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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
It is people like you who ruin HN for everyone.
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.
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.
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.
Without that you've got the contentment of the collective.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I'm not fully convinced that there's much advantage to the USB one over just using wifi, except where the latter is unavailable.
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 :/
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.
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.
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.
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.
...that has been ignored for a year and counting. :(
Wow, you have some high expectations.
What exactly were you looking for?
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.
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.
And how would you have a laptop manufacturer who designs a super-high res display to get around this problem?
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.
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.
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?
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.
FWIW, Thunderbolt is crap, precisely because it's been almost two years and there's still not a fucking thing to plug into it.
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.
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.
Could you have gotten Thunderbolt speed with Firewire? No.
For slower data rates you have USB (2 and 3). So what's your point?
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?
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.
My point was that you lose portability when you must be tethered to a monitor that works.
Korean IPS are cheap for a reason, such as non uniformity of color across the display.
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.
You're right there are a few things that should have been caught in QA.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.)
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.
... 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.
...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.
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).
That’s with Mountain Lion. Lion was markedly different.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Any conclusion from the book is so suspect you'll probably be better informed not knowing anything at all than having read that book.
Steve liked skeuomorphism even when it made Jony Ive 'wince'
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.
Steve Jobs was alive when iOS5 was previewed so he would have seen AND approved it.
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.
So this ridiculous notion that it didn't happen under Steve is nothing more than a figment of your imagination.