Astonishingly, Apple creates unnecessary problems for itself. Locked in the old era, modern Apple executive thinking continues to focus on drama while excising important elements of its vision. That leads to pain, criticism, and disaffection with Apple. It wouldn’t be hard to avoid all that these days.
Apple’s October 27 “hello again” event has created a flurry of critical thinking about Apple and a vision that failed to be articulated. With just one repetition from last week, here’s a good sampling of some very astute, pointed analysis by professionals of how Apple failed during its presentation.
- From the enthusiast to the general consumer, Apple’s recipe for success has become boring
- An Open Letter To Apple From The Actual Working Pros.
- Apple just told the world it has no idea who the Mac is for
- The MacBook Pro is a lie
That’s enough of a sampling to reveal how some very loyal and informed members of the Apple community have reacted.
The Source of Apple’s Problem
Putting the above critiques into context requires some deep thought and understanding of Apple’s philosophy.
Perhaps a partial antidote to some of the thinking involves this analysis by the talented Neil Cybart. “Apple Is Placing a Big Bet with the New MacBook Pro.” This article explores the balance between what professionals need today and Apple’s roadmap for the the future by invoking “The Grand Unified Theory of Apple Products.” Quoting….
All of Apple’s major product categories are interrelated. The goal or job for each is to gain enough capability to reduce the importance of the next most powerful product. For example, the goal of the iPad is to handle so many tasks that we no longer need a Mac.
Key to the analysis is the tension between what technical and creative professionals need from their Macs today and what the everyday consumer has discovered about the utility of the iPhone, a device that can often do everything they’d care to do. Continuing….
While Apple was pledging continued support for the Mac, the product category became long in the tooth. Circling back to The Grand Unified Theory of Apple Products, the Mac was no longer keeping up with Schiller’s proclamation of it being the computer meant to push Apple’s entire product line forward. While the tech press has remained infatuated with the debate as to whether an iPad can replace a Mac, consumers have already determined that the iPhone is able to handle most of the tasks once given to the Mac.
Caught up in this tension, it appears that Apple is loathe to proclaim a product vision that explains how all this will evolve. Instead, it seems, Apple is content to focus on only one thing at a time, taking the easy way out, while letting the Grand Unified Theory linger, hidden and lurking in the background.
While this may be an economical way for a stressed executive team to deal with the complexities of a mature, US$250 billion company, it failed on October 27 to address the pent up frustration of a vast majority of users who work across all of Apple’s platforms, not just casual iPhone users. That included, of course, high end pro users and technically demanding users who use iMacs.
So the fur was kicked up in a flurry of angst, and we’ve been trying to sort things out ever since. It’s been painful.
Apple’s Remedial Action: Too Late
Taken by surprise the day before by Microsoft and not having new Touch Pad enabled iMacs ready, Apple limped through the presentation without explanation. Then Apple executives expressed (feigned?) surprise at the resulting pushback.
First, Phil Schiller had to quickly line up an interview with the Independent to explain the vision gaps during the event itself.
We love the Mac and are as committed to it, in both desktops and notebooks, as we ever have been.
That didn’t quell the fever of criticism that Apple hadn’t met the needs of pro users, and so what appears to be an Apple sponsored, seeded attempt to have a technical professional put a MacBook Pro through its paces and sing its praise was conjured up.
First off, It’s really fast. I’ve been using the MacBook Pro with the new version of FCP X and cutting 5k ProRes material all week, it’s buttery smooth. No matter what you think the specs say, the fact is the software and hardware are so well integrated it tears strips off “superior spec’d” Windows counterparts in the real world….
A ‘Professional’ should be defined by the work they deliver and the value they bring, not their gear. Use the new MacBook Pro, don’t use the new MacBook Pro. Your audience don’t care. You just have to keep making great work however you can. For me, I love it and I think most people will do too… once they actually touch it.
Why didn’t Apple express this vision in the event? Instead, it got behind in the news and vision cycle.
The Big Question
The question I keep asking myself is why Apple has to put the community through so much pain with these mop up operations. Is it too much to ask for a company as large as Apple, with so many dependent and loyal customers, to 1) Articulate a grand vision for the Mac, 2) Develop, and update a coherent Mac product line and 3) Explain in detail the performance and advantages of the Mac being focused on in any given event. One product line chart combined with an expression of vision would have avoided so much pushback.
Instead we are left with passionate, articulate observers and developers to speak for Apple, as in this excellent missive by the influential Marco Arment. “A world without the Mac Pro.” He makes the case for continuing the Mac Pro with keen insight.
Apple has, in the past, exhibited a ledendary ability to present us with grand visions for its products. Remember the Steve Jobs 2 x 2 product chart? The result is that we believe. We trust. We approach the company’s products with both occasional envy and lasting satisfaction. We can even plan ahead.
After the event, the most respected members of the community had to struggle to express the preferred strategy on Apple’s behalf. They struggled to figure out how Apple is going to meet our needs. In that process, there’s been much pain and confusion. We all felt let down, despite the coolness and speed of the 15-inch, quad-core 2016 MacBook Pro.
It doesn’t have to be this way. It wouldn’t be hard to replace the pain with joy once again.
Next page: A bit more news debris for the week of Nov 7th. The case for encrypted communications: diplomacy.