Tim Cook’s Proposition: Apple Has Reached Childhood’s End

| Particle Debris

The reaction in our community to Apple's March 21st event has been mixed, to say the least. Thanks to sources, a pretty good idea about what was going to be presented evolved well beforehand. So why was there disappointment?

Apple CEO, Tim Cook

The day came. The FBI case and hearing loomed.  When the reality of the presentation was upon us, there was something, perhaps, strangely unsatisfying to some. In my own case, having followed what was likely to be covered, it seemed that the rollout of the iPhone SE, designed for specific markets, and not the flagship September product was less than a heart-palpitating product. Of course, we know that Apple will sell a boatload precisely because of the design. There's already a wait.

But still, you say....

And then there was the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. It's a nifty product. Many will need one for their work. Others will find it time to upgrade from an older, less capable iPad. The iPad Pro 10 will sell well, and I've explained why myself. "Apple’s New 9.7-inch iPad Pro Should Breathe New Life Into the Product Line."

But still, you say....

The Worst

The worst possible discussion I've seen was this very slanted and emotion-driven rant at Business Insider. It was so bad, the byline was an author I've never heard of. The essence was that this event was a yawner and Apple has deteriorated into an ordinary company. If you can bear it: "Steve Jobs' reality-distortion field has finally run out of juice."

The Best

On the other hand, the very best analysis of the March 21 event has been written by Chuq Von Rospach. Chuq used to work for Apple, and one would expect that with that background, combined with his great intelligence and informed perspective, that he would write a scintillating article full of insights.

He did exactly that.

Here's Chuq's essay: "Thoughts on the new Apple Products." Chuq discusses the reactions of several notable observers and explains why, in Tim Cook's new Apple— the company that is transforming under his leadership—the event was structured the way it was.

He discusses several key issues, but one that stands out and bears repeating here is this:

In some ways I believe Apple is fixing a problem I’ve believed it needed to address going back the last few years; when Steve came back and took over the helm, Apple was a failing company with meh to mediocre products, and the general belief was that Apple was dying so why bother with it? And Steve had to fix the products, fix the marketing, and convince all of us that Apple was relevant and worth our time and attention. ... that meant that Apple and Steve had to ramp up the marketing and hype and generate a lot of noise for a long time just to keep people paying attention — and now we’re all conditioned to everything being big and the PR being noisy and the hype being off the charts.

And so, Mr. Cook is now in charge of The Adjustment Bureau. Expectations need to be different. This is no longer a needy, rah-rah company desperate for attention and appealing to groupies. Under Tim Cook, Apple is managed with newfound, adult leadership.

The result for us is the need to grow along with Apple and come to appreciate what the company is doing with the environment, health and privacy. The March 21st event crystalized those important issues. Apple's role in our society is emerging and standing for important things.

Mr. Cook also mentioned that this would be the last event in Apple's Town Hall on Infinite Loop. Future, major events would be held at Campus 2, when construction is completed. No doubt many who are invited to those future events will go just because they want to bask in the jazz of that new facility. However, if that leads them to drop into fan-boy mode and expect antics from Tim Cook, they'll be very disappointed.

Did you notice Tim Cook's choice of clothing? Blue, long-sleeved shirt and a dark sweater. That choice served to punctuate the atmosphere of the presentation. As they say in politics now, "the optics." 

Apple is still secretive. Apple must continue keep important corporate secrets from competitors. Apple will continue to surprise and delight its customers. But in the end, Chuq Von Rospach has nailed it.

Apple has reached Childhood's End.

Author note. It's been a hectic week, focused on all things Apple, and The News Debris folder isn't as full as it usually is. And so I'll end this week's edition here.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.

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One dull presentation does not a crisis make.  Good lord, does anyone remember the snoozefest of the HiFi and MacMini event?  I didn’t think so.  By WWDC, this won’t even be a memory - good or bad.


Apple will continue to surprise and delight its customers. But in the end, Chuq Von Rospach has nailed it. Apple has reached Childhood’s End.

That is a very good point. Does Ford have spectacular overhyped product releases every year? Do they revolutionize the world annually? Does Boeing? Nestle? Microsoft or Google? How about Nikon? These are all companies working in markets that are mature. Personal Computers didn’t exist thirty years ago. Twenty years ago they were more common but still evolving rapidly. Ten years ago the mobile revolution hit. Now things are settling out. Computers and personal computing is a fairly stable environment. Only slow evolutionary changes are happening any more and the products have settled on a few standard forms. Until there is a revolutionary change in technology, roll up flexible screens, direct neural links, implanted devices, they will stay pretty much as they are.

Unless the Apple Car hits first.

Lee Dronick

The worst possible discussion I’ve seen was this very slanted and emotion-driven rant

There are people that hate Apple just for being Apple, for being a successful company or that the products cost too much as if price were the the only factor.


When I was in High School there were people who liked Fords, There were Chevy people, and there were Mopar people. They liked their own brand and would say the most vitriolic, nasty, things about the other brands. There were even fistfights over Mustang or Camaro. It all struck me as pretty stupid, (as I drove away on my Yamaha race bike.) The Windows/OS-X/iOS/Android arguments now strike me in the same way. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Each is also mature enough that it’s a good choice depending on your situation. But according to some people on the web Mac users are morons, Windows users are drones, iOS users are narcissists, and Android users are geeks. And it’s all just so silly.

OTOH BlackBerry is only used by Canadian Chauvinists. LOL

Lee Dronick

In high school I was a Chevy guy, I had a ‘63 Impala convertible, now I am a Ford guy with a Ranger and a Focus. smile

Recently my son changed jobs and had to give up his work supplied iPhone. He bought an Android phone and is cussing a lot about how clunky it is, we are fixing to get ready for him to take my old iPhone 4S.

Paul Goodwin

Lee. I still have my original iPhone and a 4s. I use them both as iPods. The 4s was my favorite iPhone - just the right size since I had an iPad also.

Lee Dronick

Paul that is how I am using my iPhone 4S, it replaced my iPhone 3 which is now in ossuary of old cables, chargers, and such. This morning I read a Facebook post about donating such things loaded with classical and period music to nursing homes; I am not sure how to go about that.


Who was that boring guy presenting the iPhone SE reading from an electronic cue card on the floor? Please stay on the iPhone team and let the OS X team be presented by cooler Apple geeks. Please!


I see your point, John, but I what I find most concerning about Apple these days is not the lack of innovation, but the lack of quality control, particularly on the software side of things. The days of “It just works” are long gone! Look at the maps fiasco and the incredibly rough launch of Apple music. Software updates that create more problems than they solve and on and on.

Oh, and let’s not forget pricing of the new iPad Pro 9.7. While the iPad Pro 9.7 may be somewhat improved over the iPad Air 2, isn’t that what we expect every year? But every year they don’t jack up the price. And sure you can just keep buying an Air 2 - except that Apple took away the option to buy a 128 Gb Air. Want to buy a 128 Gb Air for all your music, movies and photos? You can’t. It’s classic up-selling. You have to buy an iPad Pro. Things like this are why I’m less a fan of Apple now than I’ve ever been (I’ve been using Macs since the mid 80s). If this is childhood’s end, then I say Apple needs a second childhood.


Re: “It just works” and lack of quality control, I don’t think “it just works” is really about software stability but rather about smooth workflows and interactions. The device works the way the user would intuitively want it to, seamlessly communicates and synchronizes with other Apple products, and so forth. You don’t have to fiddle with a bunch of settings or work with different products that don’t quite mesh together.

At one point “it just works” may have implied a jab at Windows for Windows being so buggy and unstable while Macs did not have the same errors. But Macs still did have errors and I don’t think this is what the phrase was meant to mean. Plus Windows has not been nearly that unstable for a long time.

Every software company has to deal with quality. The larger the company, the more software they write, the more complex and integrated that software, and especially the faster they try to move, the harder it will be to maintain sufficient quality that there won’t be some group of people complaining about it. I would not really focus on exactly how often I hear about errors but rather on (a) the severity of the issue when it happens, (b) the frequency the issue occurs and for how many people, and (c) if (a) and (b) are pretty bad, then how fast the company fixes the issue. A company with plenty of bugs but that resolves them quickly might be nicer to work with than one with fewer bugs but that just doesn’t care to fix them.

Where is Apple on that scale? I don’t really know, but I haven’t often been hit by big software problems and when I am it seems everyone else is too and Apple fixes it within days. So I’m still happy with Apple’s quality.

Richard Grace

I remember when John Sculley was around Apple, and the same exact term “the adults are in charge” was thrown around. Now, the cycle has come back around again, but Cook is no Sculley and you can count on him to be a realist about all of Apple’s operations and to avoid the colossal blunders from the Sculley/Spindler/Amelio era. Apple is a completely different company now.
That said, I still have less that no interest in replacing my monster PC with an iPad Pro. To even consider it is to laugh.


@webjprgm I agree Apple has gotten bigger and that makes things tougher. But they really have had some less than successful product launches under Cook’s tenure. And we’re talking well beyond a few glitches with Music and Maps.

It’s other things, too. Getting handoff to work reliably was a real challenge (though it seems to be getting better). Taking features away from software when updating it (Pages) or killing software altogether (Aperture). Laptops that are still sold at a premium but feature middle of the road GPUs and processors. And don’t get the Mac Mini fans going on the last tepid “upgrade.” Apple still sells a stand alone 27” display at a premium when other, better displays are available for less. Apple does some things right, to be sure. But - in my view - slowly but surely the things on the “wrong” side of the scale are starting to mount up… I used to be a Cook fan, or at least I was neutral. Now, not so much. We’ll see. But I’m no longer holding my breath..



I note and appreciate your nod to Arthur Clarke’s 1953 novel in your title, which is appropriate for this topic. Let’s start there.

In that story, humanity is at an evolutionary cross roads. To oversee that transition, alien Overlords appear on earth to shepherd this transition in a way that protects both the last generations of traditional humans and mankind in its metamorphosed form. During that period, many believe that human innovation has become stagnant and are unhappy. However, as they witness this emergence of change in their offspring, children who can mentally alter planetary rotation, mankind comes to realise that this is an entirely new order altogether. Importantly, Clarke makes these Overlords look like traditional demons from human folklore, an acknowledgement that change, and all of its trappings, are frightening to us and at their appearance, are viewed as threats, as the outcomes of these changes are uncertain and all that we have known could come to an end. Indeed, childhood’s end. What lies beyond that can only be appreciated by a more mature, subtle and evolved adult mind.

Chug Von Raspach makes several important observations, which your readers should consider. Leaving aside the near-perverse contradiction of Apple’s critics, who with one breath deride the former, more juvenile phase of Apple during SJ2, when Jobs was trying to rally support for Apple, and the reality distortion field was at full tilt, and who with the next breath decry the current measured, mature tone under Cook, that of a curator to a discerning, educated consumer base as an example of a company that has lost its way, and is in decline, speaks more to the critics’ limitations than it does to either Apple or the evolutionary course of company and client.

There were two notable omissions in this event that were as important for what they didn’t say, as was anything stated during the event. Neither of these omissions were, in my view, an oversight, and both conveyed this theme of a more evolved company.

The first omission was any direct mention of a competitor. Period. Apart from an oblique reference to Apple selling more watches than the competition (without specific reference), the presentation focussed on Apple’s products. This is a position of strength.

The second omission was any reference was during Cook’s description of Apple’s responsibilities. Notably absent was any mention of shareholders. For the world’s most valuable company by market cap, that is significant. Corporate responsibility is being redefined as not primarily to shareholders, or with an eye to Wall Street and stock valuation, but to the client base and to society writ large, including its environment.

These two omissions, in the context of the starting points of Cook’s presentation, first on the issue of privacy and encryption, and Apple’s commitment to protecting that privacy, even if it means taking on the world’s most powerful government, and second on the environmental impact of being driven primarily by renewable energy sources, are a message to all stakeholders. This is a company committed first and foremost to its client base, but whose commitment extends beyond mere product development to the wider social context in which those products are developed and deployed. In short, Apple are serious about their commitment to making the world a better place, both the user base and their world. To prosecute that mission, they are not merely eschewing the traditional handholds of the market place, they are prepared to take on powerful vested interests for the sake of their customers, even at company risk, and to do so in a way that is socially responsible, whether or not critics or competition see Apple’s viewpoint. This is a company comfortable in its skin, and wth a clear line of sight on its trajectory. Nor is this simply about the evolution of a company, but of an emerging global society and consumer base.

If this assessment is true, then we should anticipate Apple tackling other wider issues. I predict that of taxation and in what countries the company assembles their products being next up. Anticipate Apple not taking a simplistic approach to abandon production overseas, but to take a more globally balanced position to expand production to its US home base. Apple presides now over a more diverse client base, not only globally, to which it has responsibilities, but in user type, including a majority who are not exclusively invested in Apple.

The next generation of products, no less than Apple’s social stance, will further challenge those remaining customers and critics incapable of participating in this metamorphosis and embracing a world that lies beyond childhood’s end.

Alex Santos

The mac has become an after thought.

The reality distortion field is gone, so is Steve.

Where there was once excitement and surprise, there is only predictability.

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