We love you, Apple. And we’re your friends. We really are. But it’s intervention time.
Apple’s latest earnings report came out yesterday, and two things are immediately obvious from the numbers, one amazing, one alarming. First, Apple is a giant, enormous, really really yuge company. With a net income of $7.8 billion dollars in the third quarter alone – and 40.4 million iPhones sold in that three-month window – business is really remarkable. This is a company that mints money. No one else comes close, and even when sales are weak, they’re still strong.
For any other business, selling 40 million of anything would be reason to crack open a case of Dom Perignon. For Apple, the world’s biggest and most profitable company, it’s worrying.
That’s because other thing that’s clear is that Apple is in real trouble. Quarterly profits fell 27 percent relative to last year, continuing a slump that started last quarter and shows no sign of ending. If it’s true that Apple will eliminate the headphone jack from its iPhone 7, you can expect customers to flee in droves and sales to suffer as a result.
The sheer volume of products sold shows that Apple’s products are still great; we described the new iPhone SE as “the best 4-inch smartphone you can buy, period,” and the iPhone 6S still earns our Editors’ Choice award. But today’s Apple products are just “great,” they’re no longer “insanely great.”
And that’s the heart of the problem.
When Steve Jobs passed away and Tim Cook took the helm of the company, pundits around the web wondered whether he had what it took to replace the temperamental genius at the helm of the consumer electronics company. Clearly, Cook had some of what it took. He’s the reason for Apple’s astonishing business success. Cook’s wisdom and patience and business acumen turned a pretty big company into an enormous one. Apple was already a game-changer – Cook made it a world-changer.
But there’s one thing he’s not: He’s no Steve Jobs. Nor has he ever claimed to be. And that’s part of the reason Apple products no longer wow the tech world the way they once did.
A writer for The Verge late last year listed a variety of flaws in recent Apple products, calling them “the kind of compromise I imagine would have driven Steve Jobs crazy.” Gizmodo was even more direct, in an article titled “everything Apple introduced this year kinda sucked.” And these sentiments aren’t new. A year and a half ago, Engadget summed up the public sentiment by asking, “when did Apple become the boring one?”
Apple’s strategy has always been to let today’s products speak for themselves. But what consumers and pundits are saying about today’s products is clear: Sure, they’re good. But they’re not wowing anyone.
In fact, today’s Apple products are so bland and vanilla that carriers are selling upgrades to models that don’t even exist yet. We know what we’ll be getting. It’ll be an iPhone. It’ll look like an iPhone. It won’t be surprising at all. It won’t be controversial. It won’t impress you or dazzle you.
“Slowly and surely, Apple has been losing its mojo,” Computer World wrote recently.
Yep, that pretty much sums it up.
And that’s why Apple needs to make a major change. The company needs to drop its veil of secrecy and dazzle us again. They can start with me. I’m game. I’m willing to be the guinea pig here. Like you, I’m a tech junkie, a guy who loves new gear and gadgets, who has to have his hands on the latest and the greatest, someone who devours tech news at all hours of the day. It’s an obsession, really. (Maybe a little crazier than you, in retrospect.) So use me Apple! Impress me!
Apple should release some details about what it has planned. The company spends hundreds of millions on research and development: Tell the world what you’re up to! Share just a hint. Apple has been working on some sort of TV product for years, if the rumors are true – so give us a peek at it! If the world at large had any serious belief that an Apple-branded television was in the works, sales of other products would shrivel.
Apple has been working on self-driving cars for years, if the rumors are true – so tell us what you’re up to! I’m confident the company won’t release anything anytime soon, but offering a teaser video (or taking me for a test drive) would show the world something new that’s insanely great. Fine, it won’t be ready until 2020. Apple fans will be quite content to drool at the thought of it until then.
So I offer up my services to help out. We love you Apple – and like Fox Mulder, we want to believe. Give us something to believe in! Show us your car, show us your TV, show us your iClothes and iSneakers and iBelt. I’ll drink the iKool-Aid.
Tim: Give me a call. Better yet, hit me on my iPhone. I’ll be waiting.