Coupled with recent news of the viral FaceTime bug, the opening paragraphs of a CNN article titled “It’s clearer than ever Apple’s iPhone problem isn’t going away” by Seth Flegerman clarified the slightly sinking feeling surrounding the smartphone and tech giant during the past few years.
Apple’s iPhone business is in decline — and there appears to be no end in sight.
Apple () said Tuesday that iPhone revenue for the all-important holiday quarter fell 15% from the same period a year ago, a steep drop for a product line whose sales growth defied gravity for years.
The shrinking iPhone sales led to Apple’s first holiday quarter revenue decline since 2000. Apple posted revenue of $84.3 billion for the quarter, slightly better than it had warned investors to expect earlier this month. But it nonetheless represented a 5% decline from the same quarter a year ago.
When will that Steve Jobs aura and thrilling innovation return to the stage of the Steve Jobs Theater? Will it ever return?
To be fair to Tim Cook, running Apple’s company in the traditional sense parallel with the company’s global branding phenomenon created in large part by Steve Jobs, was an impossible task.
Mr. Jobs was a brilliant showman and Mr. Cook is a good businessman.
Mr. Jobs was a dynamic innovator (idea wise, anyway) and Mr. Cook is good at extending existing innovation with minor upgrades.
And it seems these minor tech upgrades have finally materialized into not-so-minor revenue loss for Apple regarding the steadily-modified iPhone. This uneasy feeling of Apple’s shortcoming from its absence of any eye-opening, drastic changes to its smartphone has been hovering over Apple’s Silicon Valley home for years. Similar to its new spaceship-like headquarters, it went from just a thought to a growing reality on the ground. But it’s not the close encounter with reality Apple workers and fans alike were hoping to see.
What does this mean for Apple? Tim Cook?
Simply put, Apple and Tim Cook are at a pivot point in which they need to decide what kind of tech company they are going to be moving forward. Mr. Cook and Co. need to determine and put into action whether Apple will be an exciting and innovative company again or a tech giant that delivers on a past vision of ingenuity.
Perhaps it’s fitting that in a few years when Apple’s response (and identity) to this significant revenue decline can be fairly judged as a success or failure, the year that may very likely define Apple’s rise, fall or stagnation for the next generation will be 2020.
This is not the Apple Inc. of the late Steve Jobs.
This blog post’s opening sentence is aimed directly at the surprising disclosure of development plans concerning evolving technology discussed in the recent interview above for the part-tech and part-lifestyle brand that is Apple. You’re likely recalling those iconic slideshow presentations when Steve Jobs was speaking/performing in front a packed auditorium in northern California’s Silicon Valley when he would suddenly reach into his pocket and reveal everyone’s favorite new gadget.
We all miss that suspense from the master of tech ceremonies.
But, as has been pointed out on Jimmy’s Daily Planet many, many times, Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. For better or worse, that’s a fact. However, for a CEO not categorized as something damn near demiurge for 21st century technology consumer products, Tim Cook has proven to be among the best business leaders in the world. That’s also a fact.
There’s no risk with Tim Cook. Whether that’s been good or bad for Apple is for another blog post.
Returning to the video clip above of the interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang (a Silicon Valley favorite), a couple things were subtly revealed that should leave us wanting more. First, Mr. Cook appears to be feeling a bit of pressure (from investors, critics, reporters, their consumers, etc.) because why else admit a project that’s still “in the shop”? Or maybe automotive AI is only intended to serve as the obvious appretizer to something much grander and mind-blowing that shall remain hidden until suspense reaches its peak, as is the past tradition of Apple? Secondly, is automotive AI the best design path forward for empowering Apple consumers in the future?
Not to mention the implications and dangers of increasingly intelligent and widespread AI, as boldly illustrated in virtually any science-fiction book, movie or TV show ever made (cough cough Westworld).
Today, I will leave more questions than answers. Why?
Because perhaps Apple should be asking more questions as our society continues to undergo a massive (and equally uncertain, to put it lightly) digital transfer of power, of which it has played no small part. For a company made a global sensation for literally putting a surreal amount of high-quality information, entertainment and power into our hands, it seems abnormal to shift that same awesome power away from those very same hands.
Automotive AI may or may not be an automatic sell to Apple’s global consumer base. That remains the variable.
The constant is that consumers around the world will ultimately determine whether this evolving technology will find success on the right side of the road.
In the case of Uber, their app is proving to be just the appetizer to their much larger financial feast.
And it’s been recently revealed that one of their servers is not happy.
The business landscape in the United States, and around the world, continues to flatten and be driven by seemingly boundless innovation within marketplaces both new and established. Whether you are pro or anti-taxi (or neutral), there’s no doubt that the car driving service Uber is providing competition to those famous yellow cars and vans. Having used Uber on many occasions with friends, I have no complaints as a rider. The immediacy, timeliness and incentive to impress is certainly a valuable change of pace from having to wait for a taxi that may or may not show up when needed.
However, as is the case with any business, the front room flash and dash rarely tells the whole story of its backroom operations.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, to his credit, is flexing his muscles for a necessary and positive stand regarding proper business practices in the ever-evolving and mysterious tech space. While Tim Cook will never achieve the fandom or dedicated following as the late Steve Jobs (can anyone?), Mr. Cook has, in recent years, proven to be an impressive CEO in the grounded, traditional sense. His repeated stands for customer privacy rights is painting a rare picture of a tech giant who is genuinely attempting to grow and innovate within the technology industry while striving to prioritize essential protections for his consumers.
The abbreviated expression is, “an apple a day…” Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Kalanick was likely reminded of just how many people use an Apple each day.
The 2015 Steve Jobs movie, featuring Michael Fassbender (who actually didn’t look like the title character) is the latest cinematic treatment of the Apple co-founder who changed the way we perceive and anticipate technology.
In fact, this movie is almost ready to earn a permanent spot on our movie shelf (February 16th, to be exact).
After watching the past few movies about Mr. Jobs, the preeminent film still hasn’t arrived and, quite possibly, may never arrive at a theater near you. Fully capturing this tech icon’s life and career into a script as innovative and compelling as his products has proven an allusive task.
But what about a song?
The Maccabees did not write “Grew Up at Midnight” for Steve Jobs, but composer Daniel Pemberton (2015’s Steve Jobs movie) recognized how this song with a smashing crescendo paints the scene of a grand legacy coming into focus. And it was all sparked from an imaginatively ambitious youth.
The song was a perfect fit for the film.
This song is also a perfect fit for those who recognize the value in biting into an apple at midnight.
Have an Insanely Great Week!