Apple Products: Without Steve Jobs, The Thrill is Gone  

AP Photo/Andy Wong
AP Photo/Andy Wong

Apple just announced that iPhone and iPad users of its upcoming iOS 9 operating system will get a disruptive new app by the name: “News.” With the Apple Watch slumping fast, Taylor Swift torpedoing Apple Music, and the “News” looking like a “wanna-be” New York Times, the first three post-Steve Jobs era products seem to indicate in the words of the immortal BB King that for Apple, “The Thrill is Gone.”

Steve Jobs resigned after a long illness on August 25, 2011 as Apple’s CEO and turned the reins over to Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook. The product road-map Jobs laid out for the next four years would make Apple the richest and most valuable brand in history. But the unambitious nature of the Watch, Music and News now threaten that success.

As a graphics design major, Steve Jobs was not the greatest technologist of his generation. But he was probably the greatest technology “user” that ever lived. It was Apple’s great fortune that he happened to be the company’s founder.

Examples of his myopic focus on details famously included trashing 3 prototypes of the iPhone in 2007 because of minor inconveniences with the power button and a buggy home screen before he approved a launch version of the product. Customer centricity explains the loyalty of a hundred million customers to Apple as the Jobs’ brand.

Ron Johnson, Apple’s former retail chief, told Business Insider that it was a radical idea that had never been tried to locate Apple Stores in high traffic locations to sell tech products. But it “wasn’t hard at all actually, because Steve Jobs was such a supporter of our store strategy.” Johnson emphasized that Jobs cared about the customer: “He designed products for himself that he would love, so he thought about the whole experience.” That is why Apple included “crazy things like Genius Bars and theaters.”

Apple hyped the premiere of Apple Watch as its greatest product launch. Apple steered tech analysts at ABI Research to forecast the company would ship 13.77 million units in 2015 and capture over 50 percent of the worldwide smartwatches market share. Apple management claimed the Watch success would be a huge multiple of the iPod in 2001 with 378,000 unit sales, and then sold 54 million in 2009.

Two months later, Apple’s product manager Jeff Williams told the Code tech conference that sales of Apple Watches are “fantastic and we’ve sold a lot but not enough,” but then he refused to give any sales numbers. According an Investor’s Business Daily’s analyst survey, ”when somebody refuses to give actual sales numbers, it is usually means that sales aren’t as good.” Such products are usually doomed to be a flop.

Two weeks ago at its WWDC 2015 conference, Apple launched a subscription music service offering unlimited listening and artist-curated internet radio for $10 a month using technology from its $3 billion Beats acquisition. The company claimed that with its 700 million iPhones installed base, “Apple Music is a revolutionary streaming music service, a pioneering worldwide live radio station from Apple broadcasting 24 hours a day and a great new way for music fans to connect with their favorite artists.”

It seems Apple management did not check with the number-one selling female artist in the universe, Taylor Swift. Ms. Swift just released a website open letter stating Apple Music will not get access her latest album, 1989, because the service isn’t paying artists or producers during a free 3-month subscriber trial period. She is most concerned about the “young songwriter” who’s counting on that first single to stay afloat.

Ms. Swift brutally twists the knife by comparing Apple’s current management to Steve Jobs: “I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.” Her website had  50,625 notes three hours later, almost all side with her and many rage against Apple’s greedy corporate mentality.

That mentality thinks they can also get Apple users to want Apple corporate News. Unlike disruptively successful aggregators like the Drudge Report, which use unbiased mathematical algorithm to find and list the most popular headlines of the hour, Apple is recruiting at establishment journalism schools and from writers from the failing print outlets to “curate” their own daily publication. Outsiders that post on Apple News must meet editorial review (aka bias), and then surrender any and all content rights to Apple.

The Apple Watch, Music and News are the first of a wave of new products developed independently by CEO Tim Cook and his management team. None of these efforts reflect Steve Jobs “myopic” customer centricity that will maintain Apple loyalty.

As BB King said: “You know you done me wrong baby, And you’ll be sorry someday.”


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