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Apple, AD 8

Entry 2015, on 2019-11-25 at 22:36:58 (Rating 1, Computers)

As I write this post it has been 8 years since the death of Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs. You could say that in Apple's history, it is the year AD 8. There has been a lot of speculation over that time about whether Apple can survive the loss of its visionary leader, but most of the negativity has been proved wrong, and Apple continue to succeed in all the major areas they are involved in.

At one point Apple was the biggest company in the world, by market capitalisation (and the first to be worth a trillion dollars), ahead of competitors such as Alphabet (Google) and Microsoft, and although that number varies over time, thanks to the vagaries of the stock market, Apple is in no danger of failing financially. But maybe it never was, because if you search for "Apple death knell counter" you will see a series of ridiculous predictions of the company's demise, and suggestions for how to avoid it - all of which they did the opposite of to become one of the most successful companies of all time!

So what is the current status of Apple products? Well, the iPhone is the premium smartphone in the world, and while some companies sell more units, that is only because they have extremely cheap offerings; the iPad is the clear leader in tablets; the Apple Watch is the world's biggest selling watch of any kind, and by far the best selling smartwatch; and the Mac, while still a long way behind PCs in total sales, is still significant in desktop and laptop sales. Plus Apple's main future growth area, services, is doing well. For example, Apple Music is the second most popular music service in the world, but only because Spotify offers a free alternative.

So where others have taken the lead in sales it is usually because of a cheap option. I wonder if it would be a good idea for Apple to also offer a cheap model in each of those product categories, then they might take the number one spot with a low cost, mass market version of their more expensive premium products which would continue to bring a higher profit margin.

You might say they are already doing that, because there is a "cheap" option in most categories. Of course, what Apple call "cheap" many other companies would call mid-priced or even expensive, so I guess it is all relative. Also, Apple do have a reputation for producing high-quality, premium products, and a truly cheap option might damage that reputation. Note that I think that reputation is mostly well deserved, although there is also room for improvement.

It might be a bit like Pagani, Ferrari, or Lamborghini offering a Toyota Corolla look-alike. Not only would that drag their reputation down, but they would also probably create something which is nowhere as good as the Toyota they are trying to imitate. Of course, the leadership of those companies don't even intend to try to take on Toyota in sales, and rightly so.

Recently Jony Ive left his CDO (chief design officer) role at Apple. There is no doubt that his designs were beautiful aesthetically, but there were questions around the usability of his creations, and there is little doubt that maybe not enough emphasis was put on practicality with him in charge. Since his departure Apple products have become a bit more practical, with the latest phones and laptops being slightly thicker to accomodate a bigger battery, for example. It's important that the visual design of Apple products is maintained as a major objective, but I welcome the small compromises to make the ergonomics and overall usability better. Design is more than just what something looks like.

As I said above, when Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs as CEO, there were predictions of doom for the company. That wasn't totally unreasonable, because on the previous occasion that another person was CEO - when Jobs was forced out of the company in the mid 80s - things did go badly. As I said above, there were plenty of predictions of doom, but all of that was averted when Jobs returned to the company in the late 90s and was mainly responsible for the creation of the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Store - which were all incredibly successful and innovative.

I think Cook is very aware of what happened on that previous occasion and he seems to be very mindful that the Jobs style of leadership shouldn't be compromised too much. I'm no huge fan of Cook - he's a bit too politically correct and he just seems a bit disingenuous to me - but he is doing a fairly good job so far, maybe because he is not trying to change the overall culture at Apple too much.

The world of technology is a difficult one to predict, because of the constant change, unexpected successes and failures, and new products which seem to appear from nowhere. So I think making long term predictions about where the future will lead is unwise - therefore I won't do it. But I will say that Apple do need to be careful where they go in future, but not too careful, because audacious new moves are what has given them success so far.

So, for Apple, AD 8 is looking pretty good, but who knows what the future will bring.

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Comment 1 (5114) by Anonymous on 2019-11-26 at 10:19:59:

Do you really think that Johnny Ive doesn't know that "Design is more than just what something looks like"?

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Comment 2 (5117) by OJB on 2019-11-26 at 11:07:22:

Of course he does. It's a matter of balance. His idea of where there balance should lie is just a bit too far towards the "looks good" side than mine. I just wanted to make sure that my readers knew that design isn't just visual appearance.

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