Three Things That Should Trouble Apple

I believe that many Apple observers have been too invested in picking off the low hanging fruit of obviously out-of-touch commentators, columnists, and analysts. Apple is winning. It’s fun to pick on the idiots, and we do tune in for the affirmation that engenders, but that’s not insight. It’s a tag team wedgie patrol. It takes a clever intellect to dismantle bullshit but, ultimately, it often just ends up with pantsing the dumb guy. Rather than doing that let’s aim to pants the A-grade quarterback.

Here are the top three problems I believe Apple faces in the near term.

Content Management

That’s not even a thing. Fix that. If I watched the first season of Community via Netflix streaming and now want to rewatch it on my TV as fed from an Apple TV? Make it work. I don’t care how. If you want to pop up a dialog thats asks if you’ll charge me $4.99 to $9.99 for the privilege, I’d pay. Let me pick what I want to watch, regardless of the source, and let me watch it. I have very little allegiance to the network that funded the show — I want the content. Figure out how to make that work.

If you can’t figure out how to make that direct connection to the creatives then you’ll always be stuck with a middleman that doesn’t have to be there. If there’s a syndication avenue you can explore then do so.

Fans want to watch their shows. They’ll pay to make that happen. Everything else is mired in entrenched interests. Find a way to make that happen and we’ll all agree that Firefly jumped the shark during its seventh season.

For Apple the risk here is that someone manages to come along and come up with a more simple and direct method of dealing with media content in the mobile space. I don’t mean a better iTunes, I mean a better way of servicing what the users actually want.

iTunes

iTunes is dead. But it’s still the big play. Microsoft became trapped in the Windows legacy and now, it appears, that Apple is becoming trapped into the iTunes legacy. How is it possible to make a radical transformation, with regards to media management, on the majority of iOS devices without addressing the the train-wreck that is iTunes?

iCloud is a start. But it can’t yet carry all the water.

There are indications that iTunes as the hub is losing favour. As it should be. iTunes was a terrific app ten years ago, but today, it has absorbed too much functionality that there has to be a rethink.

What’s been holding the development of iTunes at bay has been that the majority platform has been Windows. Having the hub on Windows (and the Mac) has, so far, served Apple well. With the number of iOS devices shipping and the move to iCloud style media-management that will change.

Slowly. Right now I’m still juggling a bunch of bullshit that I really shouldn’t need to. Basically, I’ll pay you money if you provide me content I’d like to enjoy. There’s so many weird and random restrictions on that simple deal that I still don’t know how it’ll ultimately play out. (And note its not that I’ll pay money for content I have enjoyed — I’ll pay money for content I hope to enjoy.)

For Apple the risk here is that someone else figures out the formula and the deals to appeal to the majority of content consumers. Once someone locks that up then translating that to favour another platform becomes relatively easy.

If the launch of the iPod and the iTunes Store taught Apple a lesson I hope that it’s that the incumbents are willing to do trials with the minority market-holders.

People

The team that worked on the original iPhone were granted stocks back in 2005-2006. The people who joined them to make iOS 2.0 what it was were granted stock back in 2007-2008. Look at the progression of iOS devices since then and consider the people behind it. Then consider the remuneration schemes based on how much of their personal time they invested versus the benefit to the company. iOS was launched back in 2007. It’s been five years since the original team were granted stock options. It’s been maybe three years since the team that has defined what we now know as iOS were granted options. Look at the share price then and look at the share price now.

Ultimately, the retention of talent will be Apple’s Achilles’ heel.

The smartest people will always want to be working on the smartest thing. Sometimes that comes together in one amazing project. iOS has been that project for this decade.

If there’s a problem for Apple it’s that they’ve already invented the future. It’s a done deal. The best and brightest engineers and product managers may move on to other ventures. Less likely to succeed, of course, but that’s less of an issue for them given the rainfall of AAPL gains. We’ll have to see what happens.

Us

People who understand how Apple works and who comment upon it regularly should apply themselves to understanding the problems Apple faces. It’s good sport to shoot down the loons, that’s for sure. That’s easy. It’s time to criticize the champ.

Let’s quit handing out wedgies and let’s start pointing out faults.

  • Guy