Jean-Louis Gassée: Of course, Apple isn’t doomed

“Apple is doing it wrong, Apple is living on borrowed time! Apple will fail again! This idea, this meme, isn’t new. For more than 30 years we’ve heard a number of versions of the ‘Apple is doomed’ requiem,” Jean-Louis Gassée writes for The Guardian.

“Then we have the ‘history repeats itself’ misconception,” Gassée writes. “While the Mac was born naked – where are the apps? – the JesusPhone came into the world (nearly) fully formed. It had, or quickly built, a full support system: apps in the App Store (no waiting for a modern day Lotus Jazz to emerge); the iPod; the Mac; the Apple Stores; and, last but not least, the iPad. (I’ll leave the newer Apple TV running iOS under the hood aside – for the moment.)”

“The notion that the iOS platform will lose to Android ‘the way Mac OS lost to Windows’ ignores history and disregards facts such as the growth of the iPhone and iPad. (Apple’s mobile share grew 115%, Q1/2010 to Q1/2011). It ignores the fact that Apple has the biggest market cap of the entire high-tech industry. In market cap terms: 1 Microsoft + 6 Adobes ≈ 1 Apple,” Gassée writes. “Still on Microsoft, Apple now has more revenue and, this last quarter, more profit than its old frenemy. And more cash, about $65B and counting.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As our own SteveJack explained back on on December 23, 2009:

iPhone isn’t the Mac, so stop comparing them. To draw an analogy between the Mac and iPhone platforms simply highlights… ignorance of the vast differences between the two business situations. Look at the iPod, not the Mac, to see how this will play out.

Google Android offers the same messy, inconsistent Windows PC “experience,” but without any cost savings, real or perceived. Windows only thrived back in the mid-90s because PCs (and Macs) were so expensive; the upfront cost advantage roped in a lot of people, who were, frankly, ignorant followers who did what their similarly-ignorant co-workers and friends told them to do. Microsoft still coasts along on that momentum today.

I’d call any Android device the “Poor Man’s iPhone,” but you have to spend just as much, if not more, to partake in an increasingly fragmented and inferior platform. There’s no real reason to choose Android, people settle for Android. “I’d have bought an iPhone if Verizon offered them.” Just look what’s happening in any country where iPhone is offered on multiple carriers. It’s a bloodbath.

Apple offers consistency to developers of both software and hardware. Just look at the vibrant third-party accessories market for iPhone vs. the Zune-like handful of oddball items for Android. If you make a case or a vehicle mount, does it pay to make 44 different Android accessories whose total addressable audience numbers under 1 million each, or to make one or two for what’s [well over] 100 million iPhone/iPod touch devices? As Apple’s iPhone expands onto more and more carriers, Android’s only real selling point (“I’m stuck on Verizon or some other carrier that doesn’t offer the iPhone”) evaporates.

Related articles:
NPD: Apple iPhone 4 for Verizon best-selling mobile phone in U.S.; causes Android to lose share for first time since Q209 – April 28, 2011
Why iOS app developers may be in for a 2nd gold rush – February 2, 2011
The iPhone is not the Mac, so stop trying to compare them – December 23, 2009


    1. Please stop calling Android “stupid man’s iPhone.” that’s insult to stupid man. Android is “self important man’s iPhone.” OK?

      After all, a self important man could never believe that he is wrong.

    1. Gasse – of all the folks who have been part of Apple’s leadership – was closest to Steve’s DNA and vision. His BeOS was a decade ahead of its time as a multimedia friendly OS and had real cool factor. If Apple were to ever lose Steve, Tim Cook can run the company, but bringing Gasse back could supply the X factor needed to assure its edge in innovation.

  1. Imagine what the world would look like if all the morons who call themselves “analysts” got jobs doing something they’re actually qualified for, like selling shoes!

  2. Quote from article and a warning to us all to avoid turning into pawns for the amusement and benefit of others – take the time to gather facts and think for yourself.

    “I doubt Fred Wilson believes a word of his doomsday scenario. He’s a world-class business model expert and isn’t confused about the difference between (almost) free licensing to support advertising and a hardcore hardware business model such as Apple’s. He, too, is pulling our leg and advancing one theory as an IQ test, as a way to separate people who believe too easily from those who take the time to gather facts and think for themselves – a breed of people we VCs are always on the lookout for.”

  3. Gassée makes excellent points. Another important difference between early Macs and IOS is that IT kept Macs out of the enterprise but they have been unable to keep IOS out (much as they have tried).

    Minor correction: There was Mac Spreadsheet in 1984 (Mulitplan from Microsoft).

    1. Correction: IT did not keep Macs out of the Enterprise!

      Apple actually sucked at the Enterprise and the mac blew chunks from an IT management perspective in the 90s.

      No multi-user, cooperative multitasking, unprotected memory, no directory services…. the list could go on and on!

      Really stop spouting this garbage cause if the Mac had been worth two bits of piss and actually delivered what businesses were looking for we would have a vastly different landscape today.

      Many of us tried, really we did, and at the end of the day the Mac just was not cutting it anymore for Corp IT in the 90s.

      OS x is a different breed of Cat and fits in quite well in the Enterprise.

      1. The Mac had no viruses requiring extra IT dweebs to hunt, repair and wait for the next round. Job security was a powerful incentive to block the Macintosh at every turn.

        Actually, no Macintosh viruses is inaccurate. There were perhaps 60 actual viruses (give or take a few) released against the Classic Mac OS over it’s 20 year lifespan. Here we are at year 10 of Mac OS X and there have been ZERO, aside from rigged public demonstrations.

        I saw one once

        1. That is flat out ridiculous. There was no “incentive” to keep the mac out of the enterprise so IT people could keep their jobs.

          No one I know in IT likes dealing with viruses and malware. Seriously that argument holds as much weight as accusing your dentist of planting sugar in your mouth so he can fix cavities later on and stay employed!

          The mac wasn’t blocked, it was deemed to not meet the requirements in many cases.

          On OS9 and under you had no real access controls on data, no auditing ability, no way to centralize management of user accounts, software policies, security policies or any of the things that became important to the enterprise as computers changed the way we all did business.

          There were some hacks and third party tools but nothing truly integrated into MacOS.

          On the flip side you had MS with NT, NTFS and (eventually) Active Directory followed by SMS. That pretty much sealed the deal and was the kiss of death for the Mac.

          That was purely Apple’s doing, probably had a lot to do with CEOs in the seat of Apple Computer who were anyone OTHER than Steve Jobs. Not that he would have taken the enterprise seriously but he sure went to work creating a modern OS when he returned and that was sorely needed.

      2. The article and my comments pertain to the mid to late 80’s, not to the 90’s. One of they key points of the article was that unlike IOS, the Mac had it tough from the beginning

        1. Gotcha.

          I think a lot of computing systems had it rough in the 80s. It was kind of the wild west. You had many competing platforms (nice for consumers).

          A lot of companies went with who they trusted (IBM) in the new landscape.

          I was a Commodore 64 and Amiga junkie back then. I liked the Mac from an ergonomic standpoint and thought the SE was pretty cool how it was compact and self contained but the multimedia abilities of the Amiga got my attention! 🙂

  4. The full article is excellent. I would frame the larger issue somewhat differently: There was never a Mac/Windows OS war — the Mac lost long before MS limped to market with a version that kinda ran. The Mac lost to “IBM compatible” in the mid-80s — which is how a great many people made their buying decisions back then — and never recovered (until SJ came back, that is).

    1. Errrr… that is a pretty stretched view of the reality, which is that Steve had VERY little decision-making power back then. Lisa and Apple III weren’t his projects. In fact, he basically was exiled to the Mac team which had roughly 100 members during it development phase (out of thousands of Apple employees). After the Mac shipped, he had significant involvement in just one more product – the LaserWriter, which was hardly a failure. Steve left because he lost a power struggle with the board and John Sculley – not because Apple was in trouble.

      1. Actually, Steve was on the Lisa project for awhile, and went from there to the Mac. But to the main point: Jobs practically tore the company apart. His Mac division (and it was all his) against the rest of the company. He was influential and powerful in the company way beyond his title. By mid 1985 the company was floundering and needed to pull itself together, but it couldn’t with Jobs there.

        He didn’t cause all their problems, but you could make a good case that he forced the Mac out before powerful enough hardware was cost effective (and even as it was, his antipathy to internal hard drives didn’t help) — to the detriment of the Apple III, which was the natural competitor to the IBM PC, but had a rough launch and never recovered.

        Steve’s time in the “wilderness” was well spent, and he came back, I’d say, the best tech CEO ever.

      2. I don’t know what happened to my reply, but whatever. Actually, Ralph, Steve went to the Mac project from the Lisa project (I believe he was booted from the former). But to the main point, Jobs was influential and powerful far beyond his titles. He practically set up a separate company with the Mac team (it was all his) — pirate flags and all. It was tearing up the company at a time when Apple was was seriously floundering: the Apple III had a rough launch with early defects and never recovered; the Lisa was practically DOA (sigh, I had one and loved it); and the Mac was premature. By mid-1985 there was serious speculation as to whether Apple would survive (sounds familiar, I know, but things were genuinely bleak). Apple needed to pull itself together, and Steve was doing just the opposite.

        The point was that Microsoft didn’t have anything to do with Apple’s woes — they were barely on the radar screen at that point, except as the company that made the “IBM compatible” market bigger than IBM and Compaq. and Excel did the Mac some good.

        1. I guess it is all in your point of view. I served on Apple’s user advisory group during that time as a Mac guy and, yeah, there were definitely tensions with the Apple II crowd. But from my perspective Steve had a much clearer vision of the future than those who were interested in incremental improvements to the Apple II and evolutionary (and badly engineered) products such as the Apple III. In my opinion, the wrong side won and THAT was the start of Apple’s problems for the next eleven years.

          By the way, I bought a Lisa in late 1983 and loved that machine – it took Apple another six years to ship a Mac with the same elegant user experience.

          1. Agreed on the Lisa, Ralph. Actually, mine was a Lisa 2/10, which I bought in early 1984. I used to say that if you believed in the Mac UI and approach to computing, had the $$ for an IBM XT, but needed to get serious work done, you got a Lisa.

            I was among those on CompuServe who raised a ruckus when Apple canceled the Lisa — got me my 15 minutes in InfoWorld at the time. I just happened to be going through old stuff and ran across that issue (June 24, 1985), which happened to be focused on Apple’s travails (one of the earliest of the “Apple is doomed” genre). I eventually got the ROM chip and migrated to Mac XL — once Excel was available.

            I just recently rescued my Lisa from a storage unit, but somehow lost the Lisa ROM chip along the way. Too bad: I was eager to try to get it up and running again with Lisa 7/7 installed.

  5. Gassée hurt Apple in many ways by insisting on 49%-54% profit margins on each Mac. If he could have lived with maybe 30% margins then maybe the Mac would have saturated the market with would have facilitated software development.
    Maybe Apple was not capable of turning out high volumes of Macs at the time. We will never know since Apple is such a secretive company.
    Of course the fact that Apple was to arrogant to supply Software Development tools to the software developers did not help either.
    Gassée was a strong willed individual who had John Scully running scared whenever an issue came up. John Scully could not make the needed decisions (accept for firing Steve Jobs) that needed to be make.
    John Scully and Gil Amelio got paid so much money upfront that they really had no vested interested in insuring Apple’s success!
    Michael Spindler on the other hand may have had a brilliant mind but he was a total loser as a CEO.

  6. Intel is going down the same road that Apple went down.
    Intel is selling into untapped markets such as the near East and it is trying like the devil to keep its profit margins up on Microprocessors.
    Intel is doing its best to lower the pay of its workers which is part of the strategy of Intel building Fab 68 in China where workers can be paid in “bowls of rice”. Intel also built an assembly plant in North Vietnam of all places!

  7. Why Intel cannot get into the cellphone market and Apple is kicking butt in cellphones.
    Intel built a first and a second iteration of its “P884” chip. The chip had onboard logic, flask memory, and analog circuitry. The problem with the chip is that it only afforded a “20 minute” battery life!
    Only Intel would try to sell such a useless product.
    No one wanted it.
    Marvell finally bought all rights and processes to the P884 chips and started outsourcing the fabrication to TSMC (foundry fab) in Taiwan.
    Intel’s Atom chips is a shrunk down Pentium chips that is so underpowered that it is pathetic.
    Of course Intel laid off 3000 people, all of whom were promised that their jobs were safe!
    As for Apple, it uses a great design for its cellphone. Apple also taps the extremely low wage workers in China to do its manufacturing.

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