Apple’s Glass: Half Empty – Half Full – Or ?

As always let me preface with the following: I am both an Apple™ fan, as well as near exclusive product user. However, with that said, I’m also a businessman. And it is to these points which I base my commentary.

For the last few years I’ve noticed a troubling undercurrent when it comes to all things Apple. That undercurrent revolves around a distinct feature which can be summed up using one word, for all intents and purposes seems to be used far more frequently than at any time I can remember. That word? “Delayed,” or its paternal twin which shares the same DNA, i.e., “Backordered.”

It now seems you can’t talk about a new or improved product when it comes from Apple without also including the near inevitable “delayed” or “backorder” issue which seems to follow every new product or feature. Although the actual word “backorder” seems never used. What else does something along the lines of “expected delivery time in 6 weeks” or more indicate other than that?

The actual term “delay” we all have come to know means the entire product launch is currently unavailable. No further backorder phraseology required.

New products and features for Apple were, at one time, highly anticipated rollouts with large-scale events and demonstrations that were supposed leave one near breathless in anticipation. Today, a lot of that breathlessness is attributable to one holding their breath in anticipation of what will arrive first: A complete launch delay announcement, or some revolving backorder status.

So common have these now become I wouldn’t be surprised at any subsequent event one might hear something along the lines of…

“Oh, just one more thing. It will be so popular, so wickedly awesome, so supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – we don’t know if we’ll have enough, or even when we’ll be ready to ship at all. So try to order early and often. We’ll let you know as soon as we see fit, as we delay any rollout status back ever further, because we only use nebulous terms for availability allowing us the cover to roll back your anticipated expectations again and again. Even if that means years. Ain’t that great?!”

Yes all tongue-in-cheek. But am I that far off? (Hint: Mac Pro®)

I used the aforementioned “glass” analogy for a very specific reason, but not in the way of most.

Far too many look at the proverbial glass and only see two variables. i.e., The optimistic/pessimistic viewpoint. Yet, there is another, which is by far more important, for it answers the original age-old question in absolute terms, forcing one to now plan or assess accordingly.

That other question is this: Why is the glass half empty, or full, to begin with?

In other words it’s the “why” which should be asked, as in: Is it filling up from empty and is now at half? Or, was it full and has since leaked or evaporated down to half?

I’ll contend that’s the correct set of questions when viewing the glass. Not the other two. Answer the latter, and the prior two become situational for the requisite action if required.

“So how does this pertain to Apple?” one might be asking. Good question, and it’s for this reason:

Is Apple’s once product admiration, wonderment and astonishment continuing to rise? Or, has it reached its heights and is slowly leaking or evaporating?

If it’s the latter – that’s a very big problem. And there are far more troubling indications that it is may be just that. And this latest holiday “delay” shows that in spades via my perceptions.

Once again Apple delayed the rollout of what can only be described as a revolutionary new product till after the holiday season. However, this time – not only was this product an important next step in the evolution for Apple’s ecosystem. But more importantly – it could also be argued as possibly the most important consumer product to be developed since the smart phone.

That gadget? The Home Smart Speaker.

Apple’s HomePod® was supposed to be the quintessential “800-pound gorilla” to Amazon’s Echo® and Google’s Home® and was slated to enter the holiday shopping window in December. But then, right before Thanksgiving, Apple announced that HomePod won’t be home or even ready for the holidays, because “sometime in December” is now “early 2018.”

It’s not that Apple did not have enough for any anticipated sales volume. No, what I consider absolutely, inexplicably unacceptable is that they didn’t even have the product itself available. As in, if you wanted one? You got zip, zero, nada, for the rollout and the entirety of any availability completely missed the entire holiday shopping season.

Was this some sort of afterthought gift idea or product that people just happened to pick up as a stocking stuffer that was nestled between the candy bars at the checkout lines? The answer to that is an emphatic, no!

It has been purported via many shopping reports to be one of (if not the) best-selling consumer gadget this shopping season.

And Apple missed it entirely.

The issue here is two-fold. First: Not only did they seemingly anticipate or know of its importance to be for the holiday rush, but also, they announced early as to make sure customers knew there would be an Apple product “sometime in December” for this category.

So the underlying sales pitch is: Don’t buy theirs just yet. We’re coming out with ours, “sometime in December” and you’ll be amazed with what it does.

Maybe it’s just me, but “early 2018” is light-years away from “sometime in December” and the consequential, all important  holiday shopping frenzy.

Adding insult to this self-inflicted injury is the following: Not only did an ever important launch window get missed. Rather, what many contend is far worse – a complete launch whiff of a product now clearly demonstrating just how important it is as a segment of a company’s ecosystem. The proof?

The apps required to use these products subsequently moved in unison of their holiday sales to vault theirs to the top-notch for both IOS® and Android®, proving its holiday sales appeal.

And Apple didn’t even have the product ready. This point can not be made too lightly from a business perspective via my acumen.

To make the point in another way: It would appear there are going to be a lot of requests made to purchase and play music, movies and more during the interlude to the new year. Just not via a HomePod. Can you say, “Alexa®” or “Hello Google®?”

If I were Siri®, I’d be pissed.

As I iterated earlier this is far from the first time Apple has had holiday availability issues. Remember, AirPods®? You can now finally get some, but you’re still going to have to wait, for they are still having supply side issues. But if you wanted this “breakthrough technology” last year under your tree? Much like the recent hyped, in much the similar fashion HomePod – sometime next year was about as good, as it got.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Then we had what can only be described as the disastrous rollout for the iPhone 8®. The only thing that gave that rollout any cover was the, once again, disastrous live rollout demonstration for facial recognition on the iPhone X®.

The only thing comparable to this obviously embarrassing mistake? (It was said, because someone used it prior in set up.) Was when, seemingly oblivious to the obvious, about 2 years ago Apple asked Microsoft™ employees to appear onstage to demonstrate a few new features and products for the iPad Pro®.

Again, maybe it’s me, but this seemed just a little bit “tone-deaf” for a company that is supposed to be so “in-tune” with its customers.

The only thing more ridiculous for comparison would be something along the lines of creating a stylus (something Jobs originally denounced) then calling it a Pencil®. Wait, scratch that. I forgot.

Speaking of “forgot.” What about wearables like the iWatch®, or other such item? You know, like taking the top spot for number one on the holiday check list of must-haves sale items. After all I would imagine with all the hype manufacturers (and next-in-rotation fund managers) were giving them, that these must have been the go-to gadget of the holiday season, right?

Nope, need I remind you, see home speaker category once again, for that. You know – where Apple didn’t even have a product available.

But if you want a watch? I’ll bet dollars-to-doughnuts there’s no waiting and you can have as many as your little beating heart-to-monitor desires. (Hermès® option extra, but I’m sure, quite available) After all, wasn’t that Mr. Cook’s baby?

How about a MacPro®? Did you get a new Mac Pro? That’s OK, neither has anyone else, that too is still a product in waiting. Apple said in 2017 it was “completely rethinking the Mac Pro.” Well, there hasn’t been anything new since it relaunched in 2013 so that’s quite a long time for “thinking” in my humble opinion. But there’s still so much to think about, I guess, a date for 2018 is still abject speculation on the sooner side, with some rationalizing maybe 2019 is the year.

The message?

No rush, what’s a few years when it comes to computer product cycles anyway. After all it’s not like we didn’t give you a “touch bar” for your laptop. Be happy with that for now will ya – we’ve got some political fundraising we’re working on here, between that and the new building with all its furniture decisions for the new corporate offices – we’re barely keeping it together! You may think product priorities come first, but have you tried to find office furniture that’s made for a circular building?

Then of course there was the latest software snafu that landed Apple in serious, “WTF is going on there?”, conversations across the spectrum of both computers, as well as general product awareness. For those who don’t remember…

Apple, the company, which sells itself on making sure all of its products, as well as any third-party suppliers don’t have any holes for security, or any other issues as to make sure (paraphrasing Jobs) “The shit just works as expected.” And will boot any and all out of their collaboration efforts or stores for even the slightest infractions. Had a embarrassing, amazingly giant security flaw that remained undetected, for far too long, in its latest operating system just last month, causing Apple to issue an apology, for the first time in years as to push, or force-load an update.

I’ll ask again – are you beginning to see a pattern here?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Since Mr. Cook has taken over the reins he now seems to be worried about everything, and anything other than what truly matters. i.e., Selling product hype to Wall Street, rather than focusing first on selling great products that ship.

It would seem that once explicable Jobs mantra is not only no longer present, but may have been jettisoned entirely since the “operations guy extraordinaire” left to be the “Corner office guy of Wall Street.”

The problem right now for Apple, again, is two-fold. The First…

Developing great products that work and ship needs to be the true focus once again. For it’s becoming blatantly obvious – it is not.

And second: Before one decides to reap in all that rarefied air and vistas in the new “corner office?” Maybe one should be worried – very worried. Why? Because with every blessing usually there also comes a hidden curse. And there is one that’s almost as reliable as an Egyptian mummy’s. To wit:



© 2017 Mark St.Cyr