On the universe of negativity Apple now lives in…

By , Dec 2, 2016

Apple Industrial Design Studio image 008

Stop me if you’ve already heard this one: Apple is doomed, doomed, DOOMED. Didn’t you get the memo? Investors have been displeased with Apple’s slowing growth since the dawn of time, saying iPhones and other Apple gadgets ought to be even more expensive than they already are.

Analysts think the company is embarked on a “decade-long malaise” because it supposedly “lacks the courage to lead the innovation”. And biased media with its collapsing ad revenues continue churning out click-friendly headlines which accuse Apple of anything you could think of, from falling behind Google in artificial intelligence to Donald Trump winning the U.S. presidential election.

I guess that’s one way of looking at things.

Here’s what Apple’s world looks like from my vantage point.

We hear from various people—most of whom, by the way, are not privy at all to Apple’s inner workings so their opinions are just that, opinions—that the company is lacking innovation because it hasn’t responded to Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home wireless speakers.

Because it’s no longer making routers and external displays.

Because it’s failed to give us another smash hit like the iPhone.

Because its services suck.

Because [INSERT OF YOUR OWN REASON].

But just because the likes of Google do things in a certain way doesn’t mean Apple should follow in their footsteps. If Apple did that, it’d be dismissed as a follower. Apple does quite the opposite: they do things their own way and in return get chastised severely every time growth figures don’t match some analyst’s spreadsheet.

Wall Street is good at numbers, but investors continue to amaze the rest of us with their blinded insistence on growth, growth, growth. Of course, companies cannot grow forever because they eventually run out of new customers or new markets to conquer.

As for the Apple vs. Google debate, Apple doesn’t really need to do services the way Google does.

Apple does messaging right with iMessage and iOS 10 takes iMessage to places it’s never been before with support for stickers, third-party apps and games, screen and bubble effects and more.

Many watchers have criticized Apple for not making iMessage or FaceTime cross-platform. Others want to see iMessage for Android just for the heck of it. I don’t see how making iMessage for other platforms would benefit Apple in this day and age of established cross-platform messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and many others.

It’s not like the world has a major messaging problem that needs Apple’s magic touch.

iOS 10 Messages teaser 001

Most of the startups make cross-platform services to monetize as many users as possible, not out of altruism but because their business model is advertising—and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m just saying that Apple doesn’t sell you as an advertising product to the highest bidder.

The job of tech titans like Google is to make their services run great on any platform. Apple’s job is ensuring its hardware integrates and play nicely through services that act as a glue.

As for services, Apple is  unfairly criticized for the fact that iCloud doesn’t hold a candle to Google but that’s comparing apples and oranges. iCloud was designed to “just work” on Apple hardware. Apple does not aspire to turn iCloud into a set of web services that anyone could sign up for and use at no charge in exchange for advertisements and heavily decreased privacy.

You don’t see Apple promoting iCloud Mail to non-Apple customers the way Google pitches Gmail even though iCloud Mail runs in a browser. And why isn’t anyone talking how great Apple Maps nowadays really is compared to its growing pains and teething issues a few years back?

Apple Industrial Design Studio image 002

And don’t get me started on ideas that Apple should build a search engine of its own just because Google has one. While many iCloud services run in a web browser, they truly shine when integrated with Apple hardware.

Besides, where’s the money in free web services anyway? Is anyone making a fortune on AI? Did anyone get rich by creating a successful messaging app without selling the company? I, for one, am glad that Apple is not wasting resources on competing with cloud-first companies on their own turf.

While I don’t think Apple has lost its innovation mojo, I do agree that some of the things they’ve done since Steve Jobs passed away five years ago are not up to their high standards of quality—and that (QA issues) is the only major quibble I have with Apple.

AirPodsWhat I vehemently disagree with is the notion that Apple no longer innovates.

Artificial intelligence? Machine learning, you say? Well, they’re very much embarked on both artificial intelligence and machine learning with features like improved intelligence in iOS 10, a much improved Photos app with powerful object, scene and facial recognition and other intelligent things they’re doing across their platforms, like keyboard predictions and remembering where you parked your car.

Still, analysts keep banging the “Apple no longer innovates” drum without providing clear arguments to support their thesis. All we hear is the same old explanation: Apple has fallen behind others in innovation because nothing it’s done has touched the iPhone.

Seriously?

Newsflash: nothing can beat the iPhone. It’s by far the most profitable product the world’s ever seen: since its inception in 2007, the iPhone has raked in more than $620 billion revenue. It’s so wildly successful that I doubt anything will ever come close to replicating its profitability and cultural significance anytime soon.

I do get why some people spew hate on Apple.

What haters are quick to forget, however, is how depressing the mobile phone landscape used to be before the iPhone came along and changed everything. I don’t think Apple gets enough credit for the original iPhone, which in a way was the sleepy mobile industry’s make or break moment and forced many companies to actually start innovating their boring handsets.

iPhone 7 jet black back camera

Yes, Apple’s reliance on the iPhone is its Achilles’ heel.

But to say Apple’s embarked on decade-long malaise just because it doesn’t do artificial intelligence and machine learning at the expense of user privacy, or because it’s failed to come up with a gadget that would beat the iPhone in terms of sales and profitability, is to be out of touch with reality.

The smartphone is the defining product of our generation. The whole world is now buying smartphones at a clip of north of one billion units each year. Other consumer electronics products can only dream of being that popular. Even combined sales of TVs, computers and game consoles are still a far cry of smartphone sales—that’s how essential the smartphone has become in our lives.

Yes, Apple is an iPhone company and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Apple Industrial Design Studio image 004
Apple designers at work sketching ideas for new products.

Why isn’t anyone criticizing Google for being an ad company? They operate the world’s best search engine that’s just a vehicle for ad sales: the bulk of Google’s $75 billion revenue in 2015 came from its proprietary advertising service, AdWords.

Yes, Apple is an iPhone company and it’s hardly shocking.

In the September quarter, it raked in a cool $28.16 billion in iPhone revenue. During the same three-month period, the company “only” managed to generate $5.74 billion from Macs, $4.26 billion from iPads, $6.33 billion from various services and $2.37 billion from sales of the Apple Watch, Apple TV, Beats products, iPods and accessories.

I say “only” because if the Mac were an independent company its $22.8B in fiscal 2016 revenue would rank 123rd on the Fortune 500 list, close to the likes of, say, Time Warner, Halliburton and Northrop Grumman.

Apple sales Q3 2016 image 001
Apple revenue in September quarter by product category.

No matter what Apple does there will never be a shortage of crazypants analysts and greedy investors who will readily accuse the company of innovation crisis for their own short-term gains.

What worries me is the fact that much of the Apple hate and criticism of Tim Cook’s leadership also comes from pro-Apple bloggers, which I think is more symptomatic of today’s click-obsessed journalism (nothing like an anti-Apple headline, eh?) than a sign of any systemic problem within Apple.

Most of the Apple criticism we hear today can be applied to the Steve Jobs era. But unlike Cook, Jobs had the utmost authority as the company’s co-founder and that’s why you didn’t hear analysts sting Apple where it hurts the most—its innovation—back when Jobs was in charge.

And now these analysts are running amok, downright insulting Tim Cook. Even Jim Cramer, CNBC’s “Mad Money” host, was “stunned” by analysts’ lack of respect for Cook during a recent earnings call.

“Apple is held to a higher standard, even though it has one of the cheapest stocks out there. I don’t know what’s wrong with these analysts with their faux buy recommendations, but I think they could benefit from some therapy,” he said.

Or as a commenter summed it up succinctly:

WTF do these people want? Flying cars? Technology has peaked the progression from this point on is going to be very slow. Apple doesn’t do things until they’re mature and ready.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

If you’re in the hate camp, this comment likely resonates more with your thoughts:

Apple will continue to make money as usual but will not be seen as the leading company for innovation. Which is key to how customers perceive Apple in the long term which affects the brand perception.

Perception can be a tricky thing and both of these comments have their merits.

If you, too, think that Apple lacks the courage to lead the next-generation of innovation, I challenge you to tell us what product Apple should do next that could become even more popular than the iPhone, because that’s obviously what profit-obsessed Wall Street is all about.

Thoughts?

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  • Toba

    “Apple doesn’t do things until is mature and ready”. In other words “Apple no longer innovates”?

    • h4nd0fg0d

      Oh snap! Behold the truth! +1,000,000, Toba.

      • Toba

        Thanks! What can I trade my 1,000,000 (a million what?) for?!

        I’m actually being serious. That Apple only does things when they’re mature and ready is exactly what most mean when they say Apple don’t innovate. I really don’t understand how those statements don’t mean the same thing.

      • Natalie

        The thing is, Apple does Innovate. You can’t expect anyone to innovate every year and beat everyone else. Sometimes it’s Apple innovating, sometimes it’s google, and sometimes it’s a smaller company that’s unrelated to the rest. It’s just that when Apple does innovate, they make a big show about it. They are the leaders in marketing lol

    • Sebastián Junca 

      In other words: Apple’s Innovation comes from planning and “making products that work as they should”, not from rushing. That’s why the iPad (which was designed before the iPhone) was launched 3 years after the first iPhone.

      • Toba

        Well, technically “innovation” is simply anything new that’s better, so in that sense, you’re right. However, when Apple receive criticism saying they don’t innovate, what is meant is that Apple is not creating any exciting products that could be revolutionary in the manner of the iPhone, or the iPod/iTunes. There’s just no ‘wow factor’ at the moment, and that’s fine. The insistence on arguing otherwise is baffling and without fail never actually argues the point that Apple is innovating. For example, the article above says Apple is not like Google. How does this show that Apple innovates? It says that iMessage doesn’t need to be cross-platform. How does this show that Apple innovates? It says, there’s no money in free web services. How does this show that Apple innovates? It says that the iPhone is the most profitable product the world’s ever seen. How does this show that Apple innov…you get the picture. A single paragraph (“Artificial intelligence? Machine learning, you say…) – is dedicated to providing an example of where Apple innovates, and its a poor example because it’s a field where Apple’s competition are ahead.
        Apple makes excellent products, I’m a long-time customer myself. They’re also a massively profitable company and will continue to be. But recently, their products have been less than exciting, and that’s okay too.

  • Ernie Marin

    They can follow Samsung and make 20 new phones a year, 50 tablets, share their OS with any idiot out there that wants to make a console, and make phones that double as explosive devices. Or just stay the same and make phones once every 2 years and not over saturate the market with the same crap every month. Apple wont die because they know the best strategy is to wait and see how the market reacts, they didn’t have a single loss from the iPhone 7 having less sales, but the lower numbers they’ll make up with the 8. Samsung tries to keep high numbers all the time and that’s their mistake, you have to expect looses and accept them, Apple does that and doesn’t mind doing the same device 3 years in a row until it believes it’s time to change it.

    • Natalie

      Apple’s money lies in their marketing. They know who their audience is and they push appropriately, Samsung and others want their devices in the hands of everyone which makes them put features into their OS that only a select few use, and then remove them later and swap everything about and makes transferring from one Samsung phone to another really hard because everything is different on each phone.
      While Apple aren’t innovating as frequent anymore, their devices are very solid and work as expected and run the same across all their lineup (which could be a downside for some). People say Apple isn’t innovating are using the iPod, and the iPhone as a reference point. Those two devices had a 6/7 year gap between them, I for one wouldn’t expect any company to innovate every year lol. But I do see another innovation coming from Apple in the next year or so as they have got all the frame work down to make a really nice product.

    • Mike

      The reason samsung makes so many products is to attract to different target groups. Not everyone is going to buy an iphone or another top of the line phone or tablet. Just because they share their OS doesn’t mean that it’s bad since its all coming from android unless your are talking about Tizen. Apples makes a new phone every year while adding more phone types each year. iphone 6+, iphone se, and another soon about to come out this year.

      “Apple does that and doesn’t mind doing the same device 3 years in a row until it believes it’s time to change it.”

      The fact that they do the same device 3 years in a row makes it sound the people buying the iphone are dumb. Why would you buy a phone that is exactly like the previous phone with small expected upgrades.

      • Rowan09

        What’s the difference between Samsung devices. They made the Edge devices and the 6 is the same as the 7 and the only real diffence with the S5 is the curved design. Samsung is full of cowards because they have the platform and afraid to go Tizen which they were suppose to years ago. I own a S7 Edge and it’s slow and I barely use it. All those specs are inflated and still doesn’t perform well. The VR headset which I owned 2 sold one now is one of the biggest joke of the year. It’s just horrible in every sense of the word. The S7 Edge has a 2K sceen and when I use the VR it looks like 480P. Samsung hasn’t innovate besides making big phones popular and some software tweaks. Tell me one thing they did that became industry standard?

      • “The fact that they do the same device 3 years in a row makes it sound the people buying the iphone are dumb. Why would you buy a phone that is exactly like the previous phone with small expected upgrades.”
        You are just as dumb for thinking that changing the external design is going to make it a bigger difference. All companies do the same thing if you keep buying the new version of the same phone/device. I don’t mean to call you dumb persay but you need to realize that all companies upgrade the same way. You shouldn’t be biased because one changes a few more or less every year.

      • Mike

        Yes but if you want more people to upgrade to the newer phone you have the change out external look of the product as well. It’s like going to a car dealership and buying a car that looks exactly the same as the car you own but with normal yearly upgrades. People don’t want to get a new product that looks like the previous product.

      • You don’t have to chnage it. People want it to chnage after a year. apple has shown that with changing the internals is enough for it to continue outselling the previous device. Car manafactures pretty much do the same thing too. The outside only has minor changes so that you’re able to tell the difference.

  • Highlander

    Their bank account is growing… apple is growing….

  • spoken like a die hard , naive fan boy who refuses to see apple repeating history

    • anon

      Spoken like a butthurt hater.

    • President Scatterbrain FU

      LOL “repeating history” the weakest two words in the universe, zero substance other then being words inserted into a sentence.

  • Bugs Bunnay

    I agree with this article. Apple is doing their own thing. Apple is not a follower.

    • Mike

      iPhone 6+

      • Bugs Bunnay

        Apple watch

      • Mike

        iPad with a removable keyboard case

      • Bugs Bunnay

        iPad Pro with an optional stylus

  • Marcus

    Everyone has been talking about how Apple doesn’t innovate and doesn’t put any new features into their devices anymore… I’m fine with that though. I think that they should focus on better processors, better memory, better cameras, and better battery. That’s it. Just strive to make all that better. Imagine a MacBook Pro that can boot up and login in just seconds. Imagine 32GB of RAM on a MBP with 10 hours of battery life… Apple needs to work on that kind of innovation.

    • Natalie

      Yeah. Just look at the 6S/Plus. Those devices had stupidly fast storage and even though they are 1 and half years old at this point, they still are faster than any device that isn’t a iPhone 7/plus lol

  • iBanks

    The best write up I have read on this site in a very long time. Very well done.

  • kickinghorse99

    No innovation=DEAD in today world! Apple has a lot of excellent employees but lack of the direction. All those talents go to waste…

  • rockdude094

    Is it just me or the retail customer service suck ? Btw still looking for the dude with the red iPad..

  • n0ahcruz3

    Apple is boring though just face it lol $300 for a picture book, non-ergonomic, unpractical Airpods. Hopefully sales of their devices tank more to slap em out of their bubble.

    • Rowan09

      Who is exciting? Why is the airpods any less practice than small airpods on the market now?

      • n0ahcruz3

        Well as a market leader they should be the one pushing technology to their limits, rather than just removing ports and wires and putting touch ID on everything, they’re becoming boring and too predictable, do you want to always invoke siri just to skip the song for the airpods? Don’t you find that inconvenient?

  • Good artists copy. Great artists steal! On another note, I like apple not rushing anything. I trust them when a tech is ripe, mature and tested enough. Because I already know it’s going to be expensive for me. If I don’t want it, my choice not to buy it. No problem. Btw, I wanted the note7 badly, I want to upgrade my note2 but haste makes waste. Note7 was an expensive lesson.

  • Woz A Nater

    They took the glowing Apple logo off the new MacBook Pro~ They lost their mojo.

  • Rowan09

    Apple is a very healthy company. If you look at the all the latest innovations for the most part in phones it’s been Apple with Touch ID (now every phone needs a fingerprint scanner), digital assistant and Apple Pay. Everything else are just upgraded evolutions right now. Apple services are also making them more money every year so they are less reliant on the IOS devices.

  • Josiah

    The thing is, Apple does their own thing. They aren’t concerned with what the others are doing because their focus is not beating everyone else on their own turf. They innovate in their own ways. The iPhone 6s was the first smartphone that sported a pressure sensitive touch screen. And the iPhone 7 is the second. No one else has done that. They removed the headphone port in favor of being cordless. Something that has been around for almost a century. They developed a notebook with a pressure sensitive trackpad, and a touch enabled bar that replaces the function keys with a software that predicts what you will need. And not only do they do new things with hardware that no one else has done before, they do the same with software. Siri, the first true virtual assistant, iOS, which is not only extremely user friendly but a hell of a lot smaller in storage than android, a software that looks for ways to continuously save battery without impeding the performance of the hardware. They don’t try to follow in other’s footsteps to compete with them. They go their own way and focus on things that actually matter to most smart device users.