Last week, Ewan Spence, a technology writer for Forbes and a specialist on Apple, wrote a powerful and very straight forward piece on how Apple was intentionally killing the Macbook Pro. Spence’s main thesis is one many have suspected, but few addressed so factually: that Tim Cook’s primary focus has been, is, and will be the iPhone and the associated ramp up of “services” that fill the created needs of iPhone users. You can read Spence’s article here.
All of what he says is true. My art director/writer/producer friends are all upset with the decreasing set of input/output ports on the new Macbook Pros. They could care less about the smaller size and lighter weight–to them, a Macbook Pro is a production tool, not a fashion accessory. Carrying one is not burdensome if it can produce what you need when you need it. But recently, advances in the Macbook universe of hardware and software have been small, barely noticeable. An iPhone is a small computer you make phone calls on, but a Macbook Pro was a small computer you could edit a video on or use to write your next novel or design/program your next app.
By moving away from the needs of the mobile creative (Apple is still trying to serve the needs of the stationery creative with desktops but that market is diminishing because American workers are not all that stationery anymore) Apple is failing to meet the needs of people who have built businesses and portfolios and services based on the capabilities of their Macbook Pros. On the other side of the operating system divide, Microsoft is pushing the Surface and Surface Pro to the creatives that Apple used to own (does anyone remember when desktop publishing saved Apple, the company?), a fact that is obvious by the TV commercials that Microsoft is running and the software they feature.
Tim Cook has ramped up the numbers for Apple, the public company, and the stock has done great, but he has not done much for Apple, the creative company, the cause, the “Think Different” company. By changing the business model to emphasize the iPhone and iPhone subscription based services, he’s put the company into a commercial lane that may go in a direction most Apple users don’t want to take. At one time, using an Apple computer was a statement, a commitment, a passion. When Steve Jobs ran Apple, you never felt like it was a giant company–under Jobs, Apple had personality and creativity and took chances. It was a little messy around the edges but it was exciting and they changed things, constantly. Apple was the closet thing in tech to what The Beatles were in entertainment. Every Apple new product announcement was a revolution, not an evolution.
The lack of really innovative products–so new they have no precedent–at Apple is a bit shameful. Really, we don’t care about the width of the bezel–show us something that does things we’ve never seen before and helps us to think in different ways. At the very least, don’t take away the flexibility and productivity of the products from Apple we use every day, which Apple has done in designs for the Macbook, by making them virtually upgraded (parts are soldered in, embedded, so they cannot be easily replaced by newer or more capable ones…..good for Apple, bad for users). Really, it’s time for Apple to stop the all-bow-down-to-iPhone corporate culture and devote some attention and imagination to the Macbooks–Air, Pro, and other wise. As the great Texas football coach Darrell Royal used to say, “we’ll dance with who brung us”. Not a bad idea.
Maybe it’s time for Apple to take one more cue from The Beatles and get back to what built the company and their market. I think there’s a song for that. I think the execs at Apple should listen to it.
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