Did Apple Just Become Microsoft?

Let me get this out of the way up front. I have been an Apple® fan from the beginning. I’ve owned their products with my first purchase of a IIc back in the early 80’s. Yes, I have bounced back and forth between PC based brands over the years, but once the revolution at Apple took place with the return of Jobs (where truly everything changed) I began dropping anything PC based and replaced it with Apple.

Since the introduction of the iPhone®, and the improvements via iOS and Mac® based platforms I made the change to everything Apple based and haven’t looked back. I have opined many times that all one has to do to solidify whether or not the switch was worth it was to try to make the change back. For me, 10 minutes trying to do simple things without feeling I need a degree in code writing was all it took. (I know there’s a whole anti-Apple crowd so save the emails)

Just to be clear why I feel so strongly on this subject is, it’s not like I don’t have some standing. As many may remember I was one of the few stating the iPad® was going to be a game changing, revolutionary product when most others were too busy making fun of the name while questioning why someone would buy it when netbooks were so cheap and the product of the future.

I was also one of the first to have a personal app dedicated to my writings along with others like Seth Godin, and Guy Kawasaki in iTunes® when the same cohort of naysayers were telling the world that apps were a passing fad. The buzz was akin to: After all, who would need an app when everything is already sold and packaged for their computers?

Just a few years since, netbooks are as common as the Surface®, and apps are replacing traditional computer software on everything.

However since the passing of Jobs, quite rightly there has been an intense spotlight focused squarely on the Apple tradition going forward. Just what new products or changes to existing lines would be forth coming, and how will they be packaged for sale to an ever-increasing market.

Everyone (and I mean everyone) understood that the new management structure at Apple would both need to pay homage to the ever-present shadow of Jobs while also needing to blaze or create new trails free of the ominous Jobs overhang. i.e., Something Jobs would say, “Wow, I never thought of that!” as compared with nothing more than a refinement to an already Jobs inspired creation.

However, it would seem we not only have the latter taking place, but is veering way off the path Apple has been so skillful in avoiding: Buying an also ran business. e.g., The Beats™ headphone line. Some say it’s for it’s streaming music service or some other thing but if that is the case, not putting the money into a true revamp of iTunes seems even more as an un-Jobs move.

One of the first signs that Cook and company were going to do things very differently was when they announced that Apple which had for years steered clear of donating or giving away resources (as in donations) abruptly reversed Jobs stance and stated very publicly they would now begin contributing to education and other charities.

Whether one agrees with this decision or not is irrelevant. It was the first very public statement showing there was a true sea change transpiring in Cupertino. I myself wrote about this and more that it seemed to be shaping up to look more concerned for public image in the eyes of political groups as well as Wall Street than anything else. It’s beginning to look like both my concerns as well as others might be coming into fruition.

As iOS and the revamping of many of Apples famed products, Garageband®, Keynote®, et al, one thing has become blatantly clear. The decision to give them away for free has resulted in a dumbing down of the features that made them so valuable to heavy users. Out right deletion of key features used by the very people who made the product so popular to begin with. (The best way to explain this would be imagined tomorrow you found after an “update” your space bar not only no longer worked, but was removed all together with no other way to input one. That’s how it feels for many power users of these various programs.)

Personally, I can not see such a decision to release what is now viewed by many as an inferior (and for some out right disgust) flagship products. It’s not like there’s a “pro” type version for a fee. No – they’re gone.

Next is what has been seen by many as a complete and utter cave in to Wall Street.

In what seems like a total collapse to these outside pressures it was announced at the last earnings report the new product line wasn’t consumer product based: it was now products for Wall Street with new improvements and features unfathomable under Jobs tenure.

Dividends, debt, splits, and more. I don’t think the iPhone has added as many new features at once as the new features released in Apple the stock. Yet, just when you think that’s it you’re hit with: Wait – there’s more! Welcome Apple’s newest innovation, I mean, acquisition!

Just where is the strategic thinking in this acquisition? Again, it would be one thing if this were some technological breakout company with a patent or technology systemically important to Apple. But an over $3 Billion dollar use of funds to purchase a headphone brand? A brand that for a great many are an overpriced, over-hyped, inferior product to a great many others? I mean Apple has endorsed Bose® for years, and one thing Beats are not – is Bose. Couldn’t the crew at Cupertino look at the hand writing on the wall and save a few billion to buy some fledgling social darling at a fire sale? (At Twitter®’s current trajectory would it even be worth $3 Billion in a year from now?)

The only way I see this acquisition being a positive for Cook and crew is if it was decided that if Wall Street wants to put an ever-increasing demand for them to spend money, Cook and crews strategy was: Be careful for what you ask for because this is what we’ll do with it. Want some more?

If that was the mindset then so be it, if not, I’m more troubled with the what many see as a cowering to something, (anything!) to please Wall Street.

Let’s not forget Jobs was openly vocal to demand great products from his team but he backed that with just as vocally shielding the company at large with his outright and public statements like (I’m paraphrasing) “I don’t pay attention to the stock price, if we concentrate on the building of great products, the stock price even’s itself out.” That seems far removed from the Apple of today just 3 short years later.

I have been an ardent supporter of Cook and crew knowing full well the monumental task of moving Apple forward with everyone viewing every move through the prism of “what would Jobs do?” However, if the recent actions and purchases are any clue of what we’re to expect from here going forward, then I believe we’ve only seen an act of desperation to sooth the ire of Wall Street.

One needs to look no further than Microsoft for they have been making similar moves for years. And with the now latest news that Office® is going to be available for iPad, I guess it’s more rehashed innovation than true innovation going forward.

I hope I’m wrong, but the actions are beginning to not only speak for themselves – they’re screaming.

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr