2016 is almost ready for the history books. If there’s one thing to come out of the year– besides a crazy election and the advent of fake news (yeah, I know; it’s been around forever but nothing like this year)– it’s Apple’s repeated stumbles. Despite remaking several technology and media industries the past couple of decades (it was late December 1996 that Apple decided to buy Steve Jobs’ NeXT), Apple under Steve Jobs was the Apple we came to know and expect; vibrant, hubris-laden, risk-taking, a dog with more bark than bite.
Every new product keynote presentation and introduction was much the same; highly anticipated, closely watched and analyzed, and with a measure of excitement usually balanced by a degree of disappointment.
Nothing has changed.
Apple continues to delight and disappointment in Tim Cook’s tenure, but without the rich heritage and personality that Jobs brought to the fore during his last 15 years running Apple. The company announces cool new products and features in a slick and sassy presentation, seeds sample units to hand-selected media folk who test and prod, while critics, foes, and nattering nabobs of negativism rail against all Apple seems to have forgotten in the new product, and then when it launches, the cadre of selected reviewers deem the product wonderful, and customers line up to place orders, which then roll into backorder status within minutes. Occasionally, a newly announced and often hyped product doesn’t show up for many weeks or months, but eventually everything settles in and Apple works much like it always has.
A case in point is Apple Watch. Members of the online Guesstimator’s Club say Amazon has sold a few million of the Echo devices and deemed it a successful new product. Apple’s Watch has likely sold four to five times as many devices, yet that product and category are deemed a dud, flop, and failure by the same members of the aforementioned technorati elite politburo members.
Sorry critics, your math does not compute.
Another example is the outcry over the newly released MacBook Pro line. Someone please do the math here. Critics called it a crippled Mac notebook that professionals would never use, yet many in the tech media heralded Microsoft’s new Surface Book notebook tablet hybrid as the second coming of the PC, despite having the same RAM limit, slower CPUs, similar price tag, and fewer storage options when compared to a comparable 15-inch MacBook Pro.
It’s almost as if critics just trotted out the same missives and misgivings made for the last new MacBook Pro a few years ago, despite it having the same RAM limit and similar price tag for comparable hardware.
It’s not that Apple has not had to explain itself in the past. Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and Phil Schiller did something of a news conference to explain the iPhone 4’s antenna problem which was more of a media and critic problem than anything else.
We’re not perfect. “We know that and you know that. Phones aren’t perfect either. We want to make our users happy. That’s what Apple is all about. However, we began getting reports about antenna issues…and this has since been dubbed ‘antennagate.’ We heard about this just 22 days ago and Apple is an engineering-driven company and the way that we work is that we want to understand what the problem is before we come up with a real solution.
A non-problem problem cropped up, Apple examined the situation, then came public with what it thought was the best response. The comparisons of other smartphones and their antenna issues was priceless.
Here we are in 2016 and not much has changed. Critics howled at the 16GB RAM limit on the new MacBook Pros, called the Touch Bar a gimmick, and Apple trotted out executives to explain a little of the behind-the-scenes engineering issues; which they did not do with the last MacBook Pro models which had similar limitations. Go figure.
iPhone 7? No headphone jack. But a dongle adapter. MacBook Pro with USB-C connectors and nothing else? No dongle adapter. Apple could do a better job when presenting new products and new technology, of course. But Apple’s history is what it is. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they don’t.
It’s 2016 and Apple, as always, remains predictable and perplexing.