In A Time Long Ago, In A Galaxy Far Away…
I read a great article yesterday, Apple Watch: Android Clobbering iPhone & Cook’s Short Slide to Insignificance, by Bill Robinson, in the Huffington Post.
As a Mac and Apple user (since 1988), I have always been part of that core group of Mac addicts that sees Mac and Apple as the good guys fighting the large oppressive corporate elites and Fortune 500 bullies. Waking up from that mirage has taken me quite a long time. That mirage vaporized years ago. It essentially vaporized for good when Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1996, over a decade after he left in 1985 and he founded NeXT (which would become the foundation of the now famous Mac OS X) and bought Pixar from George Lucas in 1986. I realized in 1997 that things were going to be different than when the Macintosh was first introduced. A return to simplicity of design and user friendly software and hardware was the order of the day, and it did not take long for Jobs to prove himself.
Within one decade, where Apple was on the verge of collapsing and Bill Gates and Microsoft came to the rescue to the tune of $150 million. Apple has not looked back, and well, Microsoft has had its own issues with CEO changes and innovation and software and hardware problems, where there were more expensive flops and failures than successes. We all know how well the Nokia experiment went. As recently as yesterday, the news of so 7800 people laid off by Microsoft in its phone division, and writing off $7.6 billion from that failed Nokia deal.
So today, I am reading Bill Robinson, and he comes out swinging, swinging more against Tim Cook and his soft leadership and presence and non-combative style of management, than against Apple. But like all corporations, the head honcho is the face of the franchise they say. And we know that Steve Jobs was, the face of Apple, and having him back led to all the changes and all the innovation that has sustained Apple since his passing in 2011. Apple always had 5 year plans and projected development in this fashion.
I agree with Robinson, Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs, and yet, who or how do you replace a Steve Jobs? For a comparison at failing to replace the founder of a large trend setting corporation, like Microsoft, just look at how miserably they have failed at finding a successor to Bill Gates. Cook has essentially ridden the five year plan that Steve Job’s had in place and I believe he rode that plan for two years, and started to reorganize Apple and change Apple by rearranging and changing department heads. He had to keep Jony Ive and this is clearly because Ive is the brains and heart behind the innovation projects that made Apple what it has become known for, from the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. All that simplicity in design, form and ease of use, are all part of Ive’s genius and “Vulcan mind meld” he seemed to have with Steve Jobs.
If any knew and knows the heartbeat of Steve Jobs, it is Jony Ive. Keeping Jony in the fold is a smart move by Apple, be it the Board of Directors or Tim Cook. In either case, I can see Jony Ive being the heir apparent of Tim Cook. I can see Jon Ive raising his family in England, his home, and still being very much the wiz kid behind Apple. If Apple wants to continue to remain no only relevant but on top, it will need the wonder and splash of Jony Ive’s visionary designs and functionality. Tim Cook has none of that.
Robinson speaks of Cook trying to mimic and imitate Steve Jobs, which we know is impossible, it isn’t even in his DNA to come off as aggressive and in your face… so how can he even attempt to act like Jobs’ stage presence and use similar one liners, especially in the “holy war” against Android. We all remember Steve Jobs declaring this war and how many millions he was going to spend to “destroy Android”.
Once Upon A Time…
It all goes back to when Eric Schmidt (Google) was on the Apple Board., and Schmidt and Jobs were the best of Silicon Valley pals, and suddenly became competitors on multiple fronts, and that is still the case today, some five years removed. Apple has the iPhone. Google has Android. Google is the king of search engines and Apple has for years thought of having their own, and has now championed the use of Bing for its Spotlight Search over and against Google Search on its iOS devices recently. Tim Cook is behind that drive to confront and take on Steve Jobs’ “Crusade against Android” to the next level. Cook can rant and ridicule, but he is no Steve Jobs.
Google has Chrome which is by the far the new standard in web browsers, and Safari is no match for that one. You also have Google TV versus Apple TV. We all remember all the pot shots taken by both sides at their respective developer conferences. It makes it hard to believe these guys, Schmidt and Jobs were actually friends and sat on the same board.
Schmidt resigned from Apple’s board in August of 2009 due to “conflict of interest” issues, as Google had all kinds of competing products in their pipeline, all the while Schmidt served on the Apple board and Steve Jobs served on Google’s board.
And So It Began
You knew that when Steve Jobs announced the iPhone in 2007, that it was the beginning of the end between Google/Apple and Android/iOS. Andrew Rubin ran Android when Google bought it in 2005 for $50 million, and Google was already working on the Android phone when Jobs announced the iPhone two years later. Rubin was in a cab in Las Vegas when Steve Jobs was making his presentation and pitch for the iPhone, when Rubin saw that he said, “Holy crap, I guess we’re not going to launch that phone.” Key executives at Android just thought that the iPhone would not be very good.
In the subsequent chain of events Google who had phone software ready for the end of 2007, scrapped the software as being too “nineties” compared to iOS. Google eventually created the new phone software that they introduced with their first phone the HTC G1. The software was nowhere near the iOS standard, but it was close enough to infuriate Steve Jobs. And thus the “holy war” exploded. It is reported that Jobs freaked out and said, “Everything is a f—king rip-off of what we’re doing.”
The Importance Of Good Relationships & Trust
Apparently Steve Jobs had a good trusting relationship with the cofounders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt was on Apple’s board. The three of them had intimated to Jobs that Android would be different from the iPhone. As Jobs had been burned by people he had previously trusted, including how he had been ousted from Apple in 1985 by friends and associates, this kind of action by Google was interpreted as a betrayal even greater than what he had previously known. Jobs was actually pretty naïve, and that kind of blew him out of the water when he saw Android and its similarities to iOS. Jobs was so taken aback that he demanded that Google make changes to Android’s software.
There was a meeting of minds among Jobs, iOS designer Scott Forstall, and Page, Alan Eustace and Rubin from Google. From all accounts of the meeting it was abrasive, and confrontational. The result was a near capitulation by Google to Jobs’ demands. Android was eviscerated, and its OS gutted and removed of multi-touch features like pinch to zoom, the way the Android phone unlocked was changed, and Jobs was so adamant about the changes, that he even went to the point of telling Google how to take things out of the Android OS. Google caved in to strong man Jobs. When you compare the brawn and force of personality of Jobs to Tim Cook, quite frankly there is no comparison. You would never see Cook be the way Jobs was in that meeting with Google.
Rubin was devastated by how the Google execs had caved in to Jobs and Apple. Rubin put a sign on his white board, “Steve Jobs stole my lunch money.” Rubin was convinced that Apple had never invented the things they were claiming as being their creations. In the end, Google did add those features and Google and Apple have been in contentious lawsuits ever since. Tim Cook has inherited those lawsuits and has launched a few of his own.
The World According to Tim
This is the context of the world of Apple that Tim Cook received as part of being the anointed successor to the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. The five year plan was steady and moving forward until there was a clash with Scott Forstall, and he was reduced to the role of a consultant, and the whole iOS interface changed as a result. It became to me, a very vanilla and ugly looking interface with all these pastel colors that are more appropriate at a flower show than a computer OS.
Forstall left and Craig Federighi is now in charge of software engineering for both iOS and the Mac OS. Since that time it seems the developments of Apple under Tim Cook have been constant upgrades to the iOS, and Mac OS, where Federighi is the “face” at the WWDC events and presentations. There have been some new hardware with upgrades on iPhones, iPods and iPads, and the recent addition of the iWatch.
The Demise of Apple Under Tim Cook
I agree with much of Robinson’s story. I can trace my own disgust with Apple began in 2012 when Tim Cook changed the whole touch and feel of the iOS by ridding himself of another Jobs insider, Scott Forstall. When iOS 7 and iOS 8 came out, that was when my love of iOS and Apple mobile devices began to wane drastically. I hardly use my iPad. I don’t have an iPhone, and I don’t want an iPhone. The whole iOS user experience for me, quite frankly, in a word, “sucks!” I have to say that I actually hate those versions of the iOS and its look and feel. Give me options to change and modify the user look and feel, and then I might embrace it better. Give me “gun metal” for an iOS look and feel, instead of the effeminate iOS 8 interface any day of the week.
Robinson alludes to the maniacal mindset behind the constant attacks on Android and Google. Why is Tim Cook constantly attacking the competition? Is he that insecure? Is he that much threatened by competition? Is he so obsessed by pleasing investors that he will go and do things to drive up the profit margin at all costs? Here is the kind of play acting derision that Cook levels at competitors.
I personally believe what Tim Cook has done within 1 year of the death of Jobs, has been to betray the very vision, fabric and vision of Jobs for what Apple is and what Apple can and should be. Perhaps the last straw for me is what we just went through a few days ago, when Tim Cook announced Apple Music. The very idea and philosophy of streaming music is completely at odds and contradictory to Jobs’ vision concerning music and its place in the digital life. It is at its root philosophical and financial. Steve Jobs believed that what you pay for, you should own.
With streaming music, you have open coffers of money coming in and profits galore, and as a user of the service, you never get to actually own what you pay for. You are “renting” the music. It is the difference of being a home owner or renting an apartment. You have use of the apartment for as long as you pay the rent. You stop paying, you have to vacate. You cannot take with you anything that is part of the apartment. The same is true with a streaming service. Jobs was so upset with streaming services, he called them “criminal”. Here is what Steve Jobs said in April 2003 when he was introducing the iTunes Store.
“These services treat you like a criminal. And they are subscription-based, and we think subscriptions are the wrong path. One of the reasons we think this is because people bought their music for as long as we can remember… When you own your music, it never goes away.” ~ Steve Jobs, April 28, 2003
So my question as an Apple enthusiast and a Mac user since 1988, why is this man betraying Apple’s vision and ideals, and why is he not removed from his position at Apple? The only thing driving the streaming music service for Apple is profits.
No one since Steve Jobs has bothered to ask the foundational question, and that question is, whether or not Apple should even be going into the streaming music business.
So What is A Guy or Gal to Do?
Simple. Don’t buy into the Apple propaganda machine. The best thing for all consumers is choice and variety. As they say, let’s just get along, and see the world where each of us is unique and we are all better when we come together and make it better. Let’s stop the squabbling and fighting.
Here is what I think should happen.
- The lawsuits should all stop.
- The focus should be on innovation.
- Re-engage with competitors and start cooperating at least by making the rival OS’s work better at user integration with other operating systems, as users buy hardware from different manufactures and ecosystems. Start making it easier on all users, not just your own. There should be more emphasis on bridge technologies that allow users to use multiple devices from multiple OS’s.
- Give users of all ecosystems credit. None of us are stupid. We may prefer brands, and hardware and software, but in the world of work and play, we users have learned that you can work on a Windows PC, and have a MacBook Pro at home. You can take your Android tablet on the road, or your iPad, and you can interconnect with either an iPhone, Android phone, Windows phone, or even a Blackberry. That should be normal. There are benefits for all the different hardware and software. We do not need to swallow the “ecosystem myth of exclusivity”.
- There needs to be an ethical and moral wake up call to ALL tech companies and entertainment companies, that the “bottom line” profits are not the only criteria that determines whether or not a product or service should be offered and sold. The wake-up call is the greater good, which includes the potential health risks of the digital lives we all lead. Do we have to wait for class action lawsuits before these companies stop and evaluate their business plans and ethics? I should hope not.
- Finally, let’s all stop defending our respective “turf” and start to engage and cooperate, and start to bring back enjoyment and engagement in making our world better as major companies make joint partnerships for a better world for people. Let’s just stop all the bickering, fighting, criticism, and learn work and play together.
Why do these kinds of conflicts between corporate giants take a life of their own, as grand and as vast as the Empire Strikes Back, with all of its drama and action? Why can we not live the dream of that galaxy where everyone lived at peace and worked together?