An Apple Christmas Carol

Tim Cook smiled as he pulled up the blankets and shook his toes against the cool sheets. Christmas Eve had come and the last Apple Store closed. Preliminary sales were gangbusters. Wall Street analysts betrayed him with lowered share price targets and projections iPad and iPhone sales slowed. But he knew! Cook laughed and kicked his legs under the covers. The best fourth quarter for sure! Occasional giggles broke the silence until at last -- long last -- sleep became him.

But briefly, for rattling chains startled Apple's CEO from slumber. Chunk. Chunk. Chunk. The clanking grew louder and an ominous dragging sound with it. A frightening wail followed. Pain. Great pain! Then through the wall pushed out an apparition. Ghastly yellow eyes squinted behind a face sullen, sunken and seemingly familiar. Tattered black turtle neck and blue jeans -- the uniform worn by his predecessor and mentor. Realization pierced Cook, and he felt a burning hot fire in his solar plexus. Steve Jobs!

The ghost hovered over the foot of Cook's bed. Minutes passed until finally Cook spoke. "Steve you're..."

"Dead", Jobs finished. "You have to tell me? You should be so unlucky. If only I had known the misery the afterlife would bring".

He rattled the chains, which long length Cook suddenly comprehended. "Each link represents every time that I put ego -- my own desire for attention -- ahead of destiny. The Universe has big plans for Apple. Special plans that I nearly ruined, which you will unless you turn the course".

Suddenly, the ghost of Jobs grew in stature and size, his voice bellowing: "Repent! Repent, Tim Cook! Already your chains exceed the length of mine. You worked against Apple's destiny longer than I. REPENT!"

Cook cowered, as much in awe and confusion as fear. He would never work against Apple. Universal destiny?

"Tonight you will see what Apple was, is and will be", Jobs warned. "Sleep, my friend, and prepare". Suddenly, the apparition started to fade and as leaving Jobs lifted his chains. "Tell Jony Ive when he gets here I want him to design new chains. I'm tired of mine looking like everyone else's". He rattled them. "And I don't like the noise they make!"

The Ghost of Apple Past

Cook startled and bolted upwards from the bed. Gasping. "My God, it was just a dream". He laughed in relief. What a nightmare. In the morning he would delete that Charles Dickens book from the iPad mini.

Cook flopped backwards onto the bead and stiffened in shock. Despair. Above him hovered another apparition. "I am the Ghost of Apple Past!" But the eyes were familiar.

"Steve, I've read this story and there were three ghosts", the puzzled Cook said.

"You think I would delegate something as important as this?" Jobs bellowed. "Come with me".

The ghost and man shimmered into a darkened room -- no, a closet! There someone hovered over transistors. "The Universe destined Apple to bring good design and easy computing to the masses 30 years ago. But in this room, a lone Compaq engineer reverse-engineered the IBM BIOS. This accomplishment changed everything", Jobs sighed, then shook an angry fist.

Cook suddenly found himself in a quiet restaurant where several men scribbled together on a napkin. "That", Jobs said pointing, "is the design for the Compaq Portable". He mocked: "Developed in Texas. Can you believe that? You know what happened, Timothy. Compaq brought this 30-pound monstrosity to market about a year before Macintosh. They called it 'the luggable'! Luggable, my ass, from Texass".

"You helped make this happen!" Jobs accused. "You managed Compaq's supply chain and helped make white box clones king of computing. What happened to me? To Apple?" Cook suddenly stood before the bank of screens, before which Jobs waved his hands showing episodes in his life: The Apple boardroom meeting that ended his chief executive's career. His lonely days at NeXT developing amazing computers nobody bought but on which the World Wide Web was invented. And more. Cook knew this history, of course, but to see the grim, frightening story filled him with terror.

Jobs interrupted: "Alfred Hitchcock directed this presentation. He's quite active over here".

The Ghost of Apple Present

Unexpectedly, Jobs bellowed: "I am the Ghost of Apple Present!"

Suddenly, Cook found himself in a darkened, cavernous room. Around him, Cinema Display, iMac and MacBook Pro screens flickered with light. Steve had brought Cook to an Apple refurbishing center! Jobs waved his hands and young men and women appeared on each display, frantically pounding on keyboards -- most of them made by Apple.

Jobs extended a long, bony finger. "These are blogger sweatshops run by Huffington Post, Gizmodo, Business Insider and others. When I was around, they wrote adoring Apple stories. Now they turn against us, well, you!" Jobs swung his finger, now accusing, to Cook. "Your supply chain obsessions have ruined Apple. I obsessed about myself, you with your stupid logistics. How could you let Apple Maps happen? Or Siri? We are laughingstocks. Yes, even me beyond the grave. Me!"

Jobs waved his hand, and they appeared inside an Apple Store. "Look at those red shirts!" he accused. "All the employees are dressed in them. You imbecile. How could you let this happen? Don't you know that in Star Trek all the red shirts die? It's cosmic law, and Gene Roddenberry somehow sensed this.

"Why do you think red is used on Stop signs and lights? Because death awaits all who proceed without stopping. Red, not black, is the cosmic color of death -- and that's what you chose to dress Apple Store employees? Red is bad karma, fool. Why do you think that Apple's stock price is falling or our most devote analyst and blogger friends are turning against us. Red shirts!"

The Ghost of Apple Future

Jobs waved his hands and proclaimed: "I am the Ghost of Apple Future".

"Why are you showing me the '1984' Macintosh commercial?" Cook asked.

Jobs stared down: "You idiot! This is the future. Google controls the Internet. People are mindless robots. And everyone uses Android. Thought police hunt down our customers -- anyone who dares to Think Different. We should have known Google+ and Google Now were plots to achieve sameness, to make everyone be alike, think alike, act alike. Google search is like a hive mind now, and everyone is plugged in at birth. Do you recognize those ugly, things they all wear? Google Glass is implanted at birth and sends a constant stream of crap. All information, all relationships, all desires satisfied in an instant as long as they join the army of mediocrity".

Apple's cofounder continued: "Google boasted about its open philosophy but really closed minds. Only our customers dare think for themselves. But they are persecuted. Prosecuted. Slaughtered in the Android Arena that stands where our Space Ship headquarters once did. You will build it, Tim, and Google will tear it down. They call Apple users fruit loops. Can you believe that?"

"You can stop this future, but you have to get back to supply-chain basics, refocus on higher margins and make design the priority over everything else. Only then can you remove your chains and some of my own. You must Think Different, Tim. I will telepathically give you instructions. Some will seem radical.

"End the patent war against Android and Google. I was wrong to send you thermonuclear. All our patents will eventually be invalidated following the backlash, leaving Apple legally defenseless. Stop the war! Retreat now. Rehire Scott Forstall and make him COO. Abandon Apple Maps and make the new Google Maps the default in iOS. Buy Research in Motion and Yahoo. Buy Facebook. It's okay if you exhaust the $120 billion in cash doing so. In fact, do just that. Raise the prices on all Apple products. You thought too much about supply chains and not enough about margins when caving on iPad mini pricing. My God, $329? It's too low!

"Remember, Apple's destiny is dictated by the Universe. Trust me. I set aside my ego to make these suggestions. You must do likewise, my friend".

Jobs rested a cold but loving hand on Cook's shoulder. "Rest now and receive this gift from beyond the grave this Christmas Day -- what you need to save Apple and rise to meet its destiny".

Then Steve Jobs vanished.

In Cook's darkened bedroom, two technicians hovered over him. One removed the hallucinogenic IV drip and the other Google Glass from the CEO's open eyes. Behind them Google's cofounders looked on. "Do you think he will believe it?" Sergey Brin asked. "I sure hope so", Larry Page answered.

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