Apple: Is it the start of the end?
Serious questions are being raised about the tech giant’s performance these days, writes Rajiv Makhni.Updated: May 07, 2016 20:29 IST
Notice three things about this headline. One, it’s a typical bait headline used to draw people in by using hyperbole. Two, it has a question mark at the end and thus it’s not a statement. Three, it’s pretty typical of the brain-dead tech reporting that has started to sprout all over recently.
Yes, Apple had its worst quarter – its first-ever decline in iPhone sales and its first revenue drop in 13 years. Yes, brand excitement is starting to wane, people are starting to get bored of products that have small increments of innovation, there hasn’t been one new category from Apple in the last few years that set the market on fire, and in an over-competitive smartphone market, the iPhone 6S does look a bit like a turd! But come on tech people, is it right to pronounce Apple dead and almost buried on that evidence?
Let’s be clear. Apple does have problems. Big, fat, hard ones right in its core. Its over-dependence on the iPhone for overall sales and profits has always been fraught with risk, the Apple Watch is...well, not the one to watch out for, the iPad is long in the tooth and more or less done for (even with its new iPad Pro), the MacBook line of notebooks are great but are updated much slower than the rest of the industry and almost every other product (Apple TV) or service (Apple Music) isn’t a category leader and has a somewhat ‘me too’ flavour to it.
Apple needs a radical reboot and can’t rest on its laurels anymore. Remember Xerox, Kodak, Nokia and BlackBerry? Each ruled the roost and were supposedly too big to fail, but when they needed a swift kick-in-the-butt change, they chose to just sit on their butts instead.
Apple’s trapped itself into this one-year cyclic upgrade (sales drop off four months before the next version automatically as people postpone their purchase for the new one) and a major change after every two years (there should be a special place in hell for the person who came up with the idea of an S version of all iPhones).
Apple should come up with a new phone with a brand new form factor every year. They should get rid of the iPhone SE as it has made them look like a company moving backwards in terms of innovation and design. And the iPhone 7 should be a ‘from the ground up jaw dropper’ phone (ceramic and metal, 2K screen, battery life that makes others look like amateurs, camera with an optic zoom and two other new hardware-level features that no other company has on any phone).
It’s time for Apple to wrestle back the crown of an innovator that every one else follows, rather than the other way around. An iPhone 7 that shakes up the market will bring the numbers and the excitement back. Right after, they should also come up with a phone for India-like markets. A phone with good specs and an absolutely brand new form factor (This is very important. No one wants a phone that looks like a three-year-old design and priced at Rs 24,900). Apple can play the premium and the value market at the same time. Samsung has done it for years, time for Apple to do it better. If they can do these things, then sales can be 30 per cent higher than ever before.
This one is tough, but they’ve gone in the right direction with the Pro. Making the iPad more of a notebook alternative than a tablet is a good strategy. But the actual implementation sucks. The OS for the iPad has to be more MacBookish the minute a keyboard is attached to it.
A Tablet that has an attachable keyboard but none of the features of a notebook is a sadistic joke. Change the form factor right away (it still looks like an iPad Air), get the OS and price right, throw in the keyboard cover and the pencil at the price and make sure that there is a damn slot to hold the pencil. Boom – the iPad is once again a killer machine.
Add a USB slot to the MacBook (stop being stupid), retire the MacBook Air (that low-res screen causes major frustration), update the MacBook Pro once a year from the inside out and never listen to those silly people who keep asking for a touchscreen MacBook. That’s sacrilege.
Retire it. Don’t do anything for two years. Bring a totally new Apple Watch 2 after that.
Yes, Apple does a great job with most. But you’ve got to move from the ‘me too’ attitude to some really good stuff. Apple TV needs a Netflix-like Apple-owned service, Apple Music needs to do more than what the others do, and some new services are ripe for the picking. Do remember that you can continue to make money off customers even after they’ve bought your device. Use us, abuse us – but do it right!
As I close this column, I’m struck by a very deep thought. While Apple is extremely lucky to have this easy-to-follow blueprint, some others weren’t that lucky. Sorry Xerox, Kodak, Nokia, BlackBerry...
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, May 8, 2016
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