Apple’s model of who its users are and what they want seems to be different than what happens out in the real world among its real users. And that to me indicates potential problems of all sorts, since that misjudgment affects not only forecasting, but product design, feature choice and performance specifications all tie back into this. And given the criticism of the MacBook Pros by many long-time Mac users, that’s a worry.
Apple’s always been a data driven company, but I think they’ve gotten overly reliant on data to drive business decisions. Spreadsheets can tell you where the sweet spots in the market are and how to hit them, but they struggle at finding and bringing forward strategic areas that also need coverage. That was, actually, one thing that Steve excelled at. It means you need people in leadership who understand their user base and which bits are strategic and need to have product coverage.
There are far too many details of bugs slipping into releases, weird design choices (the chaos of trying to use stickers in messages, for instance), usability problems and general “lack of polish” and the trend line on the quality of OS and app releases is headed in the wrong direction.
My worry is that Apple isn’t seeing this, because it’s looking at the sales numbers and they look fine, with many products under backlog and strong demand (including the new MacBook Pros). If you just look at the numbers, things are okay. But what Apple’s always been good at is looking beyond the numbers to the things they don’t say — and I worry they’ve lost that.
Update (2017-01-03): Gus Mueller:
I really miss the previous generation of Mac Pros.
I personally wish Apple would stay in the wifi game, and improve their products, if for no other reason than I trust them most on security.
Something is clearly wrong with the AirPort line. Either it should have been updated long to remain state-of-the-art, or it should have been discontinued.
“What the hell happened with the Mac Pro?” is the most interesting question about Apple today. Because something clearly went way wrong with this product. I’m not convinced the basic idea for the design is unsound — the idea is that expansion would come in the form of external peripherals, rather than things you install inside the box.
I’m not sure that makes sense given the price of RAM and the improvements in SSDs and GPUs. If I’m going to keep the CPU for a long time, which given its slower rate of improvement is likely, it would be really nice to be able to upgrade the stuff inside the box. I’d rather not have appendages.
Updates to the same basic design would make sense. An all-new design would make sense. Getting out of the Mac Pro game would make sense. Selling 1000-day old pro workstations at the same prices as in 2013 makes no sense. Whatever the explanation is, this situation is an unmitigated disaster.
The must-read Apple rant of the week is Chuq Von Rospach’s Apple’s 2016 in review. The veteran of a dozen Silicon Valley firms—including 17 years at Apple—Von Rospach has written a critique of Apple’s annus horribilis so sharp and on-the-mark that even die-hard Apple apologists are recommending it.
Forgive me for pointing out the obvious here, but Apple, unlike its peers, is the only company that makes hardware that can officially run MacOS and iOS. Google and Microsoft may now have their own integrated hardware and software products — in the form of the Pixel and Surface, respectively — but other companies make hardware that runs Android and Windows.
This puts Apple in a position of incredible power and responsibility. Their platforms are exceptional. Even as I complain at length about the myriad bugs and quality issues in MacOS, I’ve also used Windows recently and I can assure you that there’s a gigantic gap. Yet this responsibility, I feel, is something that they haven’t always treated with the respect it deserves.
Fixing it, of course, is non-trivial. Should Apple go back to doing less but doing it better?
Update (2017-01-11): See also: The Talk Show.
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