For background, please read the article from news.com.
I don’t know why I care much about the fate of Apple, but I’ve been trying to follow this story along, and I am hopeful about Apple’s future. Although I still wouldn’t buy a Mac for myself (we’ll see how their NeXT-generation machines look? I’m keeping an OpenMind on this issue 🙂 ), I think that Apple has been a great presence in this industry and that it would be a real shame for them to just disappear.
The news of their cuts is both refreshing and disturbing. Dropping plans for a 21-inch Apple monitor is exactly what they should be doing IMHO. Apple needs to concentrate on what they are good at and private-label Sony’s (or anyone else’s) monitors. Same with scanners and modems and all sorts of peripheral devices and anything that Apple sells or manufactures that doesn’t set Apple apart from the crowd.
The threat of dropping the Newton line is not so welcome to this Newton user, but not entirely surprising either. The Newton is too big and too expensive to compete against the Pilot and the WinCE machines, although the size and the price at least theoretically allow it to be more useful than the other devices. This is doubtfully of any import to those who simply desire an electronic address book with which to impress their friends (I understand, having impressed my friends five years ago with an electronic address book in my wristwatch, that I am better off sticking to functional criteria as the impression I made was not entirely a positive one. PDA buyers of the world will eventually figure out that PDAs are not as cool as we think).
Apple cannot afford to lose its perceived position as a market leader. Although Apple has done little leading of late, there are places where its energies and resources can be focused to better the company even without a revolutionary «next insanely great thing.» If this is what the cuts mean, great. The computer industry can do without Apple as a maker of peripherals for Macintosh computers.
What has happened over the past decade is that Apple has gotten away from its roots and vision. Some would say Apple spent too much time in bed with IBM. I think Apple probably has spent too much time in bed with PepsiCo thinking. Diversification into all markets means becoming a market follower rather than a market leader. Guy Kawasaki in his book How To Drive Your Competition Crazy tells the story of a little motorcycle company named Honda that broke into the American market by selling an automobile. Fundamentally, Honda was in the business of building and selling motors. Whether they were motorcycle motors or automobile motors is irrelevant. What is important is that Honda able to see where an outward change was still the same product. Apple might want to start listening to Guy these days.
What is Apple’s core product? Conventional wisdom pegs it as the Macintosh, or perhaps as PowerPC chips. If this were true, Apple would be nothing more than an unsuccessful Microsoft. Apple didn’t get successful selling hardware, Apple got successful selling innovation, and innovation drives the technology business more than anything else. This may have been difficult for John Sculley to see, because you don’t make money selling new kinds of soda pop.
That’s what the Mac represented in 1984; a new way of doing things. A better user interface for end users. The Mac was about bringing the technology to the people instead of keeping it locked in the ivory towers of a digital elite who understood the syntax of a command-line interface. When the Mac came on the market, I sneered at the «yuppie etch-a-sketch» I saw. How do you
grep on a Mac? But it was not being marketed to me. It was in fact being marketed against the existing user base. Why? Because they had a faster chip? Of course not. The 68000 was a dog even in 1984. The Macintosh was a new product, the next generation of computing, and what you paid for was a new way of doing things. The hardware was irrelevant.
Do you remember their ads in 1984? Concept, concept, concept. Do you remember Apple’s ads from last week? I don’t, which should be a telling sign in and of itself, but I can look them up. Clock speed, clock speed, clock speed. What has happened here? Apple ads may as well be Dell ads. Gone are the days of even those Gap-like Powerbook ads. Is there any question here why Apple is in trouble? Apple is competing with PC clones and Microsoft. Instead, Apple should be decimating PC clones and Microsoft, in public awareness even if not in sales. Apple prefers to go head to head on the low ground it can all it wants, but Apple will have to drag itself up by its bootstraps if it wants to survive.
Hey, maybe all the innovative thinkers left Apple when Jobs was fired. Maybe those that stayed on were beaten down by a Dilbertized «New Apple» run by Sculley. Maybe Apple just doesn’t have it anymore. If that’s true, Apple should get kicked around by the market forces.
But just for peace of mind, I’d like to know that someone out there can succeed by selling innovation. Otherwise we’re all stuck using Windows, and I don’t just mean us computer users. I give it maybe five years before the first Windows dishwashers are on the market. Do you really want to reinstall mouse drivers just to get your stove to light?