Why Apple dares to change your apps
by Michael Gartenberg, Macworld.com Jul 17, 2011
Apple recently introduced the long-awaited update to its Final Cut Pro video-editing application. ... When the new version (now called Final Cut Pro X) was introduced, controversy ensued. I mean real controversy. In fact, I haven?t seen this level of user protest over a product change since the Coca-Cola company decided to mess with its time-tested formula and introduce New Coke to nearly universal disdain.
No matter your thoughts on the specifics of the app and what if offers, Apple?s moves here show a good deal about how Apple works, its overall strategy, and how it thinks about growing its business.
Apple keeps its own counsel.
So agree. The critics were wrong about licensing. They were wrong about the iPod. They were wrong about iTunes, Retail Stores, the iPhone and the iPad. They were wrong about the need to build a netbook and the need to lower prices.
In the end, Apple keeps its own counsel on what it will and won?t do, and has generally been proven right.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few
...Apple?s willing to sacrifice the tens of thousands for the hundreds of millions ... Change is hard. but at the end of the day Apple will keep pushing the technology ahead, even if that means alienating some along the way.
Apple says its primary goal is to make the very best products it can. I don’t think that’s quite right. I wish I could put this better. I think that Apple has three “guiding lights”. They want to make the best products that they can make. They want to make the best product for the many, not the few. They want to make a product that the many can not just use, but love to use. When those three stars line up, Apple knows that they are on the right course.
As an aside, this is exactly the kind of vision that Microsoft is missing. They can see the landscape around them, but they have no “stars” to guide them when for the long run or when they lose their way.
We often talk about what Apple will be like after Steve Jobs leaves. You can’t replace genius. But you can instill culture. I think that the two things items discussed above are cultural and can be instilled in an organization.
When Steve Jobs departs, I expect Apple to continue to keep its own counsel but in a slightly modified manner. They will be more responsive - have less of a tin ear - but their decisions will only be good or great, not brilliant. You can replicate Job’s culture, but not the spark of genius.
As for creating the best for the most, I think that will stay entirely intact. That is a lesson that Steve Jobs learned somewhere along the way and he’s imparted it to Apple. You don’t need to be a genius to follow such simple advice. You only need to be wise.
Gartenberg, in general, really gets Apple. For example, from that same article:
Apple does listen to customers. No matter what, Apple is still a customer-driven company and it does listen to customers. The quick feedback to the Final Cut user base is evidence of the company?s ability to listen and respond. Apple?s also not afraid to make changes as the market demands. The third-generation iPod shuffle lost all navigation buttons in favor of a tiny form factor which I loved, but many hated. Users made their voices clear, and the fourth generation of the shuffle combines the VoiceOver utility of the third generation while restoring the navigation buttons of the second generation.
In a similar vein, when Apple revamped iMovie a few years back, the company also faced similar criticism from long-time users, and kept the old version available for download for those that wanted it for nearly two years. At that point, the current version met just about everyone?s needs.
It would be nice if Apple could accommodate every user desire and focus special attention on long-time users. But that?s not how you build a mass-market audience with broad product acceptance. While some might lament that fact, the reality is Apple really has transitioned from being a company for a few of us. It?s now, at last, truly the company for the rest of us?with all that implies.
If you (and by “you” I mean everyone) were paying attention, Apple’s MO since inception has been designing computers, and later products, for the rest of us. Oh sure, it has some great pro-grade stuff. But things like MacBook Pros without eSATA, MacBook Airs with no FireWire, iMacs with that maddening glossy screen that really doesn’t bother me, a matte-screen fan, an iPhone that lost its ability to boot a Mac along with the way back when it was an iPod, the redesigned iMovie, and on and on… This isn’t some writing on the wall. It’s the way Apple does things.
Steve Jobs is a genius, but he doesn’t make all the decisions around here. Tim Cook is big time too, and you know what, he’s a frickin’ genius who also happened to really be in tune with Steve’s philosophy. “Magic of Apple.” You ever think you’d hear Tim Cook say that? Let’s not forget others like Scott Forstall, Jony Ive. Also geniuses in their own right.
It could well be that none of Apple’s hugely talented exec team has the “all in one” combination of skills and gifts that Jobs possesses. But let’s take a step back. Are any of the products Apple’s designed lately truly “genius”? Thin, sure, but Jobs doesn’t how to do that by himself. Superior OS? It takes Forstall, Federighi and Co. for that. Superior hardware? Aside from the occasional leapfrog like the Retina Display…not really, really. It’s all about integration and superior design through extreme thoughtfulness. Execution, to use an imprecise sum-up. Apple’s goal is to make products they themselves would use.
A little may be lost along the way when Steve Jobs leaves the company, but “brilliant” decisions aren’t so necessary when the empire is already established, and all that’s left is to manage deals, keep the products on an inventive course, and always emphasize ease of use. You need good people with the right focus, and Apple is stuffed to the gills with those.[ Edited: 17 July 2011 04:33 PM by Mav ]
The Summer of AAPL is here. Enjoy it (responsibly) while it lasts.
AFB Night Owl Team™