It’s out there for everyone to see: Apple has a problem. Maybe lots of them.
This week, Apple again showed why investors think that the company is a perennial performer. By creating a brilliant smoke screen for investors, Apple bought time at its annual Product Unveiling to, well, actually do something innovative somewhere down the road.
This is the oldest trick in the Book of Sales as written by John Q. Huckster. When profit projections show consumers are getting over you and doubting your future, you hide it from investors with flash and slight of hand. True, your developers have no new ideas. True, you lack the secrecy and security required for The Big Buzz to support you. True, you are struggling over the loss of the operational and sales heart and soul of your organization. So, you need one little pill that hides those symptoms when you face the public.
It’s time to offer Perpetual Contract Renewal! Give your loyal customers the option of getting a new product every year and feeling good about being first to have it. Surely, your coolness factor will see you through this idea drought, at least for now.
The only problem is that there is no guarantee that the product actually will be worth buying. There simply is none. Then, when innovation takes the form of an Economy Sized Old Idea, you hope nobody notices. You may even distract your fans with an irrelevant music performance by a band that doesn’t fit your brand because you have completely blown the growth and development of the marketplace the band represents.
That’s the problem of Apple. There are too many half-products and the internal chaos is showing again, just like pre-1998 all over again. It’s time to ask Steve Jobs to come again. Only, he can’t.
What Apple did this week is a tragedy that reads as if it were written in ancient Greece. Conflict, failure, denial and, tragically, a hero in its death throes gasps its last, hopeless and afraid.
Or was it?
Yes, Apple’s leadership is too soft, and they are investing their unprecedented treasures in diversification into businesses about which they know nothing. They’re even offering Microsoft and Adobe participation in their product development (Imagine that during Jobs’ era). But have they really stopped being Great? Can we believe that Apple management really envisions no future, no aspirational moments? Or is this gibberish about how cool their developers are, just that: Jibberish?
Maybe, just maybe, there are one or two great moments left in the future of Apple. Maybe they really have fooled us, and the competition, one more time. Maybe the spring will herald new life in the orchard.
But, for this observer, the tell is that I must beware the awkward and uncomfortable moment when a Perpetual Contract Renewal is offered at the same time that I simply can’t feel the butterflies in my stomach any longer.
That is the moment when “the Market” starts looking for the next best thing. You see, I am the Market…and you sure aren’t IT for me, anymore.