Gaze at the new iOS 7 iPhone update and you’ll be craving an eye wash. It’s just like squeezing lemon juice and PixieStix right on your eye ball. Cool if you’re a 10-year-old girl. Not cool if you’re not a 10-year-old girl.
Sure, I get the whole simplified, 2-D minimalist thing they’re going for. Life is complicated. Who needs glossy looking icons in such a busy world?
But does this hideosity signal an end to the magical, predictive marketing sense of Apple? I mean, the fact that their design targets only female tweens says something right?
It used to be that buying your first Apple product became a day that changes everything – hopefully not as much as the exchange pictured above. The interface, logic and quality keep people brand-loyal for decades. However, things are a’changing these days, and the only thing that’s different is Steve Jobs. Like bad movie sequels, the only innovation with Apple lately lies in the effects, not the total new experience.
Is it necessary to be a tyrant?
As a boss, Steve Jobs’ tyrannical, dictatorial leadership would have sucked, but I think it accidentally honed Apple’s creativity. As with occasional mad, insistent clients I come across from time to time, some OCD entrepreneurs truly have a vision. Call it compulsion or a divine inspiration – he, and those like him, are often spot-on.
A herd of cats
After Steve’s departure, I imagined Apple as being like a bunch of uncaged cats, meowing everywhere and multiplying, un-herded. While a desperate, what’s-his-name, oh yeah, Timothy Cook, tries to patch things as best he can. Perhaps the one thing worse than working for Jobs is replacing him.
As a CEO, Tim Cook has a huge job. Apple is full of opinions now, I imagine. Ready to burst in all directions from decades of festering, repressed, un-listened to creativity. As Apple settles into becoming less like a dictatorship and more like our confused political system, I suspect the loudest or sneakiest get their way. Welcome to the blithe decline of corporate America, Apple. Ceasing to innovate is the path one takes to join the ranks of the ordinary.
Did Apple accidentally breed brilliance?
I suspect, after reading more than my share of biographies about Jobs and Apple, that under Jobs’ reign the smartest cooperated to get their way, which is unusual for a corporation. This created a bizarre dynamic: the tyranny accidentally bred brilliance. Perhaps this is the up-side of imperialism?
While Wozniak’s genius defined thinking excellence in the beginning, subsequent employees actually did things such as sneaking in a brilliant programmer in, hiding him from Jobs, or pushing through great solutions while placating or distracting Jobs. This, coupled with Jobs sense of predicting market needs, pushed the best ideas through. Apple’s successful past was made up of similar work-arounds. (Its failures, by the way, are made up of what we’re seeing now.)
This environment purshed the best ideas upward, and forced cooperation – like a good ol’ dysfunctional family. Jobs (perhaps) recognized this dynamic, since he designed Apple’s headquarters so newbies, designers, execs and programmers would run into each other on the way to restrooms or break rooms, creating new, ‘bump-into’ free association opportunities. (Incidentally – this is one of the reasons the smoking lounge is the best place to come up with ideas for your company – you run into all ranks of employees and execs there and can hear and get the best input on ideas.)
Meanwhile at Apple, after the white board sketches, multiple meetings and potluck Fridays at work – Voila! We have the new, hum-drum, iPad 5 and a hideous iOS7 iPhone update. A likely result of corporate internal pressure and political contrivance, not to mention sales goals. Once a company starts making products to benefit themselves rather than their customers, it marks a decline. In spite of a few good technical improvements to the iPhone, I think this stinky upgrade marks Apple’s inability to tell whether it’s making good decisions.
As it turns out, I’m not the only one.
A thumbs-down from the Woz
Steve Wozniak – now #1 on my list of Steves to meet in my life – is noting things are on the down-cline with Apple. At a TEDx interview last year while discussing Microsoft’s recent strides was quoted as saying. “Apple was just used to cranking out the newest iPhone.” According to Woz, the type of innovation coming from Microsoft is innovating voice recognition and translation apps. He adds that Microsoft was likely stewing with new ideas over the last three years, whereas Apple was just cranking out the same ‘ol stuff. In soft spoken, logical fashion, Wozniak reminds us merely improving is not innovation. It’s simply not astounding.
What is astounding is the controversial Windows 8 interface. It’s kind of cute how Microsoft is trying on the coolness thing. Also impressive is the Nokia Lumina 1020’s camera. These two things are the first in 20 years that have tempted me away from Apple products.
As for the iOS 7 iPhone update, I refuse to download it. When I finally do, I plan to use an app to make my icons look better.
As an investor, however, I’d look more closely at Microsoft.
____________________________________________________For more interesting info from the Woz, check out the TEXx interview and more. Wozniak also points out to serious concerns he has about technology itself owning us, in the sense that we no longer own tangible items like software, publications and the like. “I’m worried we’ve signed everything away, and we don’t own it.” he says. “It’s like everything – even hardware – from Apple is a subscription because after a year it’s not going to work with the latest stuff.”