The headlines are scary: “Apple Disappoints Wall Street” appears one week, “Apple Losing Its Edge” the next. Is it the end of the road for the once-mighty House of Jobs?
Those particular headlines didn’t herald the company’s demise. They’re from 1997. Just 18 months later a reinvigorated Apple—under its “new and improved” dollar-a-year CEO, Steve Jobs—took its first step toward eventual industry domination with the debut of the iMac. Rather than honest assessments of Apple’s viability, we always seem to get the foregoing tabloid-style silliness. For Apple, even record sales aren’t good enough for Wall Street, so here come the naysayers again—only now they include Steve Wozniak. What’s up with that?
What the Woz?
In a TechCrunch interview in November 2012, one still being culled for tendentious quotes, Wozniak built his case against some of Apple’s high-profile failures (and he detests Siri). iPad sales numbers are still strong, so Wozniak knows the Cupertino firm’s upside. Still, in early February as Apple stock continued its slide, Wozniak spoke excitedly about the new home of “wow” products for the future: Microsoft. Yep, the “evil empire” of Apple’s original SuperBowl ad. What convinced him? The Xbox, Windows 8, the Surface Tablet? Nope. It was the rumor of Redmond’s work on simultaneous translation, a hardware/software solution far “more fluid [and more] colloquial” than Google, Siri, or anything else right now.
Wozniak says Microsoft, whose Surface line was one of our “Business Tech Hits of 2012,” is also making “strides in [the] voice recognition area” because smart folks are “sitting in their labs trying to innovate.” On the other hand, Wozniak says that Apple has settled for “cranking out the newest iPhone and falling a little behind, and that worries me greatly.” Apple has had smart, solid niche products like the Xserve RAID that get few headlines, but consumers don’t buy them in the millions as they are not iAppliances for 21st Century Work, Socializing, & Entertainment. (Watch for a blog with that title coming soon.)
Speaking of tweaking…
Tweaking, says Wozniak, is not innovating, and that’s all Apple has been doing to the MacBook and its other Mac models, which “is not Apple-style innovation.” Making bold moves is. He doesn’t think Apple is “turning its back on creativity,” but seems conflicted about CEO Tim Cook. Cook runs Apple in a buttoned-down manner, minus the art school dress code, notoriously bad vibes, and high drama of Steve Jobs. Wozniak and others may not like Cook’s style, but it is an advantage, not a hindrance, as Apple evolves into whatever a “leading edge firm” needs to be in the “post-PC” era.
Repositioning Apple as a mass-market consumer products firm is no small feat when you consider its multiple-personality past. Before iTunes, iPhones and iOS, Apple was known for both easy-to-use Macs and peerless pro-level powerhouses like our Mac Pro rental. Apple’s “towers of power”—loaded with Final Cut Pro, Shake, and other pricey software—dominated professional video, film, music, web, and print production for years. Now that Apple is the source of “iEverything” for the masses, professional users feel seduced and abandoned (again!)—and they’ve been grousing about it for two years now. We’ll tell you what they’re saying, and what it means for Apple’s shrinking share of the pro market, in a coming blog.