Apple’s Vision is Plain for (Most) Everyone to See

| Editorial

Scott Galloway, in a fascinating and informative presentation, linked at TMO earlier, asserts that it's fairly easy to grasp the basic message of Amazon, Facebook and Google. (Starting at 13m:25s.) But when it comes to Apple, the argument is that Tim Cook, the superb operator, isn't a good storyteller. Worse, he says "What is Apple's mission? They don't have one that they can articulate."

That's plainly wrong.

Scott Galloway through the Apple TelescopeScott Galloway, NYU

I find the claim that Apple doesn't have a mission to articulate hard to support. After all, a mountain of lore and words have been written about Steve Jobs and his vision for Apple. Now, I don't want to speak for Apple; Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive do that quite nicely. But I do have my own feelings, and I've never been at a loss to understand Apple's vision and mission myself.

In every keynote address Steve Jobs ever presented, he was passionate and articulate about Apple's vision. I remember Steve Jobs talking about iMovie and other products, if I recall correctly, saying "This is why we do what we do" after having demonstrated some home video of some of his executive's children on the beach.

In particular, in this video, (1h:08m) after having demonstrated iMovie in 1999, Steve Jobs points out how it's the convergence of five technologies. And Apple makes four of them. There is manifest pride by Mr. Jobs in the brilliant  integration of hardware and software that creates a convergence of technology and the arts.

Making Hard things Easy. With Class

What's key here is that Apple takes modern technology, integrates and converges the hardware and software elegantly, and makes technology approachable and usable in a way that's never been done before. It all started with the Macintosh, carried through to the iPhone, and manifests itself in modern products like the iPad and the Apple Watch.

Millions of customers who found the tablets of old too hard to use (and kept losing the stylus) have been captivated by the ease of use of an iPad. In a modern iPhone, we just ask Siri to call a friend. There are layers and layers of technology behind such a procedure, but Apple hides all that so that we can accomplish hard technical things with ease.

I remember with my Motorola RAZR in 2005 how frustrating it was to move photos over to my Mac. It could be done, but it was geeky and not much fun at all. For years, decades, Apple's vision has been to take some very human things we want to do: make movies of our kids, make a phone call with a tap, organize vacation photos, make retail purchases securely (Apple Pay) and implement tremendous technical dexterity behind the scenes to bring us joy and easy use of our tools. And all with the very best quality money can buy.

Customers share that vision and have rewarded Apple richly for implementing it in every product.

I really don't know what Mr. Galloway is talking about when he says that Apple's doesn't have a vision to articulate. Every product we buy from Apple is a beautiful manifestation of the original vision of Steve Jobs, carried forward and celebrated by the current executive team. Tim Cook's goal in life is to preserve that legacy vision.

After 40+ years, Apple's vision has been plain to see for everyone. And in case it's not clear, millions of words have been written by distinguished journalists who follow Apple that further articulate what Apple is all about. It's a mystery how anyone could have missed the message that Apple punctuates in every presentation the company has ever done and manifests in every product ever shipped.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

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Apples vision has clearly shifted from “Think Different” and ‘Bringing complex devices to everyone”  into “Money, Money, Money, Money’

While every business has a primarily goal of profit, it just seems more obvious with Apple than anyone else.  Success hasn’t created lower prices or higher value or even acquisitions to make the user experience better. Instead it’s been to accumulate money and broadcast those earnings to the world.  And sadly, the media just seems so eager to praise them as if Apple was their big brother, and at the same time defend them as if they were also their little brother.

While I don’t entirely agree with that guys claim that Apple has no message, I think most would agree that the current Apple has less to say now than it did in the past.


Surprisingly obtuse, this Mr. Galloway.  What’s so hard to grasp about “Build the best devices that we are capable of building”?  With the caveat that in today’s digitally integrated world,  “device” has expanded to subsume ecosystem.


“Build the best devices that we are capable of building”?

You don’t honestly believe that do you?

Apple makes superb products but to claim “This is the best Apple can build” is silly. Apple’s success has granted them the luxury of holding back on features in order to create a product cycle that offers “just enough” to get its user base to upgrade. So if Apple is intentionally withholding products and features for “the best marketable and profitable timeframe” then how can you say that the products we have in hand are “the best devices Apple is capable of building”.


Spot on John. Anyone who has followed Apple has had that eye opening experience. Money is the result of Apple’s vision. It has taken decades for this profit to come their way. Add in the share buy back and dividend programs plus the company putting its’ money and talent behind causes it believes in; then you will understand that “Money, Money….” Is not the vision. Apple has never been the darling of broad media outlets and volumes have been written on the unfair press given Apple.


“You don’t honestly believe that do you?”

Yes I do.  They say that is their self-chosen mission and I believe them.  And I take that mission to be pursued within the context of a for-profit business enterprise that keeps an eye on long term profitability.  Which includes yes, managing the product cycle.

Of course I can be unreasonably nitpicky, literal and extremist like you and say that oh, you could have put this feature in but you didn’t so no you didn’t build the best device you can.  But I choose not to because:

1.  I don’t have the perfect clairvoyant information you seem to have.  Not only do you seem to know for a fact that Apple intentionally holds back features purely for product cycle reasons (i.e. greed, is what you really mean), you also seem to know just exactly which Apple technologies are ready for release but have been intentionally held back.  I wish I had your mind-meld like connection to Tim Cook’s brain.  By the way, name one feature that Apple held back that you are absolutely sure was held back purely out of greed.

2. There are many reasons that a feature has been held back even if they have worked out the technological kinks.  The supporting infrastructure isn’t ready, other new features have been released as well and Apple fears that its tech support capacity will be overwhelmed if they release another feature.  Apple is a gradualist when it comes to introducing features and technologies, don’t introduce too many changes at one time that will just overwhelm your customers.  To see the problems associated with practicing the opposite of gradualism, cast your eye at Microsoft.

3.  It’s hard to square the accusation that Apple holds back features that are ready to go public given the criticism that pundits and customers have leveled at Apple for releasing features that are rushed, unfinished, and not ready for primetime.  Is releasing features before they are ready also part of managing the product cycle for purely greedy purposes?


Edit:  Is intentionally releasing features before they are ready and thus eliciting all that negative publicity also part of managing the product cycle for purely greedy purposes.


Absolutely spot on. This isn’t difficult to grasp either, but it does require the ability to imagine and to connect some dots, something most pundits seem to be incapable of. I consider most of them to be basically stooges for Wall Street, just part of that whole sick culture. So glad there are still companies like Apple that can be deaf to them.


I’d go with the idea that Apple (mostly) releases features when Apple considers them ready for the “real world”. (Will the hardware support this new software feature ? Will the software be stable across all applicable platforms ? etc)

From time to time, Apple has gotten ahead of it’s self, and released stuff (anyone else remember Open Doc ?) that never really takes off, and quietly slinks off into the corner and dies.

But since the time that Steve Jobs returned and reoriented Apple, and pared down the product line(s), and set Apple on a more focused path, I can’t agree with the notion that Apple has simply held back “stuff” just to extend the release cycle. And as aardman noted, Apple can have many reasons for not giving us the very bleeding edge ideas off the drawing board and I for one am glad. I want stable, integrated, compatible Apple Wares, thanks.


I think part of the reason that some people don’t see Apple’s vision, or misconstrue it as just greed and a lust for power, is the nature of the technology. The iMac was a huge visible change in a time of beige boxes and a rat’s nest of cables. The iPod/iTunes combo was a music player in an era of tiny storage and trouble loading your CDs (remember them) onto the device. The iPhone came out in an era of chicklet keyboards and “feature phones”.

In each case the product Apple revealed was revolutionary, totally different and distinctive from what came before. It’s getting harder to do revolutionary in this space. So Apple’s products are more evolutionary. This doesn’t mean they have no vision. It just means that the steps are less obvious. Think of it as a technological Zeno’s Paradox. Apple leads but the others are closer each year. It will take another product, that revolutionizes another field, Possibly Cars, for Apple to reveal something as revolutionary as the earlier products were. Apple’s vision has not changed. It’s just harder to make it stand out in a market full of companies who’s “vision” is to copy Apple.


Scott G may be saying that Apple are not telling a story which Wall Street can easily understand. This is obvious when you look at the P/E ratios of the four huge tech companies he chose for his rapid-fire presentation.


One of the best talks I heard about the philosophy of why Apple does what it does was from a 2009 Ted Talk by Simon Sinek and it aligns with what was written here. Great talk.


Amazon: sells you stuff, including some gadgets; sells cloud services.
Facebook: sells advertising and some app/platform services to businesses.
Google: sells advertising and cloud services to businesses.
Apple: sells you cool gadgets, and some services.


Also: Apple, Google, and Amazon also sell you software via app stores.


And they sell music/video streaming and/or downloads.
The above should be a simple enough “vision” that even Wall Street can understand.



I probably don’t have time to pen (keyboard?) this, and it is a bit late to post, however, having read your comments and listened to Bryan and Jeff’s further comments on ACM 345, it’s difficult to resist adding my two cents.

A couple of words about mission statement and one about vision.

First, regarding the issue of Apple not having a mission statement; it is easy to get discombobulated over such an omission, given that every other major tech company has one, however such lack of equanimity proceeds largely from ‘inside the box’ thinking, which time and again, Apple in word and deed have both challenged and eschewed. Indeed, that the world’s most valuable company by market cap (once again) lacks a mission statement should provide catharsis to industries everywhere hobbled by uncritical submission to convention and the constraints it can impose on freedom of thought. Having sat on too many discussions on organisations that have spent too many hours fretting over mission statements, I can assert that many of these organisations, having developed them, seldom refer back to them once created, whilst most of their senior team cannot recite them to save their lives. These have served primarily as marketing tools for companies and organisations struggling for notoriety and a vehicle for distinguishing themselves against the background of anonymity. Question: Who on this planet does not know about Apple? Apple are hardly in need of a mission statement for making themselves known. Moreover, the vast majority of people have an opinion about Apple that is unlikely to be modified by reading such a mission statement. And given that many organisations seldom refer to their mission statements, or rapidly expand beyond the limitations thereof, perhaps Apple are by their actions saying, ‘Mission statement? Really?’ Better, perhaps, to throw off the shackles of infancy if one is to grow to such stature. True, Apple pay a penalty for secrecy and opacity of direction, but this is nothing new, nor is it evidence for lack of direction.

This leads to the second point about mission statements, namely that Apple, not to mention Google and to a lesser extent MS (I see FB and Amazon in a different light, but another time perhaps), are in dynamic flux. These are companies that have intentionally burgeoned beyond their founding parameters to become behemoths that assimilate whole categories of discipline and industry to transform themselves into evermore capable change agents, catapult themselves beyond competition from single-discipline companies and thus dominate the terms of industrial, and indeed, cultural transformation. Apple have unambiguously cleared the bar of a single product computer company, nor is Google solely engrossed in their search engine. This an entirely new paradigm for companies in any industry, and equilibrium is yet to be reached. What fields of discipline or spheres of influence are out of bounds? In such a growth state and competition, what mission statement is sufficiently descriptive yet adaptable to embrace such transformation without being effectively meaningless?

Finally, as to vision, time and again, Apple have stated in their adverts that they are about making the best possible products designed to unleash human creativity and thereby make the world a better place. Not only have they said that, they’ve repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to doing so with products that others quickly move to imitate or that displace competing products to distant contender status. The indicator for this feat is neither market share or profit share, but mindshare - a mindshare that extends to both client and competition alike. If Apple so much as hints that it might be thinking about a given product or area of influence, not only the blogosphere but whole industries are shaken to respond - the watch and auto industries being the most recent examples. Where will this lead? Can it be defined? Must it have a limit, as to range of influence? We are in virgin territory with these companies, and no one knows how far their reach will extend, or where they will take us.

In a word, one could argue that if Apple have to describe to an analyst or the street in words what their mission or vision is, then these simply have not being paying attention, and no words can remedy their obtusity.

If my opinion were sought, and don’t worry, it has not been, as to what best describes Apple’s mission and vision, I might choose Roddenberry and conclude, ‘To boldly go where no one has gone before’.

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