Rob Enderle Calls Apple ‘Desperate’

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I've tried. I've tried ever so hard to ignore Rob Enderle. For years now I've turned the other cheek as he predicted Apple's demise and proclaimed the company's every move a flop. But I confess I have limits—I am merely human—and I can not let a recent statement pass me by.

For Mr. Enderle, Chief Demagogue in the Church of Apple's Doom, called Apple "desperate." Isolated like that it seems preposterous, but this was a case where context amps it up to something where words fail.

Desperate Woman with a Help Sign

TMO Artist's Rendition of Rob Enderle's Characterization of Apple

Mr. Enderle's comments were given to The San Francisco Chronicle for a piece about Apple's newest flagship store in Union Square. That piece talks about the store's giant bay doors—the same doors that many think could allow Apple to use the store as a car showroom in the future.

It talks about how Apple has revamped the Genius Bar to a "quieter Genius Grove," and how Apple is seeking to make this location a "town square" where people meet, hang out, and chill. The piece even says, "The idea of encouraging customers to hang out flies in the face of traditional retail thinking, since stores usually depend on high rates of foot traffic to succeed."

Make no mistake about it: this is a big, bold bet. This new Apple Store represents an investment of tens of millions of dollars in time, man power, materials, design, real estate, and effort. Apple began the effort at the height of its success when its retail stores perched atop every metric of success for revenue, traffic, advertisement value—when its retail stores were the envy of the retailing world.

Of course, they still are.

Is Apple Desperate?

Rob Enderle apparently looks at this and sees desperation, saying, "They're getting desperate, much like Apple did in the late 90s, and when companies get desperate they make a lot of mistakes."

Firstly, desperate companies seldom make big, bold bets. Desperate companies double down on those things they deem safe, tried, true. They don't invest tens of millions of dollars to change the most astronomically successful retail strategy the world has ever seen.

Desperate companies do things like cut back hours, lay off employees, reduce wages and benefits, raise prices, and do everything they can to increase customer churn. They sell off expensive buildings for cash, and they cancel projects.

Take JC Penney, a company the original Apple Store cocreator—Ron Johnson—tried to reinvent. His strategy was hailed as visionary at the time, but the company's board of directors panicked when sales dipped in the midst of Mr. Johnson's makeover. The board fired Mr. Johnson, canceled the makeover, and went back to the same strategies (like couponing) that had run their course before Mr. Johnson's tenure. That's the model of a desperate company.

Remember All Those Mistakes Apple Made in the Late 90s?

There's another aspect of Mr. Enderle's statement that infuriates me even more, the clause, "much like Apple did in the late 90s."

The late 90s. You know, when Apple reinvented the personal computing model with the iMac. The Bondi Blue marvel allowed Apple to change the rules by which it competed, ushered in USB, kicked the floppy drive to the curb, influenced industrial design in a wide range of industries unrelated to computers, and reinvigorated Apple.

Ironically, that happened because Apple was actually desperate, but that desperation was in the mid-90s, not the late 90s. Because it was Steve Jobs managing that desperation, rather than the board of directors at JC Penney, Apple made big, huge bets. And in the late 90s, Apple executed on those big, huge bets almost flawlessly.

Before Mr. Jobs, a desperate Apple spewed out dozens of computer models hoping to catch someone's, anyone's eye, and the company did what the rest of the PC industry did, tried to license its software to cloners. A desperate Apple tried to slash prices and compete on the industry's terms.

Again, that's what desperate companies do, and that's not what Apple did in the late 90s. Apple did anything but what a desperate company would do, and that's what Apple is doing today. Apple is reinventing its retail strategy because Apple is a company that makes big, bold bets, and it makes them at a time of its choosing.

That's what makes me so mad about Mr. Enderle's comment about the "late 90s." It's factually wrong, and it's not something based on obscure Apple lore. It was easily checked—though it shouldn't have needed to be—and wasn't, and this factually inaccurate statement was used to prop up a premise that simply doesn't comport with reality.

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Apple buying Next is probably the best decision a company has ever made in desperation.

Old UNIX Guy

Rob Enderle is a technology analyst, and I’ve often wondered who in their right mind would pay him any money for his “opinions.”  But I think I finally figured it out…

If I go to Rob and pay him money to tell me what he thinks about the future - and then I bet big on the exact OPPOSITE of what he says - I’m guaranteed to be right!  Think about it - who else guarantees you a 100% success rate?!?!

Rob - I hope you have on your office wall the “Dejectory” poster of the the sunken, rusting ship lying just offshore with the caption, “It could be that the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.”


Wait, he’s still trying to attain relevance?


Whenever Rob gets desperate for relevance, he dusts off an old “Apple is doomed article”, changes the date and posts it. Apparently Rob’s entire career is built on his own desperation. Sad really, to be relegated to churning out fiction that nobody wants. Kind of like the crazy cult leader who has trouble finding followers.

Old UNIX Guy

I’d like to add that I fully believe that Rob Enderle is entitled to express his (always wrong) opinions.  However, I also think that any journalist who quotes him should be fired for incompetence…

Lee Dronick

Enderle is another click-bait journalist, there are way too many of those.


Enderle gets paid for page-views and interviews. He needs to keep doing stuff like this to stay in the media eye and get more page-views and more interviews. There’s no requirement for accuracy, or even common sense.

dip: Apple didn’t really buy NeXT although the record says it did. Actually, NeXT purchased Apple (for minus-four-hundred-million dollars!) as Larry Ellison recently recounted.



Nice article, Bryan, and very good analysis on what desperate companies do and how Apple is anything but desperate, and anything but just another company.

Make no mistake about it: this is a big, bold bet. This new Apple Store represents an investment of tens of millions of dollars in time, man power, materials, design, real estate, and effort. Apple began the effort at the height of its success when its retail stores perched atop every metric of success for revenue, traffic, advertisement value—when its retail stores were the envy of the retailing world.

This is nicely put. It’s also typical Apple: This is the company that had the music player to beat all music players at the time—the iPod mini—then famously discontinued it in a Steve Jobs keynote when he unveiled the nano. Apple creates the best (music player, retail experience), then has no problem re-creating it in an even better way, even if the new way destroys the old.


Ugh, yes. Welcome to the 21st century of revisionist history. Enderle shall forever be a tool.

Harvey Lubin 1

There are many people like Rob Enderle who live in an alternate reality regarding everything Apple.

They have no knowledge of Apple’s business priorities or its history. In fact, they have the memory of a gnat when incomes to remembering how consistently wrong they have been in the past. When it comes to making new ludicrous prognostications or opinions about Apple, they are a clean slate.

If they have a favourite company that competes with Apple (Google, Microsoft, Samsung, etc.)  that they like to champion, they display the same lack of recall of that company’s past performance.

For example, when companies like Microsoft and Dell glorified the “innovation” of cheap, but barely useable Netbooks, those same “analysts” and bloggers chided Apple for being behind the curve. After Netbooks died a painful and merciful death, those people have conveniently forgotten how wrong they were.

The same happened when Google introduced Google Glass. There was a love-fest for Google and how “innovative” the company was, while they ranted how Apple was not “innovative” enough to come up with a similar ugly computer that you wear on your face. Yet those same people don’t remember how enthusiastic they were about this major flop, or how wrong they were about Apple’s smart decision to let Google suffer this failure on their own.

I have even read articles in which the blogger believes that Apple “copied” Google, when they introduced the first multi-touch hardware and mobile operating system in the 2007 iPhone… Three years before the first multi-touch Android phone was introduced in 2010! (Certainly Apple should at least get kudos for being innovative enough to invent and use a time machine, to pull off this incredible feat wink)

The list of other irrational opinions goes on, with some bordering on lunacy. We really can’t do much to change those people or their ludicrous opinions. All we can do is have a good laugh at them, and be aware that they have zero effect on reality, or on Apple’s continued innovation and success.


I wonder if Apple is acting on a large scale retail shift that was just reported on by NPR Business (“As Their Anchors Sink, Shopping Malls Try to Present Retail ‘Experience’”
I presume Apple has plenty of staffers whose job it is to monitor not just Apple sales numbers, but also keep track of changes in shopping and purchasing patterns, and would be constantly reevaluating Apple’s strategies. The NPR article points out that with the continuing shift to online shopping, urban retail centres need to put more energy—and money—into the “experience/experience/experience” aspect of their stores and their locations. It’s all about the environment, man wink


Even with that, there’s no mention of the other analyst in the Chronicle article:

“It’ll work in the short term, but they’re going to have to figure something else out,” said retail consultant Brian Kelly. “They have to invent something else. They’re really at the end of a product line. They’re not creating new categories as they once did.”

I’m as stunned by this as I am by Enderle’s comment. This one indicates an utter focus on the short-term viewpoint (one year at most) that dominates retail philosophy for every other major corporation out there, and completely ignores:
1) Apple’s tendency to think and work with much longer timeframes than the squirrels that typically comment on them. Apple pays no attention to the notion that next quarter - or year over year - are the only metrics that matter.
2) Apple’s total lack of “wait until you see our next big thing!” announcements doesn’t mean that nothing is coming.  Why is the notion that Apple is out of ideas so consistently given out there??

Does it really take someone like John Martellaro or Horace Dedieu to see the deeper subtleties?



and this factually inaccurate statement was used to prop up a premise that simply doesn’t comport with reality

To paraphrase Tina Turner, ‘What’s reality got to do with it?’

Indeed, why let reality ruin a perfectly perverse world view?

And speaking of perverse, so great to hear from Rob Enderle! Oh, how I’ve missed his misbegotten musing, his ruinous rumination, his fact free finger pointing, his ideological bankruptcy, and his utter want of an intellectual compass - yes, the man who is lost ere he embarks on whatever sodden sojourn his self-defeating and delusional instincts carry him. His very mention brings, spontaneously and unaffected, a smile to my face and mirth to my morning because his presence is a reassurance that, however implausible events around me might seem, there remains that soul who can plummet implausibility to still greater depths. Thankfully, Mr Enderle lives. I had feared he was as dead as has been his every prediction and prophecy of Apple’s demise, so silent had he fallen in recent times.

As for his latest pastes of wisdom, thank heavens that Apple’s approach to retail flies in the face of traditional retail thinking and convention. Can you imagine where their retail business would be today had they followed Gateway’s guidance into oblivion? And how about that CompUSA, what? I hear those Dell haunts are a hoot. Aye, the path to perdition is paved with conventional thinking, and may dear Rob stay that course. That he cannot see that encouraging people to linger and hang out fosters not only a culture of comfort and loyalty to a brand, but becomes a conduit for the most effective recruitment tool to new adoption, namely word of mouth, only underscores why his Apple antagonistic crusade is both Quixotic and misconceived. Apple’s retail strategy has proven to be one of the best recruitment tools for newly enlisted Apple clients, and moreover, is a recipe for garnering a new generation of users.

But lest you fail to appreciate the contribution of Sir Rob (the man should be knighted for his services, if only Tim Cook had the vested authority to do so), permit me to observe the old adage that no one casts a stone a tree without fruit, or tries extinguish a fire that is not lit; his every pronouncement of Apple’s errors and demise invites inquisitive minds (assuming they read dear Rob) to investigate, and led by the power of independent observation, to come to their own conclusions. In a word, the man is an effective Apple recruiter of the independent and insightful consumer.

Thank you, Rob Enderle. Yet again, well done.



I’m going to have to re-read the column!

It was making sense as a take-down of Enderle’s “desperate” observations, but about half-way through, it started providing evidence that big bold moves and changes were, in fact, example of desperation!

We’re among those who would like to see the stores overhauled.  We’ve been put off by the spartan, Danish modern, glass and wood look—it’s cold, foreboding, not inviting at all.  The idea of a “Genius Grove” (hackneyed though such labels are) is appealing as is making the stores over so that they become places to hang out.  It’d be cool if one could actually check out a laptop and sit in a sofa and test it out that way (OK, I’m dreaming now).  But chairs and stools with backs would be good for shoppers and those who would like to spend some time hanging out, testing and playing with Macs and iPads.

Any photos of what the new design will look like?

As to “big, bold” steps, wish they would systematically go through and overhaul all the apps—to remove all glitches and make them transparent, colorful, and consistent—the way the Mac used to be and the i-devices never were!

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