If you’ve been feeling as though Apple’s heart isn’t in moving the Mac forward these days, you’re not alone. The new MacBook Pro models have taken widespread criticism, Apple has provided no roadmap for the future of its desktop Macs, and most recently, the company eliminated the position of Product Manager of Automation Technologies, presumably seeing it as unnecessary. High-end creatives have despaired about Apple’s lack of attention to their needs, and the mood among many of the consultants and support professionals at last week’s MacTech Conference was downbeat.
In spite the fact that it now employs 115,000 people and is the most valuable company in the world, Apple still thinks like a one-platform company. Now it’s all about iOS, and everything Apple does is designed to serve the single goal of selling more iPhones and iPads.
Now that Apple’s primary task is to sell more iPhones, the company has little incentive to improve the Mac past the point that iOS developers need to run Xcode and macOS Server’s caching server effectively. Sure, the Mac business was worth $22.8 billion in revenues in 2016, which is far from chump change, but it’s nothing compared to the $192.8 billion of revenues generated by iOS and associated services.
Two points that I would add:
- In Apple’s current functional organization, there is no vice president whose job it is to advocate for the Mac and its customers. This approach can potentially enable product integrations and reduce strategy tax problems, but I think it also led to the idea that, as Engst says, the Mac is but an accessory to the iOS platform.
- Like others, I am continuing to see problems with software quality, more particularly on the Mac. (One example from today: Mail’s smart mailboxes and searches keep breaking, fixed only by regular database and Spotlight rebuilds. I’ve actually excluded nearly everything except for Mail from Spotlight in an effort to make these rebuilds faster.) There are many possible reasons for these symptoms, but I think one is that the primacy of iOS has caused Apple to ship major macOS updates when the iOS hardware is ready rather than when the Mac software is ready.
Lastly, I think a lot of the frustration from Mac users is that Apple deprioritized their needs yet saw fit to dedicate huge teams and resources to making $17,000 gold watches, automobiles, and original TV shows. So the decisions about the Mac are clearly not driven by a need to focus.
After how many years does secrecy become patronizing? A simple acknowledgment of the Mac Pro/Mini would go a long way.
Apple could either update or kill the Pro/Mini and both seem like equal possibilities. That’s your marketing message?
I don’t think Mac users should switch, but I can’t recommend any newbies join MacShip.
But this all raises a more fundamental question. If GE can build jet engines, tidal energy farms, freight rail data systems, mining equipment, and medical devices, how is it that the world’s most valuable company can’t find the time to make a full line of personal computers and PC peripherals alongside its market-leading smartphones and tablets? The answer goes back to Apple’s corporate structure, which, though fairly common for a startup, is extremely unusual for an enormous company.
Of course, it might be hard to bring radical redesigns and breakthrough innovations to the Mac. But what existing Mac customers really want is something more basic: confidence that Apple will regularly update the Mac to incorporate new chips as they become standard in the rest of the computer industry.
The upshot is that even though regularly updating desktop Macs should not be that difficult, objectively speaking, it tends not to happen in part because it’s not anyone’s job to make it happen. The functional organization values collaboration on top corporate priorities above all else, and that means basically everything comes ahead of desktop Macs.
So if Apple cannot maintain a functional structure at scale, and cannot be divisional without losing ability to innovate, what’s plan C?
Sadly, can’t see any significant progress coming in this respect. If anything, it’s gonna get worse.
Update (2016-12-01): Jean-Louis Gassée:
On the surface the Mac appears to be thriving. If ‘Macintosh Inc.’ were an independent company, its $22.8B in revenue for Apple’s 2016 accounting year (which ended in September) would rank 123rd on the Fortune 500 list, not far below the likes of Time Warner, Halliburton, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon[…]
Instead of racing to the bottom as the market plummets, Apple appears to be taking the “high road”, in a sense: They’re taking refuge at the high end of the market by introducing new, more expensive MacBook Pros, with a visible differentiating feature, the Touch Bar. This is known, inelegantly, as milking a declining business, although you shouldn’t expect Apple to put it that way.
I think it’s almost certainly true that if there were, say, a “Macintosh” division within Apple, that we’d see more frequent updates to all Mac hardware. That doesn’t mean Apple should change its structure, though — and in the long run, I don’t even think that would be good for the Macintosh. Apple’s functional structure is absolutely central to their success over the past 20 years.
There are certainly growing pains with regard to Apple’s enormous size today. The iPhone’s extraordinary success creates a sort of gravity that has warped the company. But Apple ran into “can’t walk and chew gum” problems even when they were a much smaller company.
Update (2016-12-09): Ken Segall:
When the new Mac Pro was introduced in 2012, it felt like the type of radical departure Steve was known for. Combined with Phil Schiller’s famous “Can’t innovate, my ass” comment, it gave hope for the future.
Unfortunately, the future never came for any of the Macs. When it finally arrived for MacBook Pro, it was at least a couple of years late.
When updates between revolutions disappear, the result is bad press and restless customers — both of which are well earned.
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