I was giving a talk at Cal Lutheran University a fortnight ago and got some interesting looks when I mentioned that I thought that Apple may be on its first long-circuit around the drain.
Initially I thought this when the iPhone SE came out and almost blogged so, but I wanted to think about it more and subsequently realized that the “real beginning of the end” was the iPhone 6. And let me be clear, I don’t see Apple going out of business; but I do think that they are on the way to being just like other companies in their field such as Samsung. That’s a world of tighter margins and tougher competition. Samsung knows how to live in that world. Apple may not.
Back in 2010, Steve Jobs said, “no-one would want to buy a phone with a big screen.” To him, the iPhone 5 was the perfect size. (He was holding a 4 when he said it, but he had the 5 in development). Four years later, Business Insider ran a story about how wrong Jobs was, citing the huge sales of the 6 and 6 Plus.
But you know what? He was right.
I want the screen size of my 6s but I don’t want the size of the phone. It does not fit in my hand like my 5 did.
Soon after Steve Jobs died I wrote in my blog that “Now we’ll get to see if Apple is a great company or Steve Jobs was a great man.” My bet was on the latter. It’s coming to pass.
Ever heard the old story of Henry Ford saying, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.” People would have bought those faster horses, too. But Ford was a visionary and he saw something better that people could not even think of. Steve Jobs was like that.
Currently Apple is run by engineers. People want bigger screens, so they get bigger screens. People want a smaller phone, so they get a smaller phone. That’s just how Samsung and everyone else does it. Samsung’s product line (and therein their brand) is just “a little bit of everything.” That is not the ethos that produces lines outside of stores…
Only in very rare cases does a brand evaporate overnight. But it can steadily erode if its underpinnings are removed. And although there is a lag, (the “Brand Gap”), sales will, in time, erode too.
I can see Steve Jobs pulling his engineers together and demanding, “I want the screen to be big when I look at it, but without making the phone any bigger!!!” And everyone would say, “there’s no way to do that” and then two years later the eyeball-tracking magna-screen would launch. –Or however he would have done it. But it would have happened. That was who he was. It’s what Apple was.
When the “One more thing” is showing something you’ve already made before, you have a problem.
Jobs wouldn’t have made the current 6 or the 6 Plus. And there’d be no-need for the SE or a bunch of phones in a bunch of sizes. There’d just be the Apple iPhone and it would be the coolest phone in the world. And you’d wait in line to get it. And you’d pay what it cost and be happy to do so.
Remember those days? They’re gone.
Today I had a meeting with an organization that does very important work with the economically disadvantaged. I had to remind them of just how special they are; how many people’s lives are better because of the work they do. We can get so busy responding to the market, that we forget the leadership and brilliance that got people to love us in the first place. Then you become a less interesting company: to buy from or to work for.
Take time to remember what defines your company. And regularly ask yourself if you are still living up to it.
— Simon Dixon