use the iPad Mini more to judge, but I really think a 4:3 screen is not appropriate for such a device. If Apple had the foundation that would allow them to do something different, I think they probably would have, and I think it would have made for a more appealing (and ultimately more successful) product. That’s the problem here: Apple has left their hands tied. It’s not just that they don’t want to do something different; they can’t.

As for Android, I do some development there, as well. Would it be easier if I had only one resolution to target? Yes, of course it would. But it’s not a huge problem, and it would hardly be a problem at all if I had development tools up to the standard of Apple’s. (God I miss Interface Builder.) The benefit Android users (and by extension developers) get from it is worth it, and Google’s design decision has left them (and OEMs) with great freedom to innovate.

Mikuro

A bit more about fragmentation: Android DOES have a fragmentation problem, but it’s not because of screen sizes. That’s virtually a non-issue. It’s because of OS versions. OEMs are really bad at delivering timely updates and adopting new versions as they come, and the chipset differences between phones create some compatibility problems (e.g., I cannot use audio chat in Google Talk on my phone, because the codecs have not been compiled for my phone’s architecture; same with Firefox).

It’s a problem in the Android world, but it’s becoming a smaller problem. And again, it’s not about the screens.

Paul Goodwin

Most of the time I’m using my iPad, it’s to view web pages and email, where the 4:3 screen is better than 16:9. When I watch short videos in 16:9 the black bars on the top and bottom really aren’t a bother. If i want to watch a movie, i turn on the 47” TV and watch it on that device that is optimized for that. The Apple tablets display both aspect ratios.  The Apple tablets’ 4:3 screen is optimized for what the devices’ primary uses are.

wab95

John:

You’ve made several thoughtful points, and have received several in reply. Permit a couple of additional thoughts that address the ‘Why’ component of your thesis.

First, these accusations of ‘nothing new or revolutionary’ are not new, but have bedevilled Apple since SJ’s return in 1997. Never mind Michael Dell’s opening salvo at the outset of SJ’s second tenure to fold the company and return the money to the shareholders, the iPod was derided as an act of desperation from a dying company when it wasn’t being dismissed as just another MP3 player; the iPhone was panned as an overpriced, poorly conceived (no tactile keyboard), spec-hobbled, bauble with no relevance to the company’s primary focus - the Macintosh, slaved a hated AT&T (and this was the friendly fire) all of which would end disastrously; while the iPad was maligned as an unimaginative and over-sized iPod Touch, overpriced and under-spec’d, filling no niche and reflecting no real innovation or creativity. The technorati were merciless, but at each turn they were silenced by not only product market success, but genuine and unaffected client enthusiasm.

The point is, the clarion cries of doom following alleged lack of innovation and course deviation are not new, they’re not evidence based or data driven; rather they have simply grown louder and more insistent under Tim Cook’s leadership. There are critics who, legitimately, don’t get Apple, and remain convinced that the bubble will burst, the reality distortion field will collapse, and the iSheep will wake from their koolaid-intoxicated slumber and walk away, disillusioned and disgusted, and choose more sensible vendors, like MS, Google and Dell. Other critics are simply trying not to provide data-driven forecasts, but but lobbying for change, not relating the news but trying to create it. Such is the nature of competition and war, where all is fair and only winning counts.

Second, this bearish ‘innovation’ treatment of Apple is unequal to that of other companies. Between 1998 and the first iMac, to 2001 and those first full-metal titanium Powerbooks and first gen iPods, to 2007 and the iPhone through 2009 and the iPad, we have five new hardware product releases that changed whole industries - and this without even discussing the supportive products that set the user experience apart. That’s five major hardware innovations in 10 years. What other company has come close to this level of productivity and innovation, or has upended as many industries? I can think of none. Other than to follow Apple into smartphones and tablets and online music and app stores, what have Google, Amazon or OEMs like Samsung innovated? Sure, they’ve improved their devices, but these are spec/feature tweaks, not next generation breakthroughs. Where is the angst over their future relevance or impending doom? It’s been only one year since Cook took the helm, with product consistent upgrades across the board. Hysteria about the company’s demise is rooted in ignorance of history or is the product of gaming.

Third, with the introduction of the iPad in 2009, we formally entered the post-PC era (I would argue that it pre-dawned with the iPod, but I digress). With the release of Apple’s earlier products, there followed a systematic product maturation period. Why should it be any different in the post-PC era? For the sake of argument, let’s say that the mass PC era began in the mid ‘80s with mass adoption (yes, there were PC’s earlier, but these were largely for geeks and hobbyists). Thirty five years elapsed between the launch of the first Mac in 1984 to the launch of the iPad in 2009. Thirty five years. No one would argue that, apart from form factor, the first Macintosh was essentially the same as Apple’s flagship 15” retina display MBP.  Should we not anticipate similar advancements and innovations for post-PC devices and services, or do we think these devices the final products? Apple cannot ‘innovate’ in isolation of supportive technology and infrastructure. Just as past advances required supportive and enabling technologies, similar advances in supportive fields will be required in the post-PC era before we see next generation devices and services. We’re only at the beginning.

Finally, practically no one saw the post-PC era approaching until it had arrived. No one amongst the competition connected the dots and descried the pattern of Apples’ orchestrating the post-PC era under their very eyes until it was complete. This is a company that plays the long game over years. Who would argue that ‘the next big thing’ is not currently being unfolded under their very eyes at the same moment that these pundits, with their poor record of spotting innovation, bemoan its absence?

I would not.

Paul Goodwin

Wab. Wish they had a “Like” button

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