The Two Sides of Apple: Brilliance and Ennui

| Editorial

Apple is capable of making amazing products. Often that capability results in products that start off with a bang but never seize the marketplace. Then Apple's traditional desire to relentlessly move into the future kicks in and loyal customers are left behind. This is not a bug; it's a feature.

iPhone, perhaps, in a few years. Image credit: Shutterstock

Over the years, as I've watched Apple, I've seen a two pronged attack on the market. The first is the ability of some very good engineers to conjure up some very cool software and hardware. Here are some Apple products that come to mind that started off with a healthy bang, to name a few, in no particular order.

  • iWeb
  • Xserve & clusters
  • Final Cut Pro
  • Aperture
  • iWork
  • Thunderbolt 27-inch display
  • The 2013 Mac Pro (maybe)

As time went on, these product received a varying amount of attention and development. The most notable things were that:

  1. They were technically excellent.
  2. They generated a lot of enthusiasm and expectation.
  3. Customers hoped that Apple would continue to pour serious resources into them.
  4. Smart competitors outdid Apple.
  5. The product didn't come to dominate the market.
  6. Development languished.
  7. Apple lost interest and moved on to something new.
  8. Customers groused.

The problem is that the enthusiasm for what Apple can bring to a new product creates so much enthusiasm that customers develop a corresponding dream that Apple will continue to develop the product, in a spirit of excellence, for a long time.

What Could Go Wrong?

However, along the way, something happens. Perhaps resources are diverted. Customers glom onto a competitor's product for various reasons related to how Apple develops or supports a product. A focused competitor takes up the challenge from Apple and often wins. Apple executives may decide that despite the initial enthusiasm, the product really isn't a core market for the company. 

In turn, Apple customers are occasionally left with a sour taste in their mouths because of Apple's lack of stick-to-itiveness. But Apple's feeling is that it's always better to cut losses and move on to the Next Big Thing. Perhaps the grass will be greener on the other side of the technical fence. That's the second, unfortunate, prong.

And all this happens despite Apple's notorious feeling that, most of the time, it should just say "no!" to every tantalizing idea that pops up. One dangerous reason for not saying "no!" is the prospect of more, easy growth. Another is fear that a competitor will grab a secure foothold in a lucrative market. A third is the feeling that because Apple is good at a few things, it should be good at all things.

Another Bet

In one area, Apple handled this particularly well. That was the development of the Apple Watch. The company, and by that I mean Jonathan Ive, had a particularly keen sense of how Google Glass was a very bad idea but the long-standing tradition of a wristwatch would be a very good idea.

It will be interesting to see how Apple's relentless dedication to hardware and software development plays out with the Apple Watch. Or whether it also gets left behind.

Even so, the iPhone remains Apple's true bread and butter. There's no doubt that the concept of a smartphone will be with us for another 30 years. It will evolve as it goes. Someday, the entire processing unit will be in the wristwatch or bracelet and the display will be impressed on our visual field, perhaps via the optic nerve. But the essence of the smartphone, as we know it today, will remain an essential part of our lives because of what it does for us. Its promise is endless.

That future, that focus, that fanatic attention to development doesn't happen with every Apple device or product. Figuring out where to place your bets is the big challenge of our era. Hopefully, with time, Apple (and we) will get better and better at it.

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“And all this happens despite Apple’s notorious feeling that, most of the time, it should just say “no!” to every tantalizing idea that pops up.”
........and then eventually add it later to milk more sales.


Well, John, I always love to read your ideas.
I agree with most, but regardless they are always thought-provoking at the least!

I think that comparing Apple Watch and Google Glass is comparing apples and oranges. They are different things.
I don’t agree that Google Glass is a “very bad idea”.  I think it will become something great and I’d much rather own one of those than an Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch fills a limited notch for immediate luxury sales, but having one hand immobilized from the process of interacting with the device is a major weak point in its concept.
The aWatch is not even an iPhone replacement.
Give me a Phone Case so that I can strap on an iPhone to my wrist and I’ve got almost the same thing or better.  A long neck strap would be good.  A upper arm case for running.
Yes, I know that the aWatch has more components built in…but add those to the phone.
The aWatch is a gimmick!
But people like to buy gimmicks.

Apple should be paying more attention to its core business.  Microsoft just SPANKED Apple with its great development of a Laptop/Tablet.  That’s the product that Apple should have come out with instead of its latest, but more limited, iPad Pro.
And Microsoft is much further ahead with its idea of having ONE operating system across all its devices, instead of the decisive and confusing muddle of OS X and iOS.

I hope Apple can continue to survive its blunders and incompetencies.
I’ve been around for years…I seen all sorts of disappointing hiccups.  I’m not a “believer” any more….I just hang on for dear life and hope for the best!


For a company that commits so many “blunders and incompetencies” and is just one fatal mistake away from oblivion, Apple sure is making an inexplicable amount of money.

This demand that Apple be lightyears ahead of the competition at all times is just plain unrealistic and silly.  Companies make quantum leaps ahead of the competition usually once, typically during its early days.  Not surprising because it’s the one bright idea that made the company viable.  For Ford, it was the assembly line that put them on the map.  Microsoft, it was DOS.  Google, so far, its still search.  Apple had at least three that sent the competition scrambling to catch up (Apple II, MacIntosh, iPhone).  But that’s the thing, the competition invariably catches up then its down to hardscrabble, hand-to-hand combat.  And as dazzling as Apple’s Great Leaps Forward are, few companies can beat Apple on hardscrabble, hand-to-hand combat.

Microsoft seems to have a pair of nice products in the two tablets it just debuted.  They’ve been trying out something different from what Apple has been doing and they hope that they will ultimately be successful.  But to then declare based on a product introduction, that well, Apple is just totally incompetent now.  As though Apple will just put up their hands and say, that’s it, we don’t have the ability nor talent to come up with something to compete against that. —That’s just, as I said, silly.

Apple.  The most successful company that everyone thinks is on the verge of collapse.

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