There are countless stories about the insane brutality Steve Jobs would inflict on the company he started as a young adult – my favourites include Steve telling a lead Xerox designer that “Everything you’ve ever done in your life is shit. So why don’t you come work for me?” and after the failure of MobileMe (Apple’s early foray in cloud services) hauling the entire team into an auditorium, asking them what MobileMe was supposed to do and when they replied with an answer, shouting “Then why the fuck doesn’t it do that?” He proceeded to fire the technical lead of the MobileMe team, on the spot, in front of everyone.
Steve Jobs, in short, was an asshole. But he was an asshole with such singular, pure vision that under his watch, Apple products were rarely released into the public without them being damn near perfect. That seems to be changing. With the announcement of a new iPod Touch that has not only lost a feature (it’s back-facing 5MP camera), it has less storage than its predecessors, containing only 16gb of storage.
I can’t help but think that under the watchful eye of Jobs, there’s no way Apple would be releasing a 16GB MP3 player in 2013, that has less features than its previous line. Forget the price cut, (though it’s only a cut by Apple standards, it still costs an ungodly US$229) that’s never been the Apple way. Value propositions seem wholly at odds with the Apple/Jobs’ philosophy of new products.
Jobs inspired, he forced you to imagine what creative endeavours his products would empower YOU to create. He was the ancient Japanese blacksmith forging a katana in the heat of broken employees, overworked technical designers and personal grievance cases – a katana you took into the battlefield of touching up photos of local architecture in the central city to put on your Tumblr. And you loved those katanas, every insanely expensive generation of them. But something has changed.
Apple posted its first profit decline (read: making less profit year on year, still earning tons though) in a decade during the first quarter of this year. This, however is not evidence that Apple is in decline. In the marketplace, like in gravity – what goes up must come down. Apple briefly last year held the title of the largest market capitalisation in the world; Greater than every oil company and publicly traded bank. That cannot continue indefinitely.
The real evidence of Apple losing its way is the products. The iPhone 5 has a great screen to be sure, but it’s the company’s current generation mobile and has only a dual core CPU. It misses key new technologies like NFC and wireless charging. Samsung, HTC and Sony all released phones with 1080p resolution displays months ago. Hell an FM radio would be nice. Looking at this new ‘updated’ iPod, it appears it’s being released simply for upcoming iOS7. It’s actually a LESS impressive product than last year’s line.
As Jobs would say: One more thing… I don’t deal with Apple products on the regular. I’m typing this on my Acer ultrabook running Windows 8 and checking my HTC One running Android 4.2. But the one piece of Apple software I encounter that has permeated every corner of even the PC world is iTunes. Currently it is a bloated, slow-moving, confusing piece of shit. Nothing short of a total overhaul of that program is required. And it better come sooner rather than later, because the solid ground Apple has relied on for years to maintain market dominance – its great ecosystem across devices, is looking shakier by the day.