I’m a bit concerned about the direction in which Apple is heading. Despite my own affection for Android and ASUS, I want Apple to continue to be an innovator, pushing the industry forward into new and exciting technologies. Unfortunately, what I’m seeing lately makes me suspect that, unless they find another Steve Jobs-like thinker, Apple is going to decline. Here are my observations:
1. The last two major debuts at Apple (the iPhone 4s and the new iPad) were disappointing.
Yes I know, millions of hipsters waited in long lines for the iPhone 4s and the new iPad has already sold out. I’m not denying they are great devices. They are, however, nothing dramatically different from their predecessors. In fact, they are merely updates to keep the iDevices in step with what Android devices are already doing.
But actually, Apple is NOT keeping up. Consumers want memory cards, widescreens, larger phone screens, and smaller tablet screens, 4G data on phones, HDMI out, micro USB, and Swype keyboards. Apple can’t continue to ignore consumer demand and expect to stay on top.
Apple’s idea of innovation these days is a new take on voice recognition, a new take on HD, and a slightly better camera lens. They need to do better.
2. Apple is resorting to bullying instead of competing.
Between the slew of lawsuits for patent infringement and the alleged collusion to fix prices on content, Apple seems to be demonstrating that they are running scared. It’s nonsense and I had hoped it would stop when Steve Jobs was no longer a factor, but it continues.
3. Apple cannot rely on iTunes for dominance much longer.
Much of the iDevices’ success over the years has been based on their integration with iTunes as the premier provider of digital content. Times are changing. iTunes is no longer the only game in town. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Zune, and Google are all legitimate options for consumers. As iTunes faces real competition for the first time, its influence on the movie, television, music, and publishing industries will lessen. Consumers will choose to move away from iDevices unless Apple can find some compelling reason to keep them.
4. Apple’s servers suck. (At least here in Atlanta.)
I have never watched a single television episode, movie, or movie trailer on my Apple TV 2 without a long delay before the show begins nor without a significant pause or two during the show when the buffering catches up with Apple’s server. Netflix is usually in very low quality and with long delays. It’s at the point where I don’t even bother anymore. I buy or rent movies and television shows, or watch Netflix, through my XBOX 360 and experience HD quality with no delays.
I keep reading about how people cannot connect to Siri or experience delays with Apple’s servers.
And Apple wants to put everything into the cloud now and deliver it to their devices? This seems like a recipe for customer dissatisfaction. Of course, iPhone users are used to slow 3G data, so maybe no-one will notice …
5. Steve Jobs is not easily replaced.
Steve Jobs was a visionary. Is there anyone at Apple filling that role now? The reality is that people like Steve Jobs don’t step in and pick up someone else’s vision and try to revive it. The best Apple can hope for is to carry on with Steve’s vision and hope they don’t ever lose sight of it. (I think they already have.)
6. It’s a mistake to count Microsoft out.
Windows 7 eliminated all of my dissatisfaction with PCs over Macs and from everything I’ve seen so far, Windows 8 is going to be even better. It is designed to make all Windows devices – PC, phones, game consoles and tablets, work together seamlessly. Every time I meet someone with a Windows phone they just love it. I know people want to write off Microsoft, but I think that is a big mistake. My XBOX 360 with Kinect is my go-to home media device and I have an Apple TV, TiVo HD Premier, Sony Playstation 3, and two laptops to choose from.
7. Fads change.
There is no denying that much of Apple’s success is due to the fact that they successfully marketed themselves into the hearts of trendy America. (And trendy Europe, and trendy Asia.) As soon as all the cool hipsters figure out that everyone uses Apple, they’ll move on to something new. Unless Apple can find a way to reinvent itself so that it’s the new thing again, they will lose this edge eventually. I think I already see it happening.
And while we are discussing fads …
Why does every iDevice app need to include photorealistic elements? I’ve seen this done well, and I’ve seen it done poorly, but either way it’s just one of many possible ways to design. This is a box that Apple needs to branch out of, in my opinion. And developers, please, when you bring your iOS app over to Android – feel free to leave that behind.
8. There are other exciting companies right on Apple’s heels.
I can’t express how impressed I am with ASUS right now. My ASUS laptop kicks ass, and I’ll put it up against your Mac Book Pro anytime. The ASUS Transformer Prime is a real iPad competitor. They get it – that necessary mix between function and design – fashion and practicality. They are doing everything right presently and now I hear they are coordinating with Google to make a tablet. Watch out.
9. It’s all too proprietary.
One of the reasons the iPod was so popular was that it worked with anything. You didn’t have to own a Mac to use it. Yes, you pretty much had to use iTunes, but that was the only real option out there at the time anyway. Since then, Apple has essentially taken a different track. iDevices are now all designed to work with other iDevices. Even accessories made by other companies have to include Apple proprietary connectors or software and Apple gets a piece of that action as well, which means higher prices for the consumer. To be an iPhone or iPad user, you really have to commit to becoming an Apple user or things start to get complicated really fast. While I can see why Apple might think this is the path to profits, I think it’s short sighted and will hurt them in the long run.
10. A two-year-old can use it.
The other day I heard a tech commentator praise Apple for making devices that are easy to use. He gleefully pointed out that it’s been shown that toddlers as young as two years old can use the iPad effectively. It’s true, I see younger and younger kids glued to iPhones and iPads all the time.
I don’t personally think this is a good thing. Yes, I believe that technology is best when it is user-friendly and intuitive, but I think that maybe it ought to be sophisticated enough that some level of education is expected. This is one of Android’s major advantages over iOS – the ability to do things in different ways and to customize the experience.
What does it all mean?
Am I saying all of this to pick on Apple? No. I truly want to see Apple take its rightful place at the forefront of innovation and design. The world is better off because of the work Apple did with inventing the iPhone and iPad. I want to see Apple push the boundaries again – blazing trails that will later be perfected by Google and Samsung and ASUS and Vizio and Microsoft …