Apple executives like to talk about the post-PC era as an opportunity. But they have a post-Steve Jobs crisis that needs resolution first -- and fast. This week's calendar fourth quarter earnings report is time to assess where the company is and where it might be a year from now, and whether investors should lift falling shares from the nosedive.
Post-Steve Jobs -- and I'm talking as much about the time before his death -- Apple has lost the quality that made great products. The company’s approach to computer/device design is consistent and pervasive: Humanization. Apple design seeks to humanize complex technological products. There has been much written about Apple design in context of products that look good. But there is something more fundamental: Designing tech that is easy to use by making it more an extension of the human being -- more part of you. It's this quality missing from recent new product iterations, which aren't any more human-like than their predecessors. Meanwhile, competitors like Samsung do better.
Second in a series. My last column looked at Apple’s immediate challenges in the iPhone business, while this one looks at the company’s mid-to-long term prospects and how best to face them. The underlying question is whether Apple has peaked as a company, but I think the more proper way to put it is how must Apple change in order to continue to grow?
Even as some analysts are downgrading Apple based on reported cancellation of component orders, saner heads have been crunching the numbers and realized that Apple still has a heck of an iPhone business. So if you are a trader I think you can be sure Apple shares will shortly recover, making this a buying opportunity for the stock.
Apple ended 2012, Tim Cook's first full year as CEO, with a whimper. Analyst, blogger, reporter and social commentator puppy-love adoration gave way to persistent angst-questions about what's next and why the stock, which soared in September, soured through most of fourth quarter. Shares closed at $549.03, 22 percent down from the 52-week high. I can only describe 2012 as Apple's year of iteration and wonder where will be innovation this year. After all, the bitten-fruit logo company has a reputation to live up to.
By the financials, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is the golden child. Starting in 2010, money poured in faster than the US Mint could print greenbacks. Apple takes in more cash than any other tech company ($156.51 billion during fiscal 2012), commands the largest market cap ($516.47 billion) and sits on a cash horde of at least $120 billion. But these capital gains come from past strategic investments, lucky timing (transition to the so-called post-PC era) and brilliant brand revival marketing and product execution. For the long haul, I predict that 2012 will be remembered as the year Apple stumbled -- as companies often do at the height of success -- and in this case following the tragic loss of its visionary cofounder.
The Apple co-founder passed away a little over a year ago, but such is the continuing interest in Steve Jobs’ life, there’s not one, but two Hollywood biopics in development. Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography (which will apparently be set behind the scenes of three of Jobs’ biggest product launches -- the Mac, NeXT and the iPod), is due to start shooting next year, while jOBS, Joshua Michael Stern's more typically-structured take on events, is already in post-production and has been booked to close next year's Sundance Film Festival.
jOBS has attracted a lot of interest, partly for its choice of leading man. Ashton Kutcher’s movie career hasn’t exactly set Hollywood alight, and it’s fair to say the news that he was to play Jobs didn’t exactly go down well with the Apple faithful. Still, the actor seems to be taking the role seriously, and certainly looks the part in the promo photo released today.
Towards the end of Walter Isaacson's authorized biography, Apple founder Steve Jobs talks about a self-designed boat he’s having built for himself and his wife Laurene. He shows Isaacson his models, and architectural drawings, and of course it’s a typical Jobs affair, with obsessive attention to detail: In order to realize the idea of having walls of glass "forty feet long and ten feet high" Jobs gets the chief engineer of the Apple stores to create a special type of glass capable of providing the necessary structural support.
Prophetically he tells Isaacson, after admitting he’s still tinkering with the design even though construction has begun, "I know that it's possible I will die and leave Laurene with a half-built boat. But I have to keep going on it. If I don't, it's an admission that I'm about to die". He did sadly pass away before the yacht was completed, but a year later his creation, named Venus, has been unveiled at a shipyard in the Netherlands.
Steve Jobs was a huge fan of the Beatles and would no doubt have been pleased by the news that his company finally now owns the Granny Smith logo of the band’s holding company, Apple Corps.
The two Apple firms faced off in court regarding trademark infringements three times in a long running dispute, and although the Beatles’ company won the initial two cases, in 1981 and 1991, the third case was settled in Apple Inc.’s favor in 2007 when, for an undisclosed fee, Jobs’ company secured the rights to all Apple trademarks and logos, provided they agreed to license them back to the music company. Three years later Jobs successfully brought the Beatles back catalog to iTunes.
Today marks one year since former Apple CEO Steve Jobs left this world, and in commemoration to its former leader and founder the Cupertino, Calif.-based corporation changed its front page, replacing it with a video detailing a few key moments from the man's life.
The black-and-white video slowly transitions the late Steve Jobs from one of his favorite Wayne Gretzky quotes to the iMac then to the more popular iPod and iPhone devices that have revolutionized the MP3 and smartphone market. The video ends in typical Steve Jobs fashion, delivering one of his powerful speeches.
Apple's cofounder died one year ago today, and there will be plenty of headlines looking back at him and how the company he left behind performed since. I decided that the best way to remember him is to move on. Jobs is gone. At GigaOM, Eric Ogg opines: "Why the tech industry needs to let Steve Jobs rest in peace". It's good advice, and much better than stories suggesting Jobs would fire CEO Tim Cook for the iOS 6 Mapocalypse or how he would have delayed iPhone 5, among others (I've seen them this week).
It's better to focus on the living, not the dead, nor is it sensible to let his ghost haunt by way of speculation and guesswork. Move on people. Live for the moment, and plan for the future. Still, it's obligatory do something for such an iconic figure, and BetaNews has posted so many stories already. So my homage is simple: Links to a collection of our stories about Jobs written since his death.
Today marks a year since the death of Steve Jobs -- a year that has changed my life in many ways with at least two of those ways yet to be announced. The anniversary seems to be an excuse for anyone with a byline who knew or even bumped into Jobs to throw out a reminiscence or two, and I’m not immune to that disease. So here’s the story of when I tried to get Jobs and Apple to back my Moon Shot.
I’ve been trying since 2007 to mount a private unmanned mission to the Moon, though five years in it feels sometimes like I could have walked there by now. It turns out that the greatest challenge to reaching the moon isn’t technical but financial. Even though my Moon project is by far the cheapest one around, the trick is to raise money at a faster rate than the budget expansion that inevitably happens as you face realities along the way.
I have followed Apple for over 20 years now in various ways as a consumer, an employee, a consultant and as a developer. These are my thoughts about the Maps debacle and what it says about the state of Apple overall.
The core of Apple (pun intended) is the seamless integration of hardware and software. Whereas Microsoft’s play in personal computing is purely software and companies like IBM, Dell, and HP were purely hardware, Apple wants to control the entire process. As a result, the integration is tighter, everything works better and the lines blur between the two.
If you have a newish iOS device -- whether it’s iPhone, iPad or iPod touch -- there’s a good chance you have already upgraded to iOS 6 and are using it now. According to a study by Chitika some 15 percent of users with a compatible device upgraded in the first 24 hours, and that figure will likely have at least doubled by now, a couple of days later.
Apple says iOS 6 has 200 new features, and while some of them are very useful inclusions, such as Facebook integration throughout, and Shared Photo Streams, iOS 6 isn’t the dream operating system it could have been. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Steve Jobs would ever have allowed it to have been released if he were alive today. Here, in no particular order, are the areas where I feel Apple could have tried harder. Yes, based on my real-world experience, and regretful iOS 6 upgrade.
So the iPhone 5 has been unveiled and, well, it’s just a bigger version of the iPhone 4S. No great surprise there, as all the rumors and leaks predicted that would be the case. There are some other changes to the device of course; it’s faster, lighter, prettier and has a better camera and a new dock connector, but really it’s just Apple’s phone with a bigger screen, improved OS, and less Google.
If the reports are to be believed, and they are, in October Apple will introduce another new product -- a smaller iPad.
In about six weeks, the InterWebs will flood with posts commemorating a tech visionary's passing. Steve Jobs died on Oct. 5, 2011. A year ago last week, he stepped down as Apple's CEO. Jobs is a colorful, iconic, flawed figure, who stands before us something more than mere mortal. That's because his public life has a literary quality that cuts to the core of our humanity.
I got to thinking more about this today following a discussion with colleague Tim Conneally and questions answered for a CNN reporter about Microsoft (apologies to him, I removed those sentences and use them here). I asked Tim today: "Why is Steve Jobs so endearing? Redemption. What's that term in fiction about the hero's journey? Steve Jobs followed the path in real life". There's something Shakespearean, too -- the fatal flaw that humbles greatness. Mixed together, his story should be a great fictional work. But it's better and haunting being real life.
Apple is one of the most important companies in the world of consumer technology and one that has changed the destiny of the smartphone and the tablet. It came as a big surprise when the Cupertino, California-based company announced the iPad more than two years ago. In 2010, Apple made waves with its first tablet generating $9.566 billion in revenue from the iPad alone, and in 2012 it's making headlines again with a smaller, seven inch tablet it hasn’t even announced yet.
In 2010 Apple had the market all to itself, with the iPad dominating 83 percent of the tablet market. Why? The iPad wasn't designed to have the most cutting edge software or hardware in terms of features or speed, but it was conceived to offer easy-to-use software with hardware to match it, wrapped in a good looking package. It sold 14.789 million units in 2010 alone, so it's clear the idea caught on. The original iPad was released in a time when tablets weren't as popular as they are today, and despite previous efforts by Microsoft with the TabletPC, they never caught up. So what's changed?
Whenever I think about tablets v. PCs, I remember a bold prediction of old: “Son, 10 years from now everyone will drive an electric car!” When was that, 20 years ago? We’ve all read something like that from someone believing to be clairvoyant.
I read similar articles almost every day where the writer plays the same old broken record: tablets are the death of PCs, or some other flamboyant thing that’s bound to get interest -- with the hope that the reader will agree with the author. It's like almost everyone is set on sending the PC down to the gates of Hell. But why should I agree with their assertions when I actually need a PC?