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Why Apple's new ads look like Microsoft made them. (seanoliver.me)
337 points by seanoliver on July 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 227 comments

I'm beginning to feel that Apple wasn't a company, it was a man. His employees were just extensions of his brain; they would make what he wanted, and if he didn't know what he wanted they would make every variety they could come up with until they hit it right.

Without Steve, Apple still has all the raw talent they've had for years, there's still so much creativity sitting in that office. But without a lens to distill it, without a final authoritative sign-off, they don't seem to know anymore what is good enough and what is Apple.

I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they will find it again, but I'm not willing to bet on it. Apple is on track to become just another PC vendor, just another consumer products vendor. There's not much magic coming from Cupertino lately.

Is this consistent with other companies? Did Ford's heyday end after Henry died? Standard Oil after Rockefeller? Hearst after WRH?

Arguably Microsoft has faltered after Gates; what about Hughes Aircraft; well ... right. Founders cashing out after the equity event seem to be a constant death-blow to acquired properties; Snapple, CompuServe, Bebo, Mirabilis, Xoom, AOL, Excite, MySpace, GeoCities. But then again there's Paypal, reddit, and IGN.

Nintendo had Gunpei Yokoi, Atari had Nolan Bushnell, MGM had Louis B Mayer; Sony had Ibuka and Morita. Even Disney started tumbling after Walt's death.

Virgin has Richard Branson, Subway has DeLuca, Aldi has Albrecht, Koch has the brothers, Oracle has Ellison, Google has Sergey and Brin, FB has Zuck, News Corp has Murdoch, even HN has pg, Ubuntu has Shuttleworth, Wikileaks has Assange, Linux has Linus, and Wikipedia has Jimbo. Perhaps there's something to this on a more general scale.

There's other stories though; 3M, Kraft, Merck, Kroger, General Mills, Walmart, McDonalds, Procter & Gamble, Safeway, and Samsung; all continued success long after the founders demise or exodus and without quasi-government granted funding or monopolies (e.g. telecom, auto, and energy).

Although perhaps one could argue that these companies have either lost their soul or assumed a malevolent one; none of them, save Samsung and perhaps McDonalds really produce, I'd say, goods that capture people's imagination.

Some of these businesses -- particularly the latter category (Kraft, Kroger, Walmart, General Mills, P&G, etc.) -- are "systems" businesses, and not necessarily "people" businesses.

P&G runs like a machine because it is a machine. It's a relentlessly optimized, error-reduced, tolerance-tightened machine. Jobs at P&G fit into very clearly defined (almost proscribed) roles, and if you hold one of these jobs, your mission is to execute that role without deviation. The company hires very smart people -- but it's more concerned with people who can fit frictionlessly into the machine than with people who want to break the mold. Same thing with Walmart, or McDonald's, or General Mills, or Coca Cola, etc. The general philosophy is to design an internal playbook that is foolproof, then hire people who are sharp enough not to mess it up.

[At this point I will pause to note that the description "systems business" is not intended to be a pejorative. Tightly controlled systems are not necessarily correlated with failure to innovate, to design, or to grow. P&G is capable of innovation, for instance, but it has playbooks for how to innovate. It follows recipes for innovation, rather than relying on the hiring of wildly creative people who will swing for the fences and hit or miss.]

Contrast these firms with what I'd call "people" businesses -- typically, tech startups or creative fields. Many of these companies are high-variance systems. A visionary founder, or visionary product leads, can propel a "people" company forward like a bat out of hell. But a lackluster CEO, or dimwitted product leads, can dash the company's fortunes on the rocks. These businesses give their people a lot of freedom to operate, to pursue whims, and to think outside the box. I would put Google in this category, or at least the Google of recent memory. Same thing with Disney, or Warner Brothers, or Virgin. These companies are in the homerun business. They swing for the fences, and at any given at-bat, they either they smash it out of the park or strike out. More often than not, they tend to strike out -- but the grand slams often make up for the multiple strike-outs.

Apple is interesting, in that it's neither fully one, nor the other. With Steve Jobs at the helm, Apple was certainly dependent on one person -- so it had the characteristics of a "people" company. At the same time, Apple was actively engaged in systematizing its roles and procedures, especially in the latter years of Jobs's life. Jobs even made occasional reference to the P&G model. It was as if he knew that the longevity of the company depended on the ability to implement foolproof, flawless internal systems that any smart people could operate without failure. The problem is that he still left a critical hole at the top, and he never took the systematizing exercise to its natural conclusion.

Well, any time you're looking at companies before vs after the death of their founder, you've got the confounding factor that the company is always younger when the founder is alive.

Google founders Brin and Page were what, 25 when they founded Google? If they've got a 75 year life expectancy, Google will be a 50 year old company when they die. I'd have thought a 50 year old Google would look more like a stable blue chip company than a fast-moving frenetic startup.

It's hard to say definitively. I think it's mostly about installing well-groomed successors. Degrees, of course, have almost nothing to do with this; companies need a consistent philosophy to produce consistent results, and a CEO you hire off the street isn't going to do much unless your company is in full automation mode by that time. Apple definitely did the right thing to style Tim Cook as a Jobs protege. I'm not really worried that Apple is just going to lose its material edge overnight, but I think some may perceive things that way, and for Apple, it's all about perception.

Something like McDonalds, Wal-Mart et al was established as a cookie cutter, repeatable thing. People go there because they want consistency; they know what to expect. Their patrons aren't looking to have their minds blown or to become excited about their interactions; the most successful companies in the world are much maligned externally because they're seen as dry and exploitative, but most people still patronize them. It's not cool to like them, but they do very well precisely because of that predictability, that blandness.

Apple, however, lives and dies by its reputation as a visionary, an entity that is constantly breaking new ground. This is because owning a Mac is as much about the cult of Mac as it is about the actual benefits of the product. Apple isn't a cookie-cutter franchise; it needs to bring controversy and produce products that are radically different from the rest of the industry to maintain credibility. If that credibility as a visionary is lost, much of Apple's userbase comes into jeopardy, because believe it or not, it's still less effort for most people to use Windows. That will never change until OS X approaches 50% of the market.

For companies like this, the keystones of their cultural identity are the most important business assets to protect. Unfortunately, Apple chose to heavily exploit "the genius of Steve Jobs" angle while he was around (perhaps because it's much more difficult to propagate a narrative about the vision of a design committee than the vision of one amazing man), and now they're paying a price for it.

Apple may recover, and they have some usable momentum, but it's definitely going to take some oomph out of their sails because Apple's dominance is not based on the superiority of its products, but the culture and attitude around them. I think Cook is well-qualified for the CEO position, but imo the way to put this Jobs stuff to rest is to present Cook as a regularly ordained successor, tutored by Jobs, and to have him assume some very Jobsian habits that would make this externally visible (for instance, give Cook the same veneration and mystery that Jobs received while presenting at Apple conferences, make him the human focal point and the apparent origin of all innovations). To the people closest to Steve Jobs, this may seem a grotesque mockery, but if your whole company is based on the dog and pony show, you have to keep up appearances.

I am always amazed by people who claim Apple is ''breaking new ground''. Thats the exact opposite of what they do. They are never the first ones to introduce new devices or new services. They are rather followers than innovators. They did not invent mp3players, they did not invent smartphones and certainly did not invent tablet computers. All you can say is that they are good/fierce competitors, and good marketers, but ''breaking ground'' classes you either as an ignorant or a member of the mac cult.

I think it's pretty unfair to characterise the iphone as not breaking new ground. They didn't invent cellphones or touchscreens, but in 2006 you could not buy a phone that looked anything like an iphone, and yet by 2009 that was the dominant form factor for smartphones.

Even the ipod I would say is similar, albeit a little less so; prior to 2001 mp3 players were hardly entrenched, the ipod was the device that didn't just take them mainstream but finally made CD and minidisc players obsolete. To me, that was breaking new ground, even though it wasn't the first portable mp3 player.

Totally agreed. They might not be the original inventors of a computer technology, but their implementations are always groundbreaking. From the start, they took things other people did poorly and dominated on implementation, totally shaking up the market. Just look at the big 3:

- There were computers, they made personal computers

- There were mp3 players, they made the ipod

- There were phones, they made the iphone

In all 3 cases, the invention existed but was poorly designed and people did not like it or use it very often. And in all 3 cases, they created a version that was smaller, lighter, better designed, and that people loved to use and completely changed the entire industry.

" There were computers, they made personal computers"

Glad you forgot to mention the C64, the computer that sold much more units than Apple could hope to sell with their ridiculously priced Apple 2, thereby bringing actual computers into millions of homes while Apple II remained on a niche market.

Please don't rewrite history to your convenience.

The Apple II went on sale in 1977. The Comodore 64, in 1982. So, half a decade later another computer was introduced and you say that he's "rewriting history" to ignore this computer that came so much later?

It is people like you who ruin HN for everyone.

For our purposes, it's about the perception of groundbreakingness, not the reality of it. They need to make things that look and feel different than what's available (and in this sense they are breaking new ground in consumer design) and get a controversy stirred. As long as the new stuff is philosophically compatible with the old stuff and a credible claim to the spirit of Jobs can be established, the cult of Mac will grow until they reach some level where these dynamics go out of balance. Apple relies on its underground status for its coolness, too; if everyone had it, the many Mac denziens that want to feel special will find another obscure thing to latch onto.

I hate to say it, but I agree.

The commercials aren't the only red flag for me.

The recent releases (MacBook Pro Retina, Mountain Lion, rumored iPhone 5, iOS6) haven't thrilled me at all and I have been looking forward to the MBPR and iPhone5 for a long time.

> The recent releases (MacBook Pro Retina, Mountain Lion, rumored iPhone 5, iOS6) haven't thrilled me at all and I have been looking forward to the MBPR and iPhone5 for a long time.

All of these have been released so recently (less than a year since Jobs passed away) that it's likely he played a large part in their design. Further, you're talking about (1) a 15" laptop that beats almost everything else on the market, (2) a minor version bump of OS X, and (3 & 4) two products that haven't been released yet.

I'm as interested in Apple, post-Jobs as everyone else, but the arguments I've seen so far look too forced. The true test will occur over the next 2-3 years--not just the last 9 months.

EDIT: I like snowwrestler's point: this is all "hindsight bias."

EDIT 2: I've fallen into this trap myself at some points, especially with some of these commercials. But these are just single data points. We shouldn't fall into the trap of overemphasizing single data points.

I think the next big product or two (iPhone 5, or the 'other thing' that is possibly a TV) is what will prove whether Apple will stay strongly in the running or fade away as quickly as it did when Jobs was pushed out of the company. I personally think it'll be good for a while longer than that, but the company will need to find new leadership focus after that.

Exactly. This is what makes this all so hilarious.

Steve Jobs said himself that he was directly involved in the next 2-3 years worth of upcoming products. So "this would never have happened under Steve Jobs" can partly be blamed on him.

Steve wasn't just the inspiration. He was also the guy who was more than willing to say "WTF is this? We can't release THAT! Fix IT!!"

Without that you've got the contentment of the collective.

Sure, but we've also got anecdotes where he'd curmudgeonly agree with the collective after lots of pushback from them.

I'm of the opinion that people assign too much importance to Jobs' final decisions. He created a design-oriented culture at Apple and guided Apple to the Dieter Rams style. But do we really think that, after >10 years working together, Jony Ive would approve of something that Jobs would hate? Does anyone doubt Ive's design decisions at this point?

Ive doesn't sign off on Software. When you look at the MBP as an example, the hardware is great, the release software was buggy (most of it fixed with ML though).

> "WTF is this? We can't release THAT! Fix IT!!"

But he was also the guy that missed in that regard multiple times as well. Sure, he might have stopped a lot from going wrong, but the stuff he didn't say "No" to quickly became a blight on the company.

>>>but the stuff he didn't say "No" to quickly became a blight on the company.


Never used it and it seems to have completely failed in the market but I don't see the harm it has done the company.

Anyone got any better examples? FCP seems closer to a possibility that could have been avoided just by keeping the existing product on the price list in parallel for those that really do require it's features until the new version is fully fleshed out.

Newton, Lisa, AppleTV, Thunderbolt

A product developed while Steve was away from Apple, a project he was forced away from, a success (if not up to iPhone levels) and a probable future success (for Intel!). What's your point?

Seriously, the AppleTV is only a 'failure' by the standards of the iPhone and iPad -- most companies would love to have a product that sells nearly 3 million units per year! The margins may be lower than the iPad's, but my understanding is that it does still make a decent profit.

Thunderbolt is an Intel technology and an incredibly useful one. The available products are already starting to look impressive in functionality and prices will come down before too long; Apple themselves use it to provide gigabit ethernet on devices that are about the same thickness as an RJ45 connector, and they sell those for just $29.

> Thunderbolt

I think you've picked a terrible example. I had to buy this very adapter yesterday, and I slowly start to wonder if I should've bought the USB one instead. It looks almost the same and doesn't prevent me from connecting an external DVI screen like the Thunderbolt adapter does. Maybe there's a Y-piece, but it'll certainly be another $29 or more.

It's largely intended for the retina MacBook pro, which has two thunderbolt ports, but I do agree -- many of the early peripherals seem to lack support for daisy chaining. As for the USB version... the thunderbolt one is much faster. File transfers at over 900 Mbps from the one testing report I've read so far.

I'm not fully convinced that there's much advantage to the USB one over just using wifi, except where the latter is unavailable.

It's relieving to hear that the TB one is technically superior, but I don't see how it is intended for the MBPr - it is a checkbox in the Apple's MBA order form as well, along with all the other TB adapters which are mutually exclusive.

And even if the USB adapter is dog-slow, it's all I'd need onsite with clients (email, Skype chat). I'm still not sure if I made the right choice in the long term :/

The USB ethernet adapter is MUCH slower than a good 802.11n wireless connection, at least on my Air.

The AppleTV is a failure? It's what has made all the difference in cutting cable for me. I love mine. Further, it's really coming together now that you can wirelessly mirror an MBP display to the AppleTV. That means projectors+screens can beautifully be replaced by HDTVs and AppleTVs for meeting room presentations. It also means every single piece of content you can get on your laptop, you can also easily watch with one click on your television, wirelessly. It's fantastic for home entertainment too.

Newton and Lisa were not projects under Jobs' control - Newton was Scully's baby, and Jobs created the Macintosh team precisely because he thought the Lisa was the wrong solution. AppleTV sells more units than xBox at the moment, hardly something that harms the company. Thunderbolt is a bit too young to see if it is going to pan out or not, but considering that it has the support of Intel, I would be happy to bet on it in the long term.

Newton - was under a different CEO. He killed it because the tech just wasn't there yet.

Lisa - was the precursor to the Mac. It was beta but everything you see in a Mac was in Lisa.

AppleTV - STBs are really, really hard. I think this is the last gasp for TV. AppleTV just makes it useful again when the world is moving to watching things on a laptop/tablet.

Thunderbolt - fantastic piece of tech probably has longer legs than eSata, which it is supposed to replace.


Given the evidence in the new Samsung court case, with the 2010 iPad being worked on in 2002. That means there's still at least another eight years of pipeline that's yet to hit the public.

Of course, Jobs would have spent the year before he died blasted out of his mind on very strong medications and analgesics.

Sure, but towards the end he was pretty sick, so I would assume quite a few bloopers may have escaped his attention.

That sounds like a decision looking for a justification. You weren't supposed to be thrilled by ML just as you weren't supposed to be thrilled by SL. Were you thrilled by Lion? I was not, I still consider it a huge pile of shit. Hell, I'm way more thrilled about ML because SceneKit, that may make me put my trusty SL to rest, it's got way more potential than fucking skeumorphic iCal or "linen all the things" (which I see in the line of the old stripes, that's going to age just as nicely and in 5 years everybody will agree it was a moronic idea).

MBPR, if you were looking forward to it I fail to see why you wouldn't be thrilled by it, it's the biggest (positive) change in Apple's laptops since the 2nd gen Air.

As for iOS 6, how is it any more underwhelming than iOS 5? Remember when you were thrilled about the "deep twitter integration"? Or that Apple had finally added a notification system which didn't blow goats? Yeah me neither.

As to the ads... all the Siri ads I've seen so far make me facepalm.

Just because I think it needs to be said - I, for one, was thrilled with Snow Leopard. I think it is the best OSX version by far and away.

Agreed. Snow Leopard was a great product, and it was worth every penny. Lion had a lot of new features and groundwork that made it worth the upgrade as well. Now, though, the trend seems to be 'incremental improvements and a few new features', and I'm ok with that.

Oh I do think it's the best OSX version yet, I just wasn't thrilled when they announced. There was little thrilling about it (aside from the new bugs of 10.6.0, and the dropping of PPC). The most major "features" (to me) were Finder, Time Machine and Spotlight sucking significantly less, that Quicktime X existed, and the 64b kernel.

Snow Leopard's not that great.

Lion (and now Mountain Lion) runs faster on my mid-2010 baseline MBP than SL ever did.

Snow Leopard's UI was way too colourful and the Aqua scrollbars were far too big and look really dated.

It wasted pixels on scrollbars and that stupid resize widget (thank fuck Apple finally stole something useful out of Windows) which made your windows look really tacky.

Natural scrolling feels a lot nicer than the old-style scrolling, even on my old school mouse with a clicking scroll wheel.

Quick Look doesn't suck (in both UI and functionality - persistent QL is amazing).

You're limited to OpenGL 2.1 (you won't see games for SL now that GL 3.2 goes back to the previous version of OSX. GL 2.1 can go and die and that's a sentiment a lot of developers share).

The entire system's a lot more subtle in appearance and IMO it's visually a lot cleaner.

Don't be surprised by people appreciating the Lion features a lot more now that Mountain Lion's out and devs can finally drop support for SL.

Oo. If we're going to UI nitpick, then I'll just add that having updated to Mountain Lion straight from Snow leopard, the new low contrast UI widgets are driving me up the wall.

I just can't tell whether a UI element is active or not because everything is "pale grey" or "slightly darker grey". UI designers everywhere must be having fits.

The glacial Spaces transitions when you use ctrl^<- or ctrl^-> are excruciating but will hopefully be fixed at some point: I think that's just an oversight.

> I think that's just an oversight.

...that has been ignored for a year and counting. :(

I just watched the new Apple ads and think they are fun. I don't feel they were directed at me. But I do feel for non-Apple and non-tech people they could raise the question, who are these Geniuses and perhaps they'll look deeper into it and visit a Apple Store.

> The MacBook Pro Retina haven't thrilled me at all and I have been looking forward to the MBPR for a long time.

Wow, you have some high expectations.

What exactly were you looking for?

The RMBP is fine as long as your focus is text, so it's great for programmers & business people.

But Mac has been the mainstay of graphic designers who predominantly use Creative Suite, and the RMBP is quite useless without a 2nd, non-retina monitor.

There is no external video connection available to push the bandwidth required for external Retina displays yet. You could do a 15-17" external Retina display but 24-27" would require 2-3 ThunderBolt connections plus a GPU that is not even technically feasible to put inside of a laptop right now. It's OK to be disappointed but I think it's also good to be grounded in reality too. You're looking for a feature that is basically technically impossible on a MacBook Pro at this time. I wouldn't even expect to see it on a Mac Pro until late next year pending the next major revision to ThunderBolt that could move this much bandwidth over a single connector. Depending on GPU roadmaps, which I'm not terribly familiar with, it could be several more years before mobile GPUs can handle that load. It may be that a Retina ThunderBolt Display will include it's own GPUs for this instead.

I'm not concerned about using a retina Cinema Display.

What you may not understand since you probably don't use Creative Suite is the 1x pixel problem. The RMBP doesn't account for that.

The most obvious problem is vector drawing - the retina monitor automatically scales and anti-aliases vector lines so there's no precision or accuracy.

You can do large detailed bitmap images on the retina pretty well, but you can't do small pixel-accurate work that you need for websites & applications.

It's a big deal, which is why Apple & Adobe were so vague on the release.

I personally think this is why they're holding out on new Mac Pros until late 2013. They'll have Retina external displays, and enough hardware to drive them.

This is exactly why I decided to get a new iMac instead of a Macbook Pro. As a programmer I knew that I would spend most of my time looking at an external monitor, so the display was not as important. I could get something with a lot more power for about $700 less. I figure I'll wait until retina makes it on the Air and get that as my secondary computer. Previously my Macbook Pro played both roles.

> nd the RMBP is quite useless without a 2nd, non-retina monitor.

And how would you have a laptop manufacturer who designs a super-high res display to get around this problem?

Probably by not starting a war with your core partner?

Apple had time to get Apple apps like FCP & Aperture up to spec - they could have prepared Adobe similarly. FWIW, I'll admit it may not have mattered. Adobe is slowest moving ship that's still relevant.

But "Photoshop will be ready soon" and no delivery date show Apple and Adobe to be out of touch their old base.

Perhaps, though, this is the kind of kick Adobe needs. Photoshop, for instance, was built on Carbon until CS5, and needed some tricksy memory tampering to keep the whole session from being a swap exercise. (Even on Windows, I've found that if I didn't already know what the dialog contents were, I'd never figure them out half of the time -- the text doesn't fit into the space they've allotted for it, even for single-line legends.)

The features and ecosystem keep me there, but their underpinnings have lagged, and apart from the splash screen (which is now "creative" but butt-ugly), they haven't spent a whole lot of time making sure the GUI works on any machine, let alone on Retina-type displays.

Being able to judge adjustments for print at near-print-size has always been a major hole in the feature set. That's not Adobe's fault—until very recently, there were only a handful of automobile-expensive monitors requiring special interface hardware that could provide such a function—but they should have realized that if the subject ever came up, designers, ADs and photogs would be all over it in a flash. That doesn't take a JREF challenge winner to predict—the phone-sized hi-rez monitor should have been a clue that it was just around the corner. It should have already been in the pipes, even if it wasn't ready for prime time for the launch of CS6.

There's little chance this kick Adobe into action. They're moving slower and slower (and subscriptions are a license to snooze). It makes me very worried it will be 3-4 years before CS is in line with retina (instead of 1-2).

FWIW - I don't see how retina can be solved easily: Apple kinda screwed it. Mainly, how do you show 1x pixel accurate content on a device that won't do 1x pixels?

So you're complaining that the rMBP doesn't thrill you because Adobe's software has not been upgraded to take advantage of the retina display yet?

You must think the Tesla is non-thrilling because there are not yet ubiquitous charging stations.

You must think 4G handsets are non-thrilling because there is not yet enough 4G coverage.

You must think Thunderbolt is non-thrilling because there are not yet enough devices that support it.

To summarize, you think something is not "thrilling" because the world at large is not ready for it yet. This "keep doing what we've always done" approach really bugs me, and is not a good way to think if you have any interest in progressing and actually making anything better.

These are the kinds of comments I downvote. You come off as a petulant child.

FWIW, Thunderbolt is crap, precisely because it's been almost two years and there's still not a fucking thing to plug into it.

What planet are you living on? Apart from the Thunderbolt display, there's lots of storage devices available. If you don't want storage but something else, you can get Thunderbolt to PCI expansion boxes that you can plug your favorite card into.

So what's your problem?

The post you downvoted was correct. Saying you are underwhelmed by an improved technology just because it's new and unsupported is just silly.

Why would I want a PCI adapter box? I could've done that with Firewire (400 or 800). I want some native devices.

I haven't seen any other laptops shipping with TB interfaces, either (but I'll confess to not having looked thoroughly.) This is probably what's keeping native devices from being more numerous.

What native devices do you want to see? What kind of devices do you want that would need Thunderbolt speeds, and aren't on the market today?

Could you have gotten Thunderbolt speed with Firewire? No.

For slower data rates you have USB (2 and 3). So what's your point?

2 years? I purchased the first MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt when it was first released just last year. It's just over a year old.

Considering that there's a pretty good chance that you'll need a 1x monitor to accurately preview pixel-accurate work like web graphics even after Adobe offers full support, I'm not sure that your rant laying the entire problem at Adobe's door is addressing the actual problem.

Won't turning off HiDPI just make the monitor "normal" - eg you have 4 pixels per 1 "normal" pixel, but it's not like the image will look worse because of that?

I don't think it's a problem, the OP that I'm replying to thinks this is all a problem.

"Thrilling"? You've misread me again.

In the near-term, as you point out, Photoshop is useless on a Retina display (unless you're driving it at full @1x resolution.) I'm glad I've got my trusty old Samsung 213T at home.

Even _when_ Adobe gets around to adding Retina support in CS6, it's clear we'll still need access to @1x monitors to ensure that we're shipping the pixels we think we're shipping.

In the long-term, it's hard to predict the adoption curve for high DPI displays. Especially where the web is concerned, I'm convinced that designers and developers will need to support and test for @1x displays for many years to come -- perhaps a decade or more?

Just like any nice laptop display was useless for many years without a second, crappy CRT monitor...

Professional designers should be able to easily justify the expense of a non-retina external monitor. You can get a 24 inch standard LCD monitor for less than $200 these days.

Professional designers use $200 monitor?

That is news for me.

I will have to ask them, last time I asked (six months ago) they told me that professional monitors with professional color profile methods are worth every cent or penny you pay for it, and that $200 monitors are shit in this respect.

Use your fancy Retina display for the colors and the cheapo for "pixel perfect" if you're having a hard time doing it on the fancy screen.

Uhm - I said 2nd monitor. And no graphic designer will use a $200 monitor. Might as well go PC. (You can get an awesome 24" Cinema Displays on CL for < $500).

My point was that you lose portability when you must be tethered to a monitor that works.

What are you talking about? Plenty of graphic designers will use a $200 monitor (especially a Korean IPS). Some even use TN panels so they can design an image in the way that it will be perceived by most consumers.

I don't know why a professional graphics person would use a monitor with no controls except for brightness (other than "to see what consumers see"). Having control of the contrast and colour levels is vital for calibrating a monitor, which is something that everybody with a professional interest in visuals should do.

They may use it, but perhaps shouldn't, unless it was one if the smallest IPS screens and even then something like photoshop is really annoying.

Korean IPS are cheap for a reason, such as non uniformity of color across the display.

It's not even that.

Now that Jobs's gone turning iPad sideways with the taskbar open causes app icons to overlap. Sometimes, not always, but that's just the kind of "sloppy" that just didn't exist in Apple products a year ago. They are slipping. I will give them a couple of years tops before they are back at the average product polish levels.

iOS has been super buggy ever since iOS 5. Has nothing to do with Jobs' death.

IMO super buggy is an overstatement. Which bugs seriously affect you?

Just lots of small things. Keyboards that stick around. The backlight randomly sticking at full on or full off. Settings panels that crash (got better in the latest update) or don't refresh. Alarms that don't go off. Everything related to the App Store. Internet sharing drops randomly. iCloud has been a disaster since day one. iMessages that arrive twice.

Oh right, I forgot about the alarm one. That has actually bit me. iMessages and iCloud I don't even use, don't really need it.

You're right there are a few things that should have been caught in QA.

Especially compared to Blackberry, iOS has never had a good alarm system. Kind of a shame, as that would be a fairly tractable feature for a single employee to own. Third party alarm apps have obvious problems, too.

Well up to iOS3.x at least it always worked as far as I can remember. I actually like its interface quite a bit, it's fast and clean - shame it's so useless.

Always fascinating watching this kind of delusion in action.

This complete rewriting of history so that every Apple product before Jobs death had some extraordinary level of perfection that somehow doesn't exist anymore. When in actual fact the quicker release cycles for Apple software is resulting in less bugs.

Oh, it's irrational alright. No arguing there. However, while there might be now fewer bugs, there count of imperfections that lie on the surface and contribute to the spoiled first impression is on the climb.

Keep in mind that the products you mentioned have been in development long before Jobs passed away, so his passing shouldn't have had any effect on them.

Wait a few years when Jobs' product roadmap runs out and we'll see what they're doing and if it's still up to snuff.

Jobs was visionary, not clairvoyant. I'm sure he did everything he could to keep Apple on his track as long as possible, but there's only so much that can be planned years in advance.

I imagine Tim Cook was groomed as a Jobs zombie of sorts. He's an manufacturing/operations guy, not a creative product manager. Eventually Jobs' roadmap will run its course and Tim Cook will be replaced or exposed as an automaton. It seems to be showing already.

Jon Ive?

The rMBP was the first Mac that I would seriously consider buying for myself. I haven't, because I can't afford to buy a new laptop just because a shiny new one came out, but if I had been looking for a laptop at that time, I would have bought it. A couple of my non-Apple using tech friends had the same opinion.

Then again, I'm not exactly Apple's core customer base, as I have no love for OS X and would probably have just installed Windows (for gaming) and Linux on it, but it's the first time in years where their computer hardware has distinguished itself, rather than selling on the basis of the OS.

I agree that there isn't much that Apple has done lately that has been truly groundbreaking. The last time that I was really surprised by Apple was the iPhone 4. That said, it's totally unreasonable to assert that Apple is declining because Steve is gone simply because their products haven't "thrilled" you or because they ran a bad line of ads.

The Retina MBP is an excellent machine with one of the best screens to ever be put on a consumer-grade device. It might not blow everyone's mind, but it is at least as interesting of a product as the scores of laptops that were put out under Steve.

Mountain Lion isn't groundbreaking by design. It's an iteration on Lion, and so it's unreasonable to expect a massive amount of new features. The iPhone 5 and iOS6 haven't been released yet and in the case of the former the rumors are so vague and unsubstantiated that it's categorically ludicrous for you to pass judgement yet.

Lastly, I have to ask why the amount of "thrill" that a product brings matters anyway. Most consumers don't want to be thrilled. They want to buy a computer, and that's it. Apple is successful not because they thrill people, but because they make good products. The Retina MBP and Mountain Lion are still good products.

I think the biggest annoyance in the post-Jobs era is that every imperfect action that Apple does is automatically passed off as a result of Steve being gone. Steve wasn't perfect, either. We need only look to the iTunes phone, Ping or the button-less iPod Shuffle. Apple has never been perfect, and the post-Jobs era is no different.

"I have to ask why the amount of "thrill" that a product brings matters anyway."

Marketing. Hype and thrill, I would argue, is a direct result of Apple's financial position today. The everyday consumer doesn't understand the technical qualifications nor do they care. They want nice, shiny and new. Start with that and build a stable high-quality product to match and it could be candy canes you're selling, you're gonna be successful. Packaging is probably the most important part of a product. It entices thrill and envy, the very primitive emotion that makes you click the usually brightest button on the page: "Buy".

While this may be against NDA, iOS 6 Beta is actually quite nice. If they can get real buy in from non-Apple iOS developers for iCloud, it will be a big win, but IMO it all comes down to iCloud (and probably the long term premium for the Apple ecosystem depends primarily on iCloud).

The security features in ML were critically necessary to keep OSX viable for business and professional use. 10.7 is vastly less secure than a well managed corporate Win 7 machine, and maybe even worse out of the box. (Linux probably covers the whole range of less or more secure based on exact distribution and features, but isn't terribly relevant for desktops). Which made the Google no-windows policy from a few years ago pretty funny. ML is now at parity with Win 7 out of the box, but still probably weaker in an enterprise setting due to lack of management tools.

Seems unfair to judge Apple based on rumored specs for the "iPhone 5".

It feels like someone inside Cupertino has been saying, "OK, it looks good!" more than they have been saying "No."

If I ask you what would they need to have to thrill you, would you be able to answer? Built in toaster? Cure for cancer? We don't expect luxury cars to thrill us, why do we need that from electronics? It's a sign of maturity and I will take solid no-thrills product over gimmicky one any day.

The trend could just be a fluke. Only time will tell...

The rMBP, widely hailed as the best Mac since forever? You seem to be the only person on the planet disappointed by it (besides people disappointed in the glued-in battery – but that’s nothing new).

Besides, there are a few years to go until we run out of Steve Jobs products.

(I think this whole discussion is utterly pointless at this point. Look at Apple’s stock in ten years and you will know the impact of Jobs. I have my doubts that it will be possible to say much meaningful now.)

I hate the rMBP. Apple calls it an 'PRO' laptop but it's basically just an 'AIR' with a higher resolution display. It's got no optical drive so you can't swap in an extra HDD while keeping the SSD for the OS / programs. It's limited to 8 or 16GB of ram and you can't upgrade it after the fact. It's also got way to few connectors no HDMI/DVI or even VGA. At the same time they also killed of the old MB line entirely.

Trolling or joking? The previous generation MacBook Pros didn't have HDMI/DVI/VGA either. Not for several years at least. The rMBP does have HDMI too BTW. Of course they have the refreshed model of the MBP that includes expandable memory and optical drive. I vote for trolling but you got me so well played sir.

Meh, more just an off the cuff rant, which is why I messed up the HDMI issue. I was looking into getting a MB for a while, what I liked about the MB was the 500GB disk space + 1000$ price point. I also miss the 17" MB pro for different reasons, but it really seemed to me they where sacrificing a lot for an interesting display idea and then killing off some of there models to make it look like a better option than it is.

Fair enough. Apple is often ahead of the market on these things and leaves some people behind at least temporarily.

You prefer the presence of an optical drive so you can tear it out and then put in a mechanical HDD? The product you want is called a MacBook Pro and it is currently for sale in any configuration your heart desires.

While we're on it, the rMBP has a native HDMI port and a variety of inexpensive adapters that will keep your VGA workflows going.

And while we're hammering it into paste, please name one feature on the now discontinued MacBook line that you miss.

> and it is currently for sale in any configuration your heart desires.

... except for the one with a retina display and room for a mechanical HDD in addition to the SSD, which is what the OP was complaining about?

Seriously dude, read the post you're replying to first.

Oh don't 'dude' me over his sloppy grab bag of complaints. A pretty good case could be made that Apple's bifurcation of the MacBook Pro line was unnecessary - while they clearly can't manufacture Retina displays in adequate volume and a default SSD would slay margins, it could have been done. They could have kept the same 0.91" chassis and given everyone all the HDD/optical/port goodies they wanted...

...except with significantly worse battery life trying to keep up with the insane thermal load of a panel demanding next-level GPU performance. Then everyone would be disappointed, instead of just one guy on HN.

In two years, virtually everything on the market is going to be "basically just an AIR with a higher resolution display". Get cozy with the idea.

On the old white MacBooks I personally liked the yellowing underneath where my wrists sat. It said to the world "hey, this guy is spending WAY too much time online and may have some hygiene issues he needs to work out."

Guh, those were some of the absolute shittiest portables Apple ever put out. Even after the discoloring plasticizers were worked out, almost every single one of them saw the topcase flake and crack in normal use. Performance was poor out of the box, the screens were garbage, and the bottom looked bad after only moderate use.

If you "hate" an inanimate chunk of aluminium, glass, and various other metals, you probably need to get out more. You may be disappointed by it, or less than thrilled by it, or even think that it's nothing special. But to hate it... that's a bit extreme.

It has HDMI (as well as not one but two ports that can be used as VGA ports with a simple adapter, but that’s all very much besides the point) – and I’m not sure what you were expecting?

The rMBP is the perfect embodiment of Apple’s laptop philosophy. Apple’s Steve Jobs (maybe even Steve Jobs himself, I’m not sure) pretty clearly said years ago that all laptops will be like the Airs in the future. All flash memory. No optical drive. Thinner and lighter at the expense of upgradeability. This is how they saw the future, this is what they made happen with the rMBP.

I can’t help but think that if anything, Steve Jobs would have pushed the rMBP much more aggressively (but, really, I’m just speculating here).

I cancelled my rMBP order when I tried it out in the store and saw the screen lag in Safari for myself.

Was that on Mountain Lion?

Scrolling is buttery-smooth on most websites, less so as complexity ramps up. (Some particularly complex Facebook pages, for example, have minor stutters, i.e. dropped animation frames.) Still, it’s minor stutters even on those.

That’s with Mountain Lion. Lion was markedly different.

Fortunately Mountain Lion was announced at the same time as the rMBP, and it was announced even back then that rMBP owners will get Mountain Lion for free.

How long until we stop hearing about how Apple is going downhill without Steve Jobs? Based, most often, on totally subjective personal opinions.

I guess we've forgotten how much criticism was directed at the "switcher", "I'm a Mac", and "why I love my iPhone" ads--despite being produced under the careful eye of Steve.

It's possible to criticize ads that make a poor point but are still genuinely "Apple-like". All those ads had that Apple quality to them. You could tell they were Apple ads. These new Genius ads feel like Best Buy advertising Geek Squad. They definitely don't feel like Apple.

> It's possible to criticize ads that make a poor point but are still genuinely "Apple-like".

Based on what criteria? I feel like all these discussions are exercises in hindsight bias. They are "genuinely Apple-like" because Apple ran them. And now Apple is running the Genius ads.

Apple's device ads are elegant. When they show 'live use' of a product, it's low-key, straightforward, etc.

This service ad are ... kitschy. They're clumsy 'skits' trying to manufacture energy and emotion.

Consider the "guy on plane trying to make an anniversary movie". An Apple-y ad would stick with that set-up (junking the stupid 'on a plane' time constraint), but it would present the service in a sober manner and generate emotion from the husband's desire to produce the movie, clips from the resulting movie and the husband's relief at the finished product, or even the wife's reaction at seeing it.

If anything, the emotion should have leaned toward unearned cliche; more like how they advertise Face Time.

The tongue-in-cheek 'genius as superhero' tone is dripping with Geek Squad/Microsoft feel.

Yes, it is hindsight bias, but that doesn't make it invalid. They are Apple-like because Apple made them. Because Apple made them. They cannot be confused with any other brand. Apple is the only thing that comes to mind when you watch an Apple ad of the last 5 years. They have defined themselves on advertising, and their advertising has equally defined them back.

Now when the Genius ads come on, I don't immediately think "this is an Apple spot". It feels like Best Buy, or Dell, or Samsung, or Wal Mart, or... It's generic, it's uninspired, and it definitely doesn't feel like Apple the same way their old ads felt like Apple.

The old ads were Apple-like because Apple ran them, and Apple ran them exclusively. The new ads are un-Apple-like even though they're run by Apple because they don't define themselves. If you replace Genius with Geek Squad, the ad still holds true. Apple doesn't normally do that.

The hugely successful iPod dancing commercials were unlike anything Apple ever did before too. Times change. I think we'll continue to see a mixture of new and old style advertising from Apple like we always have. In advertising you have to stay relevant. It's almost like fashion. You can't keep doing the same ads over and over again. Sometimes you just have to mix it up for the sake of mixing it up.

And what is the problem with subjective personal opinions?

If you disagree with them, feel free to speak up, with your own subjective personal opinion.

Those ads done under the careful eye of Steve may have brought criticism (as Apple in general did), but they were generally very effective. And they had a feel to them that was pure Steve Jobs....like them or not.

Nothing is wrong with subjective opinions, but the Invoking of the Name Steve Jobs is a needless appeal to authority.

If someone thinks the ads are bad, fine, that is a valid and worthwhile opinion to share. We can talk about why we like or don't like the ads.

But how can we argue about whether Steve would have ok'd them? For all we know, he personally approved these scripts 3 years ago and they are only now being produced. Presumably someone within Apple knows the truth, but aside from that person, the rest of us are just going to be grossly speculating in an attempt to seize the moral high ground of Saint Steve.

Well I see no problem with speculating either. I mean it's a discussion forum, not a court of law. We're entitled to do so.

I lived for many years off my Apple stock, bought when I speculated that Steve Jobs was, essentially, the heart and soul of Apple and that his return , and his cohesive vision, would make a big difference.

If I held the stock today, or was considering buying some, or I was a competitor....this is the sort of speculating I'd be doing.

This kind of comment, on a forum full of engineers, is so ridiculously insulting to all the Apple people who worked their asses off to make the products a succes.

Giving 1 person 100% credit for such a range of great inventions is just, well, off the mark.


You don't get the point.

Apple is a company full of awesome engineers executing one awesome man's vision. Without Jobs Apple is still a awesome company, with awesome people. But they will lack that vision. That taste, they will lack the spirit that made Apple, Apple as we know it.

True test for Apple will come when their current product line will be totally exhausted and they will have to work on something new to survive. Whether the same UI innovation, hardware design will continue is a big unanswered question.

The engineers may still continue to do awesome work. But not in an awesome direction. Without Jobs they will lose the 'Think different' factor. Its like a restaurant losing its chief chef. You will still have other good chef's but the guy who had a tongue for a unique taste is gone. You might still get good food, but that 'taste' will be gone.

Why do you say that? Steve used to take all the credit for them.

Ha, good point :-)

... and most of the heat.

Lots of companies have talented engineers. None of them are nearly as successful as Apple has been recently.

Do Apple's engineers work orders of magnitude harder than their peers at Nokia or Asus or anywhere else? Or were they just working on more important ideas and managed by people with better taste?

The real insult is to suggest that Apple engineers are just much better than anyone else. Apple hire good people, but relatively few of them are truly exceptional. Apple has been led by once-a-generation geniuses - first Jobs and Woz, then Jobs and Ive. A man who can see the future, paired with a man who can build it.

Apple will continue to make good products, but there'll never be another iMac or iPod or iPhone or iPad. Apple will probably dominate their markets, but they're not going to invent new ones. Doing that is far beyond the scope of skilful engineering, it's the stuff of genius.

What might be missing without Jobs is someone who has the power and the vision to make radical, very risky choices. Who do you think you are? Steve Jobs??

Given the power structure we think exists in Apple with the CEO as the center of the universe it is natural that the company has to shift gears from pleasing Steve, who is gone, to pleasing Tim Cook who is a different person. This ad campaign is probably a good example. Tim Cook seems like a pretty wholesome guy in a lot of ways. I'm not sure snarky, somewhat mean, somewhat elitist, ads like the Mac vs. PC campaign would please him much. It may be Tim Cook wants to make Apple a little softer and a little less narcissistic? I don't think that's a bad thing. No doubt it will rattle the cage of the Cult of Steve types but for the company itself I think there are a lot of positives in having someone with Tim Cook's personality being the center of Apple's orbit. The last year or so is a good indication of that.

It will probably take a few years to fully transform the company. That may include all sorts of shocking things that people would never have believed would happen a couple years ago. There will be a knee jerk reaction to say 'this is different than before so it's bad' but I would not simply because I don't think Steve was a saint. There are probably a lot of choices he made that were bad for Apple. One example of this is the iPhone 3GS. If Apple had really knocked it out of the park in 2009 and released a new model, and broken out of AT&T exclusivity at any cost, Android may not even exist today. When we look at the iPad Apple almost seems to have realized their mistake and was way more aggressive with the 2nd/3rd generation models. So I guess my point is Tim Cook's more analytical style may make Apple a little less edgy to tech enthusiasts I think it may be a great thing for the company in the long run.

And to be honest, promoting security by obscurity as a reason to switch to Mac was just stupid for reasons that should be obvious if you think about it.

I think it was in "Built to Last" that I read this, but it talked about different types of CEOs.

Basically, there's the visionary/cult leader type of CEO that builds an organization where he is the center and everyone else is essentially one of the tentacles. These orgs can get into trouble after the CEO leaves.

Then there's the behind-the-scenes CEOs you've probably never heard of--they tend to build organizations where they are not the focal point of every decision. These organizations have a better chance of continued success after the departure of their CEO.

Or so the story goes... it is a pop business book, so take it for what it is... and time will tell whether or not this applies to apple

My very first company out of college made all new employees read Built to Last. Unfortunately, it was a case study in survivorship bias.

Any conclusion from the book is so suspect you'll probably be better informed not knowing anything at all than having read that book.

Sure, I hear you. But I could make the same argument about most any pop business book, biography, case study, history book, or startup blog post. That doesn't mean they have no value, nor does it mean that the simple act of reading them and coming to your own conclusions will transform you into some kind of idiot.

Steve Jobs/Jonathan Ives ==> John Lennon/Paul McCartney. John and Paul were both geniuses, but John vetoed (or encouraged) when needed and so did Paul: hence the genius of the Beatles vs the non-genius of The Wings.

George Martin was the genius behind the Beatles

I definitely agree that he was a huge part of it. I learned the other day that he actually played (at Lennon's request) the piano solo in "In My Life". Never knew he played anything.

You sure it wasn't Ringo Starr? I'm going to vote Ringo.

Every time I look at the Reminders app, I'm like "Steve would have thrown a fit seeing this piece of junk". It's so... clunky and lacking any sense of... uh... flow?

Why do you say that? Steve was standing right there when they demoed the Reminders app at WWDC in 2011.

You're most likely wrong about Steve throwing a fit seeing this piece of junk.

Steve liked skeuomorphism even when it made Jony Ive 'wince' http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/05/apple-designer-jonathan...

I agree. It's absolutely garbage. But, still, it's better that everyone now has a simple reminder app. Those who need a "proper" to-do list, will use OmniFocus anyway.

But it's such a massive improvement over trying to manage to-dos in iCal.

I suspect Steve just didn't care about to-do lists and now someone who does care has managed to get a (minor) improvement through.

Sure, it is better, but it suffers from the too-many-button-taps syndrome, among other things.

The only thing clunky and lacking is your logic.

Steve Jobs was alive when iOS5 was previewed so he would have seen AND approved it.

Does anyone think it is still way too early to make a judgement on this? Steve Jobs must have been involved in iPhone 5 and it isn't out yet. There must also be other stuff in the pipeline. We aren't going to see a post-Steve Apple for a little bit, and until then everything is speculation.. and possibly negative speculation because it gets press and attention.

I think it's way too early to tell. In fact, I doubt we will see if they truly will succeed without Steve until a new emerging technology trend threatens to dethrone Apple from one of the categories they dominate.

If, in 5-10 years the iPhone becomes irrelevant or outdated because of a new contender and Apple has to play catch-up, then I think we can say that Apple is in trouble without Steve.

Until then, Apple just needs to keep doing what they've mostly done even when Steve was running things, which is continually improving their products to remain competitive.

If this theory is true, I particularly hope Elon Musk takes care of his health well and avoids helicopters, motorcycles, and other high risk activities.

The texture creep is what set off my alarms, which was happening while Steve was on his way out. Textures can be done right, but these weren't.. and worse, they've spurred an ongoing movement of people using distracting patterns on tiny devices.

You do realise that what some would consider texture creep has been happening since OSX 10.0 beta with the over use of "aqua and pinstripe" followed by "brushed metal".

So this ridiculous notion that it didn't happen under Steve is nothing more than a figment of your imagination.

This new commercial underscores Apple's major competitive advantage in a crowded market: customer service.

Apple spent a good part of the last decade winning on design and usability, an early iPhone commercial underscores this:


Crisp, product focused, and delighting in the uniqueness of the product.

But with smartphones now having ubiquitous feature sets, Android tablets fast competing on hardware, etc I think that Apple, under Steve or not, is right to be iterating their messaging.

In my own experience I've watched non-techie family members fumble with chopped-versions of Android under different carriers.

It would be a huge relief to just be able to say "Schedule an appointment @ the Apple store"

So smarmy or not, I think that Apple's new ad-strategy is on point message wise, if not perfect in execution.

>Apple's new ad-strategy is on point message wise, if not perfect in execution //

I think you've nailed it here - they did a really, really poor job of portraying customer services as a USP in that advert IMO.

Instead this advert said "we're great because we're geniuses and we think the other guy's stuff is lame".

It reminds me of politicians who stand on a platform of "the other guy is a fool/out of touch/can't cut it". Personally this always turns me off. I want to know what's good/better/best about what you have not what's bad/worse/worst about the competition.

This ad is for Apple's support product. I think it's well made. Having worked at an Apple Store, I don't see this ad calling anyone stupid. Users finding value in Apple's genius support product (benefit) would strongly identify with these ads.

It makes the guy who got scammed look stupid. He's left holding a "fake" and there's nothing he can do about it.

Yes, this was my reaction as well. I think the author missed the point of the commercial altogether. You DO see the product, its front and center - the Genius.

I think it's a particularly poor choice for marketing computers (like Best Buy advertising Geek Squad), however thats a different topic.

> This ad is for Apple's support product.

No, it's an ad for the Mac. The last frame is the Apple Logo with the word "Mac" next to it. The fact that the focus is on support gives the impression that the Mac is difficult to use, probably not what they were going for.

OK, Apple's support product, for the Mac. The focus on support is to address buyer's apprehension that the Mac is difficult to use, support being a key benefit to many buyers. If you are saying support helps to resolve difficulty, then yes if you have difficulty with a Mac, Apple has the Genius bar. This is a different approach than setting an expectation of easy to use, because this ad is not for the computer but for the support. Reference the original iMac - "there is no step 3" ad. That ad was advertising the iMac as easy to use. Easy to use is probably an echelon below Excellent Support, on the user satisfaction scale.

The only voice of sanity in this sea of stupidity. These ads are especially targeted at people who DO ask questions like this and often feel very stupid and patronised when they get answers from the know it all geeks. So the only point these ads needs to get across is:

"Can I go to someone at Apple if I have a dumb question about my Mac ? And will they not treat me like an idiot ? Answer: Yes."

If the point is to show off the support product, wouldn't it be better to show the Apple employee being supportive, rather than condescending and smug?

I thought the ad was terrible. Apple's support is absolutely one of their best selling points, and they could definitely win some business by pushing it, but this ad does an awful job of conveying that, and instead conveys "Apple store employees are arrogant and annoying".

Yes, this is a terrible, smug ad.

But I had the same reaction to the John Hodgman ads back in the day. I, like many (most?) people ended up actually enamored of Hodgman and annoyed at whoever the other guy was.

In the abstract, this is the same exact message of the Hodgman ads. (Apple is young, smart, and good-looking. The other guys are not.) It's tempting to chalk this up to Jobs being gone, but I'm not so sure Jobs wouldn't have approved this campaign himself.

Hodgman was a great, likable character, and that was the brilliance of the ads...his likability made the commercials fun to watch and rather disarming. He was basically likably pathetic. In my opinion, the ads were passive-aggressive, but in a good way.

Hodgman is an pleasantly entertaining comediam. It's hard to appreciate him while loathing his character.

"They make the Geniuses look like unsupportive know-it-alls."

Well, that's what happens when you give the title "genius" to a teenager working in a retail store.

The first time I saw the ad, I thought that it was mocking Apple's geniuses right up to the point where it cuts to the logo and voice over. I just kept waiting for the punch line, but the ad isn't funny, just mean.

Beware of opinions in the following text.

For the past couple of years now I kept banging on about how Apple was basically a brilliant marketing division selling slightly polished and shiny PCs (not mentioning the brand name intentionally here) and mobile devices. I've never seen them as superior in any way, maybe because I stopped using Microsoft products a long time ago as well.

Now either their entire marketing division had a really bad time or it's actually true that Jobs was doing a lot more to the company than I ever thought. Even when putting all my objections aside this is.. well.. just an ad. It doesn't really sell. It doesn't tell you anything or give you any reason whatsoever to buy an Apple product.

And that is, I think, really bad for Apple. Right now they're still riding on their past success, but if they go on like this the downfall will come. I say this because I still believe that Apple's marketing was the main reason for them to ever become successful again after their struggle all through the 1990s. Sure, they evolved the smartphone in 2007 and did pretty much the same with the tablet, but again it wasn't brilliant innovation but rather polishing existing technology and making it attractive to an average customer through a mixture of design, simplification and.. again.. brilliant marketing.

With that gone, I really wonder about Apple's future.

I disagree. For the last few years, the only Microsoft ads worthy of note have been viral-video "zany" or vaguely cribbing Apple. Which I don't see in these at all. They're stylish, well directed and while they might be too oblique, they personify Apple's reputation for high service quality.

The "celebrity" iPhone ads deserve the real scorn. Apple should be picking aspirational creative people - leading edge musicians, hackers, writers, etc. But instead they're attaching their brand to a bunch of fading actors (and Martin Scorcese)? Apple has people that should know better. That's worrying.

I agree that the ads are scornworthy, but you can't call John Malkovich or Samuel L. Jackson "fading", they are both as close to timeless as you're going to get.

I like those actors too, even though neither are surefire promises that a movie is great (seen the Star Wars prequels or Red lately?). More to the point - why do I care about how they interact with Siri? I guess Apple is subtly implying that if you use Siri, you are but one degree of separation from famous/cool people. Cute, but a sad lowering of the bar for a company that once looked for customers that were trying to change the world.

RED is fun to watch, so long as you check your brain at the door.

Definitely doesn't belong in the same sentence as the Star Wars prequel.

For those, you need to check your good taste at the door and erase childhood memory.

The only thing I can think of when I see these commercials is "Dude, you're getting a Dell!"

This is the first clear sign that Apple without Steve Jobs is not the same Apple. I don't know if this is a good or bad sign. Lots of things Steve Jobs did were frustrating and there is certainly room for improvement. These ads? Not a huge fan.

> This is the first clear sign that Apple without Steve Jobs is not the same Apple.

I was mad at these ads at first. They're ridiculously stupid.

But then I thought, maybe I should be happy about it? Maybe they learn from this failure? Surely, seeing the reaction, they must've been brought back to their senses...

I disagree with each and every point this blogpost makes, and I'll tell you why.

1. They don't show the product, because they're not about any one particular product. They're about how the holistic quality of the entire product and OS ecosystem extends far beyond superficial appearance. QED: If I buy a slick PC from Lenovo, Sony, etc, will it be able to edit video and music right out of the box? Lots of critics here are forgetting that Apple includes iMovie and Garageband the way Microsoft used to bundle Mindsweeper...

2. They don't explain the product, because, if you have questions, going online or into a store is a much better place to have the product explained to you, than in a 30-second ad, which is better off conveying social information (cool, not cool) and emotion.

3. "They make the target audience feel stupid." No, they make fun of people who are purchasing superficially similar goods because they believe them to be of equal quality.

4. "Genius' unsupportive etc etc." Not really. The audience knows that it's not Apple's job to support or validate a non-Apple purchase.

5. There's no clear call to action because this is a brand ad, not a product ad. The author of this article has a degree in marketing from Wharton -- presumably he knows that there are different goals that can be achieved by advertising. (For a breakdown, see this helpful link: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/goals-objectives-advertising-...)

I think there is a HUGE amount of bias going on about the quality of these ads based solely on the knowledge (actually, assumption) that Steve wasn't involved in them. It kind of reminds me of the enormous negativity surrounding the leaked iPhone 4--folks saying it was not Apple like, ugly, etc. [1]

The fact of the matter is that none of the "Apple-esque" Mac ads of the Jobs era were that effectual, and by effectual I mean resulted in moving the Mac market share significantly. I would argue that they did serve to give existing Mac users a sense of cool, and it is existing Mac users who are bellyaching about these ads the most. Hate to break it to you, but the ads aren't for us.

[1] http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=899393

While I agree with the author's point about these ads - they don't feel like Apple to me, and they definitely are not great ads - his closing saying that this is no longer Steve Jobs's Apple is hyperbolic. On the one hand - of course it isn't. We have seen far more important changes coming out of their choices around product and dividend sharing than one marketing campaign. On the other hand, there hasn't been a large Apple marketing push for a while and this campaign has probably been in the works for most of that while. On the other other hand...

To the contrary I think those little details say a lot about what direction Apple is headed.

Something like a bad ad campaign can be shot down with a simple yes/no. A final product however takes thousands of decisions, many dependent upon each other, to product a final polished product. If the fluff around the edges starts looking weird you can bet the products that are really complicated are fucked.

On the positive side I think Steve Jobs taught the current generation of young leaders a lot. "Steve's" future work and vision will be seen in ideas outside of Apple.

I got my 60-something in-laws to get iPhones last year. They own 1 older PC and 2 PC laptops but are decidedly "non-tech." (like they don't even sync or update the phones)

My mother-in-law recently had a back-lighting issue with her display and I told her to take it to the Genius bar. They looked at me like I had three heads. They didn't buy their phones at an Apple store so they had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. I explained the whole concept of in-store service and support and that you just need to make an appointment and they were surprised.

So, I can totally see where Apple needs to make this aspect of their retail experience better known because a lot of people buy iOS devices from places other than an Apple store and have no clue about it.

Ironically, like most are responding to these ads, the most awkward part about explaining it to her was calling them geniuses. It was easier to finally say, it's like geek squad only better and cooler.

>They make the target audience feel stupid. This is Apple’s first real effort going after a less tech-savvy group of computer buyers, and this ad makes it clear that they really don’t know how to talk to them at all. The people in this segment are not idiots, in fact, a lot of them are doctors, lawyers, teachers, and otherwise very smart people.They just don’t think about the latest technology all that much, and this ad basically calls them stupid for not buying a Mac. When consumers buy PCs, they are usually doing it after lots of research — after all, it’s a big purchase for most people — and this ad is essentially telling them they made the wrong decision despite all the thought they put into making what they thought was the right one.

This is rife with things that either aren't true or are bad assumptions. Doctors don't carefully research what computer they get because they're smart. You could easily make the argument that they don't specifically because they were rich or because they value their time a lot. Additionally (and this is all out of order), this is not the first time that apple has done commercials appealing to non-tech savvy users. They have almost never tried to appeal to tech savvy users. I would argue that the only reason they're on the radar for tech savvy users is because they coincidentally are unix based.

In my opinion, the "genius" ads continue the decline in Apple ad quality (and by recycling "I'm a Mac" indicate that the decline may be accelerating). To me, the Retina, ads were the first slide, not because of poor production values and tired concepts, but because they emphasized technical specs rather than the "magic" upon which the iPad was launched. Close looks at the numbers are not a winning strategy for Apple across the board because of the price premium many of their products enjoy.

I agree with the points the writer makes. I also agree that they compound to make the ad bad. But..

I don't think the "allergic reaction" is because of them though, not directly. This ad is like a mean comedian bombing on stage. The joke isn't working and it's mean. If the comedian seems nice, harmless & vulnerable you empathetically cringe, unpleasantly sharing in his embarrassment. Not fun, but bearable. You might even give him a chance to recover. If he seems like an asshole & he's making a mean joke, you react with.. almost hate. You suddenly notice all the things you hate about this asshole who isn't funny.

That's why vitriol is a bad strategy for inexperienced comedians. If you bomb, the crowd will turn on you. Hard. If mean jokes are funny, they're allowed. If they're not, the audience wants blood.

This is also true for racist jokes, misogynistic jokes, joke about child abuse. etc. If its funny, its funny. If not, he's trying to make fun of child abuse?

It seems that the main goal of those ads is to improve relations with geniuses, especially after articles like this: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/24/business/apple-store-worke...

I know Gruber isn't liked, but I think his analysis of these commercials is accurate: They're sending the message that a buyer can easily get assistance if they buy a Mac. Not that the Mac is better, just that you will get personal and personable care to make and do things that you always wanted to.

I can't believe how high the expectation is for tv ads. It's just commercial, folks. Did you expect to see it starring Christian Bale and featuring mind blowing CGI and special effects?

As for the new ads, they aren't that bad. These ads aren't for us, geeks. Nope. These are for the majority of population, ie the rest of us. Apple's ad has always been about warm and fuzzy feeling of being human, not about cold and intimidating machines.

Sure, these ads are corny. It's cheesy. lame... But that's why these are so great. Someone mentioned in the comment comparing it to the lame Dell Dude. Yes, it was lame... but everyone remembered him and his line when we mention it. These ads leave permanent impressions in our mind. That's why these ad campaigns are effective. It's memorable, perhaps even embedded in our subconscious mind.

What I did get from the ads? The message is "Mac is great because it comes with support. If I need help with iMovie or Mac or anything else, I can get help from a Genius. We can ask them anything" Sure, it might be limited to talking to some snobbish teenage "Genius" at Apple store, but it's still better than trying to get tech-support on the phone with some guys in India who has no idea what the hell I'm talking about, or bugging children/relatives/cousins who happens to "know a lot about computers" during Thanksgiving/Christmas.

Probably is has more sense if this was the only commercial running for a long time.

But they seem to be putting more "lame" commercials between product lunches and bombarding with old school feature based commercial when a new product is launched.

This commercial seems more in line with, keeping the brand alive and remembering the common guy (all those not reading HN) that a Mac is not the same as a Windows (ultra|note|net)book, which they probably own.

Feels like good ol' 90's again when idle people spend time wishing on Apple's downfall.

Fortunately, Tim Cook was I think chosen by Steve Jobs this time.

"Resolutionary" was the first alarming thing for me.

Interestingly enough, 'thinnovation' was introduced back in 2008 with the MacBook Air.

I don't know. I saw ad boards boasting of iPhone 4S's "dual core" and "8 MP" camera when it came out, it was a pretty "uh oh" moment.

Not sure why, it's not the first time Apple makes up a retarded word. Remember "funnest"?

Yeah but "funnest" is concomitant with "think different". It intentionally conveys the idea of a company that promises to do great things without taking itself too seriously.

Maybe "resolutionary" was trying to do that too, but it just fell flat for me.


The article completely misunderstands what is being advertised. The product is most definitely being shown: the Mac Genius is the product. Apple has an enormous lead over the rest of the technology industry in the quality and availability of customer support and training. This series of ads seeks to leverage and reinforce that lead.

I'm sure Apple, or the ad agency commissioned by them, have focus-grouped the heck out of these already. I can't think what value people commenting exclusively in the tech blogosphere, well intentioned or not, have much to add in respect to how they have been received by the general population.

I see here a distinction between Macs and iPhone/iPad. iOS devices are cool. Macs are friendly. I don't think this is against Jobs vision. I think this is perfectly aligned with it.

Don't really see that big difference between these and the "I'm a Mac, I'm a pc" ads which were certainly approved by Jobs.

That one is a border-line condescending, however, the message is clear: Accept no substitutes. Don't be a sap and pretend you got a Mac, because you didn't. The other two (guy having a baby and guy making a movie on the plane) make the Genius' seem helpful and there to serve. Also, they all underscore the message about the Mac existing for creative activities with a focus on iMovie, GarageBand and iPhoto which has been part of the sell for Macs for a long time. Author of this piece is being a little hyper-critical.

The coming months will see quite a few doom-and-gloom articles as everyone tries to predict the fall of Apple for all the right reasons just so they can say "I told ya so."

> They don’t show the product. This is a product ad, not a brand ad or a perception ad. And Apple has always impressed me by the way that they have (almost) always made the product the star of their product ads. Consumers need to see what’s being advertised in order to understand the messaging in a tangible way.

The author is confused about what the product is in this case. The product isn't the computer. It's the support infrastructure available to the customer in the form of the Apple retail store with its "geniuses" and the other infrastructure/ecosystem around that. The product is the end-to-end experience.

If there's any red flag, it's because the message is FUD.

Am I the only one that thinks that they are funny?

Sure, but advertising is made to convince, not entertain.

I'd call them amusing.

I can't believe people on hacker news are caught up in this meta-discussion of an advertising campaign. When people are writing comments in response to blogs written about blogs about advertising campaigns, it's time to stop.

What do people honestly expect? The only person keeping Apple relevant and cool was Steve Jobs. I'm a Windows user myself, but I won't argue Steve definitely changed the game, when he died Apple died as well. Steve was working on a slew of projects and ideas before he died to keep Apple progressing for a few years after his death but without his final sign off on those ideas accidents happen like this ad. What goes up must come down, I hope for their sakes they're ready to cushion the fall because advertisements like this are only early warning signs of a company that has once again lost its way.

I thought this was a parody, got back and the channel was really called "Apple".

I heard there was a constant fear at Apple to get called to Jobs, now everybody can add his own opinion and something like this won't happen.

All this talk of Apple Pre and Post Steve brings up another interesting point - how much of Steve's passing is just coincidence? As most counterpoints in this thread state, Steve did have a hand in everything Apple has released (and will release for sometime) following his death. So to flip the question around, how much of this is just bias/being more critical of Apple now that he is gone, and how much of it is just the natural progression of Apple, which would have followed the same course regardless of if Steve was still alive?

I didn't know of such an ad till I clicked on that link. If I didn't read the link title, there was no way I'd assume that was an ad by Apple.

The colors, contrast, quality of picture, absence of music/product, the context, the story telling and the tone of the ad were all off compared to previous Apple ads.

Is it an indication that Apple is slipping? From this ad – a resounding 'Yes'.

I can't fathom how an ad of this quality is made/approved by Apple…still have trouble believing it.

What's the last Microsoft ad that was worth anything? I remember those Jerry Seinfeld ads that were just incredibly poor. This does not come close in comparison.

I think the IE9 ads are pretty good.

An ad that you run during the Olympics isn't a product ad, or a brand ad, or a perception ad. Think "Superbowl". Did the Terry Tate ads tell you anything about the product, the company, or give you any actionable take-away? Nope. Were they hilarious? Yes. This ad made me giggle, I'm sure it made lots of other people giggle too, and in context it is absolutely the right kind of advert to air.

I had some Apple shares. This says something to me: Sell, sell sell!

The Ads are so weird that I can not understand how it passed the company filters, and as the article says the answer probably means "leadership by committee".

Apple is starting to act like a big company with too much money in the bank, buying things like twitter, like MS with Skype.

It seems like they are also starting to loose their focus, their edge is getting rounder.

While Apple hasn't bought Twitter, what other acts are giving you hints that they are losing their edge?

"They don't show the product."

One thing to consider is why Apple made this ad in the first place.

Since these ads opened alongside the Olympics, I am guessing it has something to do with Samsung being an official partner with the Olympics, likely with exclusive rights to advertise phones, TVs, computers and whatever else they paid for.

So, in effect, Apple may have been locked out from advertising their products during the Olympics.

Apple ads have always emphasized "why" I should be using that product. Its not about the product itself or its specs but why I should have it. They are not straying away from that principle here so I'm not really sure where your beef is.. relevant link : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4

> They don’t show the product. This is a product ad, not a brand ad or a perception ad. And Apple has always impressed me (blah blah blah...)

Does not bode well for the rest of these bullet points when the first one is demonstrably wrong. How the hell is apple support not a product?

Probably shouldn't have bothered reading that far through such linkbait in the first place...

The question is, do they need to do these advertising campaigns? It makes sense to do advertisement if they need attention, need to work the brand or need to announce something new. It doesn't seem the case for Apple. The risk of damaging the brand is higher than the benefits at this point. Invest in ads only if you really really need to.

I'm sure all the genius's are excited about Apple giving permission to the WORLD to make them work off-the-clock ;)

Some people have commented that it's still too soon after Jobs' departure to expect signs of any decline at Apple to be externally visible. But there is a precedent, albeit in the opposite direction. Jobs retook control of Apple in July 1997 and unveiled the iMac in May 1998. That was not very long.

A person like Steve Jobs comes along only once per century. He had incredible vision and knew how to execute. As for choosing his replacements, he has proven that he is not good at that. A good bet right now is to short Apple stock.

You do know that Tim Cook was basically the CEO for many years before Steve passed away. Most of the company reported to him and he is one of the major reasons Apple is alive today. Also he is the ONLY one who is respected enough and capable enough to manage the team of egos Jobs cultivated.

So go ahead short the stock. Will be hilarious to watch you lose money if the iPad Mini and AppleTV rumors are revealed to be true.

Looks like this Aug/2011 prediction is being fulfilled: http://adcontrarian.blogspot.com/2011/08/advertising-and-fut...

Really like the new ads. So much more mainstream and less elitist. Great job Tim.

Will we ever see an ad from apple as epic as the original macintosh 1984 ad?

Maybe, but probably not. 1984 Apple != 2012 Apple.

This advert remind me of the "Like a Golf" adverts by Volkswagon...


When was the last good apple commercial released anyway? Since the famous iPod commercials they were all dull and boring.

"this is no longer Steve Jobs’ Apple, for better or for worse"

Steve Jobs did spend lot of time assuring the ads were done right.

Apple Geniuses have poor elocution and have trouble getting their point across?

Jony Ive should be in charge of ads.

tl;dr: Apple's new ads look like Microsoft made them because Steve Jobs isn't there any more.

My eyes burn

Yup. Apple has pretty clearly started that long slow microsoft style decline. Ipads are getting thicker and heavier. The commercials suck. Apple is spending more and more on lawyers, rather than engineers.

They're doing some things well, the MBP retina looks amazing. Not quite amazing enough for me to buy, but still, very good. I probably booted Lion a dozen times before the Mountain Lion update. IMHO, that's pretty great stability.

They just feel like they've lost their edge. Anybody think they'll be shipping beige boxes in 5 years? I can see them caving in and just licensing IOS for a bazillion dollars to Samsung.

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