Apple needs to take a page from Steve Jobs, step back, rethink, and streamline its product line. It needs to remake its product grid to include an “Edition” category.
In the beginning there was chaos, and then Jobs said, let there be quadrant
Apple’s products were never as clear cut as when Steve Jobs famously came back to Apple, killed off all the cruft products, and remade the product offerings by simplifying its product mix into a 4 quadrant grid. Two categories of consumer and professional, and two product types of laptop and desktop.
Since then, particularly with the introduction of the Cube and original MacBook Air, its product line has become confused. These machines were super cool, but didn’t really fit in the product grid. They were not as powerful as the pro machines, yet they cost more. They were tour-de-forces of design and sexy. They were early precursors of what I suggest should be a new product category, the Edition.
Edition products are lust-worthy but not necessarily practical. Apple officially unveiled this style-over-substance category originally for the gold and later ceramic Apple Watch. They are more supercar than truck, abusing Steve’s old analogy. Sexy but not so practical. Yet, even Steve acknowledged, we would still need trucks. Even today, and Apple has lost sight of that. Further, Apple never noticed it started making Edition products outside the watch. I think, perhaps, its old product grid has confused them.
Restrictive product grid resulted in compromised designs
Let me clarify. Apple makes no professional computers today.* A professional computer has to have (at the very least) upgradable storage. If it doesn’t have upgradable storage, it’s not professional. Full stop. End of story. Talk to the hand, I’m not hearing it. That you have to buy a MacBook Pro for almost $8000 (when you add AppleCare and NY tax) and you only get 4TB of storage that can never be upgraded is an insult. I buy pretty much most Apple products, and I could really use a new laptop, and the 2018 MacBook Pro is finally a decent processor upgrade, yet, I’d rather burn the money than buy that disgusting excuse for a pro machine. Many other pros are equally disgusted by Apple’s abandonment of them and their needs.
Yet, if Apple called that machine the MacBook Edition, lots of executives and look-at-me-I’m-special Silicon Valley garbage (with titles like Chief Vision Officer and Guru Seer) would run to buy this stupidly thin, thermal throttling (Apple apparently hasn’t learned a damn thing from its style-over-substance ’thermal corner’ Mac Pro debacle), gorgeous piece of performance-compromised design. It totally makes sense as an Edition product.
Expanding the grid with Edition is win-win-win
And by doing that, Apple could actually make the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro professionals really want. A truck. That might be a good bit thicker for more battery and better thermal performance. With expandable storage and memory. And on the desktop, with slots; glorious glorious slots!
This new third category would also help unconfuse the phone, tablet, and other product types because it would reduce the tension designers have between high-design desires beating out the practical needs of professionals. It would have prevented mistakes like the Cube, and trashcan Mac Pro by giving them a natural spot in the product mix without confusing the mix or killing ‘truck’ models professionals actually need.
Also, it would take the pressure off consumer devices in that Apple could provide better price points there. The Edition products could be stupidly over-priced and the relevant market segment will still flock to them. Pro products would also still demand premiums. All of which takes the pressure off the consumer line allowing for thinner margins and greater share in that segment. Designers would win by being able to make more focused and less compromised designs. Consumers would win with more choices. Apple would win with greater focused products, more revenue, better margins, and better market share.
It’s not clear if John Sculley…erm Tim Cook can get his head out of his deep pipeline long enough to get the broader picture, but now is a good time to take a pause and reevaluate what has become a very confused feature/product mix.
*Sadly, the only computer Apple makes with user upgradable storage is the now 5+ years ancient trashcan MacPro that uses a custom storage slot, but at least has some 3rd party upgrades available.