Last night, the All Things Digital: D11 conference kicked off with a live interview of Apple CEO Tim Cook by journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. The interview covered a wide variety of topics from Apple’s view on taxes, its falling stock, a potential Apple television, wearable tech, Apple’s “cool” factor, and more.
There was one word I noticed Tim Cook repeat quite a few times throughout the interview: products. When Swisher or Mossberg presented a challenge, for instance about the falling stock price, Tim Cook responded that he thinks the company should “focus on making great products.” It’s not very different from what Steve Jobs used to say. In fact, at the D8 interview in 2010, Jobs says “We want to make the best products for people.”
Is Apple making the best products? It’s a matter of opinion, of course. Plus it depends on the products themselves. Some people may think the Mac is the best personal computer in the world, but prefer an Android smartphone over an iPhone. What seems to be a more commonly held opinion is that while Apple might be still making great products, it’s not making game-changing products at the moment.
Even Mossberg brought this up during the Tim Cook interview last night. He said that people hold very high standards for Apple because in the past it has made a lot of revolutionary products that were able to change their respective industries. He said “it’s been a while” since Apple has made another grand slam, and suggested it might help the crumbling stock price if Apple went back to work at releasing something totally new.
Let’s examine that for a second though. The major game-changing products Mossberg is referring to are the Macintosh in 1984, the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad in 2010. It’s been a little over three years since Apple released a revolutionary new product to the public. Is that really a long time? Everybody talks about how the public (as well as investors) holds high standards for Apple but no one ever really seems to point out just how unfair that actually is. Technically speaking, Apple can be placed in the same category as Microsoft, Google, and Samsung. When is the last time these three companies have dramatically changed the technology industry with something totally new that was also received well?
I think we’ve gotten into the pattern of expecting Apple to put out game changer after game changer. In reality, Apple once went 17 years without changing the market, and another time it went 6 years. Now it’s only been 3 years since the iPad and everyone is complaining that Apple has lost its cool or its ability to innovate. Why does no one hold these same high expectations for companies like Samsung?
I’m sure if you haven’t scrolled down to the comments section to write that I’m biased already, you’re probably at least pondering the idea. Let me ask you this though: if everybody wants Apple to create revolutionary products and doesn’t hold its competition to those same standards, doesn’t that mean everyone is being biased?
Tim Cook did indicate though that Apple has some innovative plans for the future. The rumors point to an iWatch and an iTV, both of which would supposedly be game changers. Cook obviously didn’t confirm any specifics or even acknowledge them, but he said there are interesting new products in the works. Besides, was he really going to say anything otherwise? “Nope, we’re all out of ideas.” I can’t picture the CEO of a technology giant saying that.
There’s no rational reason for a continuous cycle of game-changing products to be necessary for a company’s success. We just think it’s necessary because that’s what we’ve come to expect from the company that’s done it multiple times before. According to Tim Cook and Steve Jobs, Apple has always been focused on simply making the best products, not necessarily the game-changing ones.
Obviously putting out new and innovative products isn’t the only obstacle Apple has to face. It still needs to update and maintain its current ones. The expectation for iOS 7 in two weeks at WWDC is that it will be redesigned to look better and function competitively without sacrificing its ease of use. A new iPhone and iPad are due out in the fall each with their own set of standards. These are not easy tasks to accomplish, they’re a few of the many Apple has on its plate.
So perhaps Tim Cook is right after all to just focus on making great products. If they’re good enough for everybody to rush to buy them, the stock price should fluctuate accordingly as should Apple’s “cool” factor. As for the game changers, those must come in time. Patience is a virtue especially when it comes to these types of high demands. Plus, if necessary, Apple can very much afford taking off a couple more years before totally blowing our minds again.