Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Apple's new strategy (and old users)

As John Gruber recently commented, Apple hasn't upgraded the Mac Pro in more than a thousand days. The company’s indifference to its professional users is puzzling to Marco Arment also:

Only the Mac Pro has the space, budget, heat capacity, and PCIe bandwidth to offer high-performance desktop- and professional-grade GPUs. If gamers, game makers, visual effects workers, and OpenCL aren’t enough, the rapidly-emerging VR and AR markets should be — they’re the next wave of high-end pro buyers who need the fastest hardware money can buy, and Apple has nothing to offer them.

Think about that: Apple has nothing to offer them. Apple clearly thinks it doesn't need such users any more — even though the faithfulness of professional programmers, designers, and artists is what kept Apple alive for many years when the company was marginally profitable at best.

In those days the goal of Apple was to design and build products that were “insanely great,” while the mission of Microsoft was to get “a computer on every desk and in every home.” Apple wanted to make the best and coolest things it could make, while Microsoft just wanted complete penetration of the market. I suspect that, since Apple became a phone company that also makes a few computers, its corporate attitude has come to mimic that of Microsoft. It’s all about market share, baby: an iPhone in every pocket.

This new attitude has led Apple’s leadership not just to ignore their most loyal customers, but also to be oblivious to a significant decline in the quality of their products, especially their software. Recently Phil Schiller said, in response to widespread frustration with the recent Mac announcements, “We know we made good decisions about what to build into the new MacBook Pro and that the result is the best notebook ever made, but it might not be right for everyone on day one.” We know.

Similarly, a few months ago, when John Gruber asked Craig Federighi to respond to those who had been complaining about a decline in software quality, Federighi said, “We’re frustrated of course to hear it overall characterized as this, quality is dropping overall, because we know that’s not true.” We know.

We know we’re doing the right things. We know our products aren’t getting worse. We just know. So if you’re hoping for Apple to reconsider its recent strategic decisions, it’s time to stop hoping.

So those of us who need professional-level computing power will need to turn elsewhere. Those of us who need consistently reliable software will need to turn elsewhere. And Apple is betting that those groups won't be large enough or influential enough to keep them from getting an iPhone in every pocket. Time will tell if they’re right.

1 comments:

  • You've gotten it right. Long ago, the Greeks warned of this when they described the dangers of hubris, a pride so overwhelming, it brings disaster in its wake. There is no attitude in business more destructive that attempting to dictate to customers what they will be permitted to want. For Apple executives, it has become "our way or the highway."

    Apple isn't alone in this. In Adobe's recent 2017 release of Creative Cloud, InDesign has so few enhancements, they'd shame a minor release. They are so anemic, as best I can tell Adobe hasn't even bothered to release a video describing them. You can find an extensive discussion of user frustrations here:

    http://indesignsecrets.com/whats-new-with-indesign-cc-2017.php

    Like Apple, Adobe executives must think that these slighted power users have no place to go, that their companies can do well enough catering to a less demanding, less capable audience. Stupid customers are seen easier customers.

    But they forget that many of those "stupid customers" have enough sense to seek out the advice of those wiser than than they. Perhaps the best response for dissatisfied Apple and Adobe clients to take is to repeat often and clearly to those as-yet unslighted users, "Hey, if they'll do this to us, they'll do something similar to you. Do not become dependent on Apple hardware or Adobe software."

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