Apple's Failure to Scale

Apple is about to cross into a cycle of decline if we do not see some significant updates across the board. Right now Apple is a company not producing. If you look back at, say 2008, while the company was still under Steve Jobs, it was pretty much regularly and annually updating all Macs, operating systems, peripherals, iPods, even meaningful updates to its iLife/iWork suites as well as the iPhone and its software.

Since then Apple has about quadrupled its work force, but it hasn’t quadrupled product output. If anything, product output seems to have gone down. They’ve killed lots and lots of features across the line. They killed Aperture. There hasn’t been a meaningful or substantial update to iLife or iWork in years, and in fact they’ve reduced its features. iTunes has bloated into a menace that would even make Microsoft blush.

How about the Mac, it’s an embarrassment of inactivity. Apple hasn’t updated its Cinema Display since September of 2011, and hasn’t updated its top of the line Mac Pro since December 2013. Even its ‘most up to date’ iMac is sporting a pathetic maximum-sized 3TB hard drive when you can get 8TB drives for about $200.

Right now, it seems Apple just cannot get anything out the door. They haven’t bothered to update so many of their machines (even with deminimus speed bumped processors), I guess, because either they’re incapable or they don’t care. And that’s a problem. A big one.

Wired 1997 Cover


And it brings to mind my real fear here. What the heck is Apple doing? It has more people than ever and more resources than ever, yet is producing less than ever. What are all those people doing? Why does it appear that Apple is failing to scale—it’s doing less with more.

This reminds me how after Steve Jobs was kicked out of Apple, CEO John Sculley actually increased revenues at Apple for the first few years. Apple was at the top of the PC game. All until there was no vision or meaningful updates, and then Apple went into decline and neared bankruptcy before Steve came back and saved the company with his NeXT technology vision.

A lot of people say Apple makes most of it’s money on the iPhone, so it doesn't really need to make the Mac (or trucks as Steve Jobs once called them). But all those people are wrong. Along with Steve Jobs, it was the creative professionals and the techno elite who saved Apple. They were convinced that having a clean unix on the desktop was cool, and they bought Macs. Later, they bought iPods that their kids thought were cool and went and spread the halo effect.

They were the shepherds that guided the flock. And those people are leaving Apple in droves right now. Why? Because Macs are so stale and old. They simply are not competitive for power users and creative professionals. Don’t believe me? On the next page I'll explore some reactions from power users—Mac power users—that are out there right now.

Next: Mac Power Users and Creative Pros Turning Elsewhere

Page 2 - Mac Power Users and Creative Pros Turning Elsewhere 


This is an issue I've been thinking about a long time, and I've seen a lot of complaints coming from traditional Mac strongholds. Check out this thread from the MacRumors forums (those forums are an Apple fanboy haven) and some choice quotes from it.

From Mark Holmes:

I wanted to buy a Mac Pro for my 4k editing needs. I nursed my 2009 Mac Pro 4,1 for 7 years, upgrading the RAM, the video card, constantly changing out hard drives as my needs dictated, loving the configurability and reliability of that machine.

But it was choking on the 4k footage I'm editing now, the bottleneck was memory and processor, and the only solution was to replace it with something faster, that could be upgraded over the years as I did with the classic Mac Pro.

So I shopped the Mac Pro, configured it to what I needed, and ended up with a decent system: the 3.5 GHZ six core, 64GB of RAM, 256 Flash Drive, and the dual D700 GPUs. That came to $5,799.00. Really, Apple? For a machine that hasn't been updated since 2013?!?! Add to that the fact that I don't trust Apple to keep building the Mac Pro - burned by Aperture and FCPX - and the fact that this machine will never be able to be updated over the coming years the way I did with the 2009 Mac Pro.

So I found myself researching HP workstations.

A couple days research later, I had my system. The HP Z640 Workstation. 3.5 GHZ 6 core Xeon, 256GB PCI Flash Drive, adding an AMD 390x graphics card and 64GB of RAM. With the additional memory and graphics card, it came to just over $3,000.00

From strukt

Yeah, I also think it is time to move on. I see no point in buying a Mac for an obscene amount of money doing work a PC can do just as well or better. The convenience of OS X is just not worth it anymore.

From yaxomoxay:

I am not a professional (as meant as someone that needs a super-mega computer with 20 CPUs and 128GB of RAM), but I have to agree with the OP. As you can see from the signature I have a lot of apple stuff, but the Mac line truly sucks. It has been abandoned. And you want to know the truth? I don't trust them anymore, meaning that yeah they can have a new Mac at WWDC, but what if the line is left again for dead for five years or so?

From vadrum:

I completely agree with you. This is a sad, but unfortunately true thread.

And that's why I switched to Windows and bought a Dell XPS 15 maxed out.

It flies, Windows 10 is finally a good OS and you know what, all my software works without aaany issue.
My next step will be buying a workstation, most probably a Dell Precision...I'll wait until June, just in case, but that's the last chance I give to Apple.

From AidenShaw:

I went into the lab this morning to power up a new quad CPU / 72 core / 144 thread system with 1024 GiB of RAM and quad Titan X cards (12288 CUDA cores, 48 GiB VRAM). It will be in production by noon tomorrow (Monday).

Good luck competing against that with a 12 core system, with 64 GiB of supported RAM and a couple of Radeons.

From sigmadog:

If I were looking for a new system, I'd be very tempted to go for the new Z1 over the iMac because of service-ability.

Apple needs to refresh the entire Mac line as soon as possible or the remaining creative/techno elites will leave the platform. And if they go, so will their tastemaker effect on Apple’s consumers—Apple needs that effect. Not for the negligible amount of money that the Mac brings to the company, but for the marketing cool it brings. Do you want to buy products used by music and filmmakers or outdated boxes used by clueless marketing executives? If the Mac gets a reputation of being stale, that halo stink will spread like a cancer to its other products. Don’t think so? Here are a few more choice quotes from that thread by some long time Mac advocates.

From maxsix:

From a huge advocate in the nineties, I can no longer endorse Apple like I once did with confidence and pleasure.

From jameslmoser:

I have to agree with everyone else on this thread. In 2006 I bought my first Mac Pro, because I wanted a Unix desktop with commercial support, and am a power user. I know I am not Apple's typical customer, however, I soon after fell in love with it and when my family asked me to help them buy a computer guess what I convinced them to buy? I have a large family and convinced them to buy iMacs, MacBooks, Mac Minis, etc. In 2009 I started convincing them to buy iPhones, iPads, Apple TV's, etc. I have convinced employers to buy Macs for their developers, myself included.

Then those devices got old, and when they asked me about new computers, I actually couldn't recommend Macs when I have been thinking about other options myself (especially when Lion came out). So they didn't buy Macs.

From Mark Holmes:

And the thing Apple forgets, is their pro users serve as more than another group of customers. We are, or were their evangelists, the ones who spread the word about how great Apple products are. The member of the family, or the one of the group of friends who people would go to for tech advice. I increasingly have a hard time pointing people to the Apple store…

Even stalwart podcasts like MacBreak Weekly have become Android sausage-fests with the participants regularly bemoaning the greatness of Microsoft’s Surface Book. And while they are morbidly wrong about the festering crap architecture and cesspool security hell that is Android, they’re not wrong about the Surface Book.

Next: Who Will Wear the Mantle of Tech Innovation

Page 3 - Who Will Wear the Mantle of Tech Innovation


Microsoft has taken the role of innovator. Having touch on a convertible laptop makes total sense. Just look at all the products out there trying to get the iPad to be more like a convertible laptop to confirm there is a need for this. Apple is lucky in that although Microsoft is on the right track in trying to get touch on a convertible, it’s current UI implementation on Windows 10 is a combo toaster refrigerator crap show. But, hey, at least they are trying. What’s Apple done? Add a stylus to a bigger iPad? Way to set the bar real high there.

What’s worse—if true—are the latest rumors that the iPhone 7 will have the same form factor as the now near two generation-old iPhone 6. This will be a catastrophe, unless the device has some revolutionary new feature like a front face that is all screen and incorporates the home button in the screen, i.e., so it would still be somehow visually distinguishable as new.

If the iPhone 7 has the same form factor, key growth markets will start to abandon it because at this point, for many people, the iPhone is about fashion, not technology. People in China, India, Russia want you to know they have the new iPhone. It’s a statement that they’ve arrived. They want you to see they got the new form factor, the new color, what have you. With iPhone sales flat lining, Apple needs to update its form factor, if anything, more frequently, i.e., every year. Not less.

With the narrative that Apple is not innovating—and not even keeping up with technology—on the Mac writing itself, a stale design iPhone 7 would only worsen and ingrain that perception. And if that happens, you may well be seeing the beginnings of an Apple cycle of decline.

Steve Jobs once faced this same problem on his return in 1997 and his ‘high order bit’ was to get Apple over its ‘lack of execution.’ 


So here’s hoping that Apple knows about it’s lack of execution and has plans to fix it at WWDC this June. Not with merely speed bumped Macs, but with a completely revamped Mac line, and that the iPhone 7 does have a new form factor in September. Fingers crossed.