It’s Time for Apple to Convert Dollars to Leadership

| Editorial

Apple has been enormously successful in developing products that solve customer problems by elegantly merging its software to amazing hardware. And so, in 2016, it'll be about time for Apple to start converting all that revenue and cash on hand into some serious leadership roles, not just me too products, incrementally upgraded.


Leadership isn't just financial success with products customers want and enjoy. Leadership is also an outwardly visible commitment, over a long period of time, to products that Apple believes in. It also means using Apple's technical expertise and trustworthiness to influence the industry in areas where Apple is now following the pack, losing its lead, or needs to seize greater opportunity.

Here are my wishes for Apple leadership in 2016. I've made a list and checked it twice.

1. Advance the State-of-the-Art in Tablets with iOS and iPads

iPad Pro. Image credit: Apple 

When the original iPad shipped in 2010, it had a tiny fraction of the CPU and GPU power of today's iPads, especially the 2015 iPad Pro. Along the way, iOS somehow got pigeon-holed as a smartphone OS that can also be used with iPads, and that hasn't worked out so well in my opinion. Many customers with iPhone 6 Pluses and 6s Pluses don't need even an iPad Air. What's more, the latest and greatest technologies, including a barometer and NFC + Apple Pay are on the iPhones, not the iPads.

Everything in tech changes, grows, and generally gets better. iOS, now more than ever, needs to grow and exploit the iPad hardware. We've seen hits of APple's thinking with P.I.P, Split View and Slide Over, but there's more to be done.

For example, a 12.9-inch display cries out for a window manager. Here's a neat concept video that suggests what could be done.

Next, while I'm not suggesting that iOS apps could be built on an iPad Pro (thanks to the structure of iOS and security restrictions), it would be nice to see greater emphasis on scripting and coding on the iPad Pro. Python or Ruby support of some kind, even if sandboxed, would be welcomed by students.

Home screen app management hasn't gotten any better in years. A 12.9-inch display on the iPad Pro cries out for more sophisticated presentation, arrangement, and management of app icons.

Finally, I'd like to see continued exploitation of the Apple pencil as a pointing tool. Support for the Apple Pencil in the iPad Air 3 would punctuation Apple's direction in this regard.

And by the way, I look forward to Apple solving the Apple Pencil supply chain problem, whatever it is. This has been a terrible blunder by Apple, but the company can still save the day once inventory is plentiful in ... January?

2. Announce a New Mac Pro

Mac Pro. Image credit: Apple.

We fret. We fret because we worry that Apple has lost heart in its support of technical professionals who want and expect the best computational platform from Apple. When Apple SVP Phil Schiller announced the Mac Pro at WWDC in June of 2013, we had already waited in much pain and angst for an update to that line. It would be a shame to see Apple's magnificent enthusiasm from 2013 turns into a dismal, depressing fade to black.

If Apple were to announce a next generation Mac Pro that relaxed some hardware constraints, made some minor concession to expandability, included the latest Xeon processors, all would be forgiven. Apple could say, we waited until we could deliver another quantum leap! All would be forgiven.

Of course, a 42-inch, curved, 5K, IPS display to go along with it wouldn't hurt. The current 27-inch Thunderbolt display is an outright embarrassment to Apple, and the art of leadership is never having embarrassing products.

Next page: The 4K UHD Apple TV and Apple's Education DNA

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Old UNIX Guy

Hey John,

I’ve got one to add to your list ... Apple needs to spend however much money they need to in order to restore their leadership in “in just works” software quality.  iOS is much better than OS X, but that’s not saying much, as El Crapitan is just that.  Talk about being an embarrassment, the 27” Thunderbolt display has nothing on OS X!

OS X is so bad that I’m starting to wonder if the conspiracy theories that say it’s deliberate to push people off of Macs and over to iPads might be true.  It’s hard for me to imagine how something like Mail could be as bad as it is even if the entire Mail team were rejects from Micro$oft that were actually *trying*...


John Martellaro

Old UNIX Guy: I’ve been using El Capitan for several months now, every day, as my go to production OS, and while I get an occasional lockup, I am generally quite pleased with 10.11. That lockup happened in Yosemite and Mavericks also, likely some deep bug carried forward. I haven’t traced it down, but it only happens on the Mac Pro.  The MacBook is rock solid, likely because I don’t experiment with it.

It’s hard to believe that Apple would ever do less than its best with OS X.

I am not pleased with Apple Mail either. Someday, someone will pull a rabbit out of the hat and give us a glorious email program. Wait! We had it.  It was called Eudora.


As a university professor, I agree on Apple’s need to reassert a leadership role in education.  Apple’s own page for educator development has been devoid of content this year, for example.

iBooks Author seems to be an orphaned product of recent history.  It has great potential in education.  See


One more thing:
I think Apple has in many aspects ignored the software development.
Steve Jobs said shortly before he passed: “A hardware company has to be truly focused on the quality of the software used”.
Recently I have seen Apple’s mail client adding new figures to the software version name, but practically no new features and no care taking of old time inconsequences,
Recently I have seen Apple shutting down the only app that was close to gain marketshare among professionals - Aperture, that is - and replacing it with the Photoapp that is so much between two chairs. The families won’t use the pro elements of that app, and the pro’s won’t use that family app at all. So who’s gonna play with it? I can tell who’s gonna win by it: Adobe!
Recently and long time before that I have seen Spotlight turning so slow my night vision would work before the light would turn on. Even Windows Explorer has ever been so slow, so confused, and so raving in the dark.
All in all I think besides a very tough price mark for the - admitted - very nice hardware, I’ll have to pay a lot of third party developers an extra “dollars” and then to find software suiting my productivity needs.
And that, Apple, is certainly lack of leadership!


<<it’ll be about time for Apple start converting all that revenue and cash on hand into some serious leadership roles, not just me too products, incrementally upgraded.>>  -
man, I’ve said that all along -the lack of imagination is staggering considering the influence Apple has. The clones would’ve killed me. lol

Old UNIX Guy

Hi John,

Isn’t it TMO’s own Dave Hamilton who likes to say that he emotionally supports all conspiracy theories, even if he can’t intellectually support them?  wink

I guess what disappoints me so much about El Crapitan is that it was supposed to be another Snow Leopard type release ... light on new features and full of bug fixes.

And while the UNIX core itself is still pretty stable, Mail is a joke ... I have to relaunch it daily, sometimes multiple times per day due to an egregious memory leak (45 GB of RAM, really?).  Calendar would regularly give me the spinning beach ball of death and then die until I went in and deleted a few thousand old Calendar entries. 

And the Mac App Store?  The only words which accurately describe it are words which I do not use.  When software update doesn’t even work you’ve got a inexcusable problem.  I’m not talking about buying / installing new apps, I’m just talking about trying to keep the apps you have updated.  For that problem to even exist in the first place some people at Apple have to be negligent.  For it to persist as long as it has means that Apple has not fired some people that need to be gotten rid of.

Oh wait, software update does work reliably ... on iOS ... hmmm, is it time to circle back around to that conspiracy theory??? wink


Nicolas diPierro

I’d argue that Apple is failing its own standards of imagination. The pride in admitting they design their products to cannibalize each other doesn’t hold up when it comes to the Mac. I’ll quote this Phil Schiller interview from Medium.


Schiller, in fact, has a grand philosophical theory of the Apple product line that puts all products on a continuum. Ideally, you should be using the smallest possible gadget to do as much as possible before going to the next largest gizmo in line.
“They are all computers,” he says. “Each one is offering computers something unique and each is made with a simple form that is pretty eternal. The job of the watch is to do more and more things on your wrist so that you don’t need to pick up your phone as often. The job of the phone is to do more and more things such that maybe you don’t need your iPad, and it should be always trying and striving to do that. The job of the iPad should be to be so powerful and capable that you never need a notebook. Like, Why do I need a notebook? I can add a keyboard! I can do all these things! The job of the notebook is to make it so you never need a desktop, right? It’s been doing this for a decade. So that leaves the poor desktop at the end of the line, What’s its job?”
Good question. And the answer?
“Its job is to challenge what we think a computer can do and do things that no computer has ever done before, be more and more powerful and capable so that we need a desktop because of its capabilities,” says Schiller. “Because if all it’s doing is competing with the notebook and being thinner and lighter, then it doesn’t need to be.”


The languishing MacPro puts the lie to this statement. But I’d add the sloppy state of Mac OS X. Instead of bringing in human interface geniuses to focus on making OS X a (less pretty) tool to get work done, they keep tacking on what I view as gimmicks. Each iteration degrades the desktop metaphor to suit the iOS base. TimeMachine is not at all rock solid and it should be. AirDrop and Continuity are unreliable enough that I’ve long given up on them. Mission Control still pales in functionality and intuitiveness compared to Snow Leopard’s Spaces/Exposé. The iWork apps have *not* grown into powerful apps that only a Mac can use. How old is HFS+ now? How about expandability and customization? Ports and slots are vanishing with each new iteration. These are the things Macs should be shamelessly *embracing* because they’re things the iPad will never do.

John Martellaro

All: A common thread here seems to be Apple’s failure of imagination, quantified in ways that aren’t typically discussed. Keep those comments coming. There may be a follow-up article brewing.

Lee Dronick

iNurse. I use iBook Author to put my cooking recipes into an iBook. Also I have been looking around for a database to organize my poetry and haikus, but a few weeks ago I thought that I could just put them in an iBook. Now that the holidays are over I need to get cracking on that.

Jerome Kopf

Intelligence, technical expertise, incisive management:  You will not find these qualities in either Apple’s Board or in its CEO.  The core concern of Apple now is marketing well dressed products with built-in obsolescence.  This is fragrance and theater rather than substance.  Their talent is better suited to department store window display.

One Director has a resumé that includes recognition by Bloomberg Businessweek one recent year as a select member of a group of five CEOs.  This publication described them as the worst CEOs that year in the USA.  Forbes concurred about this executive,  She now graces Apple’s Board.

Nicolas diPierro

I think, John M., my wish would be for Apple to make the Mac OS/Mac Pro/Macbook Pro the halo car* products of the company. Let it be a geek’s dream, a content creator’s dream, a hobbyist’s dream and a paragon of UI theory first, appearance second. Let the “average consumer” continue to gravitate toward iOS solutions for their daily needs.

* “Halo cars are primarily the best a car company can make in performance, and are produced in limited numbers or with low sales expectations in order to generate public appeal for the brand.”

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