I will be very happy if, by the end of it all, Tim Cook does not have blood on his hands. But, by the looks of it, Apple CEO may be assiduously murdering the legacy of legendary Steve Jobs.
Can someone like Cook spoil the broth that he himself helped cook so successfully for so many years? But then knowing Jobs, we also know how most decision-making happened at Applewhile he was at the helm.
Agreed that Cook may not have been party to the spirit of innovation that Jobs so proudly touted, along with some aura and theatrics to mesmerise us during Apple’s annual launch events, but the latest iPhone launch left me disenchanted.
Agreed that Cook is not at all a man incapable of filling in the big shoes as proven so far by a number of things: the product line-up (until Tuesday), Apple holding its stock price, cult following for its products, its market share and profits despite thinner margins, but can he continue the iPhone party sans the design edge so intrinsic to Apple.
More so, he was hand-picked by the God at Apple who could not go wrong in his decisions. Or could he?
To be fair, even a visionary like him did go wrong in reading a few things. He felt there was no market for smartphones bigger than 3.5 inch or tablets smaller than 9.7 inch! Runaway success of phablets around 6 inch size perhaps prompted Apple to launch 7.9inch iPad Mini last year while it marginally increased the screen size of iPhone 5 to 4 inch.
Despite criticism and murmurs that Apple was not doing anything ‘revolutionary’ anymore — in the post Jobs era — people lapped up a thinner, lighter, glitzier iPhone 5 that sold like hot cakes, keeping its shareholders content despite initial nervousness.
It was expected that some day Apple will eventually break away from Jobs’ legacy; and perhaps the onslaught of Google Android and Microsoft Windows Mobile phones will make winds of change blow faster at Apple than expected.
Yet, Apple still does one launch a year of its flagship product (although it turned the iteration clock faster on iPads last year). Like all Apple events, the Apple aficionados (me included) look forward to that ONE iPhone event anxiously and expect some gush-inspiring surprises among the announcements.
However, it is not the lack of this that I seek to blame on Cook though two or three launches won’t hurt. After all, not all smartphone buyers find that one-year wait worth it and one size does not fit all.
Now, I do not expect a cult company to pander to market histrionics and hype by launching a dozen similar looking phones at every one thousand rupee price point so as to lure and capture every single buyer on earth. No, that doesn’t work even for the ‘cheaper’ Korean rivals.
But if Apple has to continue being the icon it has been revered as all these years, it also has to be ready to thrive in a multi-polar world of mobile devices with Google Android as well as Microsoft Nokia, besides the Korean army and Taiwanese and Chinese mercenaries! And the least it could do was play the ‘cheaper’ game in a half-hearted manner!
Many will balk and say use of polycarbonate does not make a phone cheap. Ask now-sold Nokia and the Korean ‘re-inventor’. They have met with reasonable success using the same ‘cheap’ plastic, saving themselves better margins than with glass and aluminium shell! But whoever told Cook that he could not have cranked up the specs than serve old wine in a new bottle?
Now consider this: iPhone 5C, or the cheaper iPhone, as it has been dubbed, is targeted largely at emerging markets (though I reckon it will do well in many other markets) by offering several people a more affordable iPhone ownership option.
Yet, with the basic unlocked model being priced at $549, it is anything but affordable, at least in emerging markets like India or China. It remains in the premium smartphones category.
In a burgeoning but price-sensitive market like India, it will amount to merely getting a plastic-cased, unlocked iPhone 5 for nearly Rs 35-37,000 (more in case Raghuram Rajan effect on Indian Rupee wears off sooner than Apple decides to launch new iPhones here).
This price bracket is still largely restricted for top-end models. Even the Korean company’s KitKat supportive 4th generation model (launched later than iPhone 5) comes under that price (under cashback offer).
So it does not help that iPhone 5C has a year-old specs! Either specs ought to have been bettered, or price cut further by $100-150, particularly given the formidable Android and Nokia Lumia buildup in the months to come for less than Rs 35,000. Else, instead of launching a plastic version, Apple could have simply reduced the pricing of iPhone 5 and continued with its more beautiful casing.
It does matter a lot to any CEO if he can cut the input costs while keeping the selling price around same levels. In that context, Apple will save on its hardware manufacturing costs, but it runs the risk of causing the brand to suffer an image loss.
A number of users – even some like me who swear by Apple’s products — do feel Apple has been snobbish about certain things. Like launching only one iteration a year, like bringing iPhone late to emerging markets, like its reluctance to go colourful (now addressed), like never getting off its premium positioning pedestal, like taking India non-seriously! In that context, it would not have hurt Apple to launch a genuinely affordable iPhone 5C variant, one with slightly lesser frills!
A number of Apple fan boys will want to slit my throat for saying what they may deem as sacrilegious, but much as I admire Apple for its attention to detail, innovative zest and amazingbuild quality wedded to ease of use in all its products, I do not allow myself to be blinded by its faux sense of ultra marketing hype. It is not missed on me after Tuesday’s launch event that theSteve Jobs era may well nigh be over at Apple.
For all we know, both iPhone 5C and 5S will still turn out to be amazing hot sellers, filling Apple’s coffers further, but here seems a company that is increasingly looking more and more vulnerable, rather than a strong citadel of innovation!
It cannot be lost on anyone the competition is nibbling at Apple’s feet, to put it mildly. Given that, what has been dished out in form of iPhone 5S after a year’s wait too is less than encouraging, and definitely misses the chutzpah. Already, despite being the best phone to me, iPhone 5 (and now 5C and 5S) seems to suffer from the lack of a slightly bigger and wider form factor.
And there is no reason why Apple should not have seriously considered a 5.5 or 6-inch phablet for better viewing, book-reading and browsing experience! And no, I am also not advocating an iPhone at every $100 or Rs 6,500 bracket, although it may be a mouth-watering prospect for some.
Brands come and brands go. Companies that turn intransigent and refuse to keep their ear to the ground start over-estimating their brand potential and gradually start bleeding themselves to death. We have seen the downfall of once-mighty Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Palm and BlackBerry.
Mobility tech and automobiles remain among the most merciless business spheres given the stiff competition and obsolescence rates. A company’s perception among its target audience amidst the interplay of rival offerings and its own ability to ride the wave of innovation matters more than ever. A few successive slip-ups can cause you to start bleeding.
One more thing. Dear Tim, “Your time is limited… don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Bring it on, man!
Jobs is dead, but his spirit of cutting-edge innovation shall not be killed. We love Apple way too much to see its downfall for neglecting what has always been the cornerstone at 1, Infinite Loop, Cupertino: Innovation. It is time you put your success stamp where it matters. Jobs may have died, don’t let Apple die.