OK, Apple, we get it. You want to converge your product lines into one iOS brand, with one operating system and only two or three lines of products: iPhones, iPads, and iDesktops. This is clearly the vision that Jobs was going for, and it’s an obvious goal on the road map to Apple’s future.
Problem is, in practice, getting there is dragging Apple’s customers through the same cactus-riddled no man’s land of torture that they’ve been dragging their developers through for the past 10 years. It’s the land of “We don’t care about you,” and Apple has become the absolute masters of this domain.
Let’s start at 1 Infinite Loop, where Apple is preparing to build a new multi-billion-dollar headquarters. Well, when you have US$250 billion in the bank, I guess that’s what you do with it. Unfortunately, there’s one major aspect of this new HQ that Apple will probably spend a good billion dollars on, and that’s a shame because it’s their No. 1 problem.
(Related: Apple’s new MacBook Pro)
That thing is secrecy. This new headquarters will be more similar to a jail or space station than a Silicon Valley office building. Inside of Apple, employees are not even allowed to discuss their work with each other. You can bet Apple will spend a ton of money building its new HQ so that it will isolate them from each other, and probably even monitor their conversations to ensure nothing is being leaked.
When Apple still had big gaps in its product line, this made sense. The Apple Watch, the iPhone, the iPad, even back to the iBook and iPod, all these devices came out of nowhere and made huge impacts. They’ve been copied by other manufacturers, especially Samsung, and yet, they remain the top devices in their categories.
Is this because of secrecy? Or perhaps is it because Apple is still the only game in town that builds its own hardware and software? Google’s quickly getting into this game as well with its Pixel, as is Microsoft with its Surface, but at the end of the day, Apple’s entire skill set resides in the “We make the whole widget” wheelhouse.
So if Apple is all about making the best possible product and ensuring it’s heavily integrated across devices, why the hell are they locking up their developers and not allowing them to talk to each other? It’s like some kind of mad game of espionage overlaid on top of an agile process that can never be implemented. “Scrum meetings? Oh no, that would violate our security policies.”
Compared to the stuff Google and Microsoft are actively showing off and previewing—Magic Leap, HoloLens, the new Surface Pro—whatever it is Apple’s keeping under wraps is beginning to sound less and less exciting. The company can’t even refresh its hardware properly, so how can we expect them to have some amazing new product up their sleeve, especially when the last two big new products were literally smaller or larger iPhones: the iPad and Apple Watch.
The rest of Apple’s product line is looking positively contemptible. Does any serious computer user actually want to shell out $2,500 for a laptop with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of hard drive space? For $500 you can get an HP with double those specs. Heck, I could go to Woot.com right now and get a comparable machine, spec-wise, for $150!
OK, that wouldn’t have the Retina screen, but what use is a Retina is you can’t possibly do video editing or Photoshop on the device, as a single file would fill the hard drive entirely?
Apple’s move to convergence isn’t about moving iOS to laptops and desktops, it would seem. It’s about throwing laptops and desktops completely overboard. Evidently, the CPUs and GPUs needed to refresh the three-year-old Mac Pro series are not available yet, and Apple had to delay the updates for its Pro desktops. Even if this rumor is true, however, it’s just completely insane to think Apple would just give up on updating the platform in favor of waiting for some fanciful new Intel CPU that will add a couple hundred megahertz to the platform.
Sure, that’d make sense if its users wanted the best and most powerful hardware all the time. But if they’re still selling a Mac Pro with 16GB of RAM, an ATI D500 GPU with 3GB of memory, and a 256GB SSD and a six-core CPU for $4,000, they must be completely out of their minds.
In what universe is this even an acceptable machine for even normal computer prices? At $4,000, it’s just a fancy way to set your money on fire.
iMacs have also been neglected. When they finally get an update, we can be sure it’s going to be of the 16GB/256GB variety, which I should point out is the same amount of RAM and far less HD space than I have here on my five-year-old iMac.
Combine all this with the fact that Apple charges developers for its development tools, still won’t allow compilation on other platforms, and that the Mac OS and hardware platforms’ primary innovations, of late, have been around which features the company removed, and you’ve got a recipe for a company that is so helplessly controlled by its amazingly intelligent MBA CEO that it will likely never return to its former glory.
What’s to be done?
Cook is a great CEO, but he should be selling toothpaste. He’s clearly got no idea how to run a computer company that requires innovation at every turn. I see two steps Apple needs to take to move forward. First, get rid of the internal secrecy. It’s killing the company. I once met a husband and wife who work at Apple, and they couldn’t talk about their work with each other, even after hours in bed. That’s insane, especially when they’re clearly only keeping info about the next 16GB laptop safe from prying eyes.
Second, Apple needs to take a huge chunk of its $250 billion in cash and sink it into a super skunkworks. No cars, no more watches, no OS improvements. Think Xerox PARC at 1 Infinite Loop.
Given these two changes, I’d start to think of Apple as a decent company again. Without them, I’ll continue to consider them to be the biggest cons in the computer business, with fans who are increasingly less aware of just how much of a premium they pay for that plastic light-up Apple logo on their computer.
Two hundred and fifty billion in cash laying around, and Apple gives us an emoji bar. Not a touch-screen. Not better speech recognition. Not better productivity tools. A light-up bar with emojis and extra buttons. Maybe they’ll make up for the ones you can no longer plug in due to the lack of ports.