Apple Disappoints... Strategically September 8, 2016
The iPhone 7 Launch is the new Apple
I'm an Apple fan. Not a fan-boy... but a fan.
I've got an Apple logo (6 color) tattooed on my arm.
I've been using Apple products since 1978.
I was also a NeXT developer so I grew up with what is now iOS.
The iPhone 7 launch yesterday is, in my mind, the harbinger of Apple's new strategy and direction: more is more.
The New Black
One of the big things that Steve Jobs brought to Apple on his return in the 90s was the idea that less is more.
Fewer product lines was less easier both internally and for the customer.
Focus on what people did with computers (and computing devices) was what Apple built their products and marketing around.
Recall the early iPod marketing: it was about storage and the number of songs on the device.
Even when Apple did seemingly unpopular things (e.g., removing the CD rom drive from laptops), there was a customer facing reason: lighter, thinner laptops.
Apple understood why people used computers: consuming art, socializing, and doing business.
Apple understood the key drivers for how people used the devices: the devices travel with the users to: thinner, lighter, longer battery life, better connectivity, more durability.
Apple was diabolically focused on created a limited number of products that satisfied those needs.
And Apple succeeded.
Loss of Focus
Apple has lost focus and moving into the "more is better" camp.
There are how many xOSs? iOS, MacOS, WatchOS, TVOS, ???
Product lines proliferate and blur. iPad Pro vs. MacBook. Almost identical size and very similar use cases.
Why iPad Air and iPad Pro? Just do one.
Lightning, USB-C, Thunderbolt, MagSafe... all overlapping. Just choose one. Having USB-C only on the MacBook vs. Lightning on the phones and iPads means I have to carry lots of different power/connector/whatever things.
This blurring is a loss of focus.
Not Customer Benefits
Watching yesterday's iPhone 7 launch... there was a paucity of customer benefits associated with the features.
What is the customer benefit of the "courageous" choice of removing the headphone jack?
Look back to Steve keynotes. He could very clearly link product features or product changes to specific customer benefits.
If you build it, they may not come
I spent years in the NeXT ecosystem... and ecosystem that was focused on features (Object Oriented, MegaPixel display, real-time video display, etc.). Yes, the features were super-important. But it was not until those features were connected with customer needs (at Apple), did the business get done.
The Strategic Focus Loss
Apple has fundamentally lost strategic focus. This is reflected in dropping sales and was underscored at the iPhone 7 launch... a launch that was critical in showing that Apple can release products that create strong upgrade demand.
What I think Apple needs to do:
- Kill the iPad Pro line. Just roll the features into the iPads. Oh... and the bigger iPad Pro is pointless. Just two sizes.
- Kill the MacBook. In Mac-land it's MacBook Pro and Air and the Mac Pro.
- Standardize on USB-C across all product lines.
- Kill the watch. It's never going to be a revenue source, and right now, it's a terrible distraction.
- Spend a lot more effort getting Apple TV right (and it's so wrong) because Apple TV is a gateway to art consumption. Oh... and make TVOS into iOS so there are only 2 OSes that coders code to.
- Stress security/privacy in all things. Compared to Facebook and Google, Apple still has a good brand in this area.
- Move to 3 phone sizes: SE, 7, 7+. The 6s and 6s+ are distractions.
- If Apple needs a cheap version of the computer, phone, or iPad for educational or institutional sales, yay. But keep those off the Apple web site and keep them out of the stores. They distract consumers from focused decision making.
- Focus always on benefits for customer activities. Features are always, always, always discussed in the context of benefits to core customer behavior.
Yeah... my 2 cents.