Giving Credit Where No Credit Is Due

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Wired Magazine published a particularly fawning article in its May issue regarding Steve Jobs and Apple Computer.  The article concluded that Apple was “evil” for being closed in its development of various products and the way it locks both companies and users either into or out of its products.  Far from showing how this model has been (or will prove to be) devastating to Apple, the article seems to praise Apple.

It is no surprise then to find out that the article was written by the man who wrote a ghost blog from “Steve Jobs’ Mind” and then published a book.  No doubt, Steve Jobs is the author’s bread and butter, but in the long run perhaps it would be better to keep one’s credibility instead of pumping up a dubious quality CEO.

The article notes that Mr. Jobs was brought back to Apple to turn around the lagging computer maker. The article gives him full marks for doing so noting that market share has doubled to 6%.  Like I told a manager who tried to pass off an insulting raise by couching it in percentages, 25% more than nothing is still nothing.  I mean, golly gee whiz shucks, a WHOLE 6%!  Wow!  Honestly, if Google released a new computer architecture tomorrow, it would have a 6% market share by year end.  Are we seriously giving a man credit for getting up to 6% market share over a dozen years?

The Firefox browser was released as version 1.0 (though there were several pre-1.0 releases) in November of 2004.  As of June 2008, it has a 19% market share against Microsoft (and others). In other words, in less than four years, Firefox has managed to grow to nearly one-fifth of the market without the help of ubiquitous television ads.  In contrast, Steve Jobs was re-made CEO of Apple in 1997 and in over 10 years has managed to lead the company to a whopping 6% share.  Excuse me if I don’t share the enthusiasm for this level of leadership.

The article, in order to avoid being even more laughable that it is, plays up Apple’s success in the iPod and iPhone.  No one can deny the success there.  However, it would be more accurate to describe Mr. Jobs as having failed miserably at the stated goal of “bringing Apple back.”  However, it is true that Mr. Jobs did a fantastic job of starting a completely new gadget company.

iPod and iPhone Future or Future Kitsch?

Although both the iPod and iPhone have succeeded over the short term despite their secretive locked in strategy, will that translate into long term success?  Even now, other players in the phone industry are developing newer better phones.  Granted, they still lag the iPhone, but without the lead gained from the surprise attack, are they really that good?  Check any forum you want to see the rampant grumbling about being force to use AT & T Wireless.  When the inevitable day arrives when another phone that is almost as good, but half the price of the iPhone arrives where will the market share head then?

For the answer, look no further than Apple’s computers.  Apple’s operating system is almost universally hailed as being far superior to Windows in every way.  And yet, despite a constant flood of TV advertising, Apple languishes as a far distant also-ran.  Why?  The very secrecy and closed market philosophy the magazine applauds is the answer. 

Maybe Apple is better, but when for the same price you can get a lightweight laptop AND a power laptop from any number of Windows systems manufacturers, does the average Joe decided to buy Apple?  Without the likes of Dell, Gateway, Lenovo, and hundreds of other manufacturers pushing the limits of features and price, Apple computers are WAY more expensive.  Sure, there are benefits, but when your checkbook is out, are those benefits worth $1,000 or more?  Especially when you know that in just three to four years, both systems will be on their way to obsolete town?

Even today, there are the rumblings of the coming storm.  iTunes is praised for holding the line at 99 cents per song, and justifiably so, but is that it?  Sure, it integrates tightly with iPod, but with nothing else.  To top it off, iTunes insists on installing and frequently updating QuickTime which no one uses!  In fact, yours truly got so fed up with iTunes earlier this year that I used Glary Utilities to delete it AND its cursed QuickTime.  Why?

I don’t have an Apple computer, which means I can afford to have both a laptop (for portability) and a desktop (for power and 22” widescreen monitor).  So, I want to be able to plug my iPod into both computers depending on if I am home or not.  But iTunes won’t allow it!  The closed structure insists that I use one computer as the “main” computer regardless of how I actually use my systems.

I get that there are rights issues here, but even the songs that I did not buy through Apple can’t be synced between systems.  The result?  A single hour of Internet research, and a day or two of software testing, and now I use my iPod with Media Monkey on two systems and iTunes is installed on neither.

My phone is through Sprint thanks to their SERO program which gives me unlimited data (and plenty of voice) for just $30 a month.  No amount of Apple cool-ness is worth me shelling out somewhere over $100 per month in addition to whatever I would have to pay for an iPhone.  I may or may not be in the minority today, but as the phone providers (who are much better at making good phones with good features than Microsoft is at doing the same with operating systems) catch up to where it those extra goodies that Apple’s iPhone possesses, there will be more and more users who think, “Yeah, but I don’t really need that.”

When that day comes, Apple’s iPhones and iPods will drift back to where their computers are.  Beloved by a devoted but small group of fans, and not seriously considered by the rest of us.

Way to miss the boat, Wired.



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