The curious case of Tim Cook, operations genius, and the missing iMacs

Bloomberg Contributing Editor Paul Kedrosky discusses the Apple iMac shipping delays on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg West.”

Paul Kedrosky: This [iMac situation] is, at best puzzling, and, at worst, a condemnation of what’s happening inside the company because it speaks you both managing the supply chain, sure, but also just the straight up manufacturablity of their products. If you’re unable to manufacture products that you’re speccing, at the volumes that you anticipate selling, that suggests that your selling products that you haven’t gone though the right manufacturing validation for – and that goes directly to Tim Cook’s feet.

I think what’s happening is that the company is losing sight of manufacturability when builds product and you can say what;s probably happening is that Jony Ives [sic] is increasingly, you know, running the show; we’re getting some lovely, aesthetically-designed products, but there’s no tension on the other side saying, “Hey, wait a minute, Jony, this product; we’re going to have problems here, here, here, and here in terms of getting enough units of flat panels or memory or whatever else and so, as a result, the manufacture of these products is probably going to be poor and we’re going to have problems satisfying our customers which means that, they’re not just going to wait around for us, they’re going to go somewhere else.

MacDailyNews Take: Kedrosky doesn’t understand Mac users, that much is sure.

Paul Kedrosky: What I think you’re really seeing under the hood here, is sort of the , you know, usurping a great deal of the executive control at Apple by the design staff led by Jony Ives [sic] and, as a result, what Apple used to be good at, which was this tension between design and manufacturability, with manufacturability led by Cook, that’s gone. Now it’s: “Let’s build pretty stuff and maybe one day we can figure out how to ship it in volume” and it’s shareholders who are finding out the consequences of that.

Direct link to video here.

MacDailyNews Take: Does Kedrosky offer proof to back up his claims? Nope. Until we see some actual proof, this remains just a little fiction spun entirely in Kedrosky’s head. Apple screwed up with the iMac supply. Everyone knows it. Nobody knows why. This is because Apple insists on sitting there mum and, as they will hopefully someday finally figure out, in the absence of information, information will be created to fill the void.

Kedrosky is offering his explanation. He doesn’t understand the level of Mac users’ loyalty and he confuses iPhone users with Mac users, to boot. He doesn’t even know Jony Ive’s name; it’s “Ive,” not “Ives.” (Burl Ives, Jony Ive, m’kay, Paul?) Plus Kedrosky offers no proof that iPhone users went elsewhere during initial product shortages. In fact, all of the verifiable proof we have says otherwise:

• Apple tops Samsung, becomes largest mobile phone vendor in U.S. in Q4 2012 – February 1, 2013
Almost half of Verizon’s record iPhone sales were Apple iPhone 5 units – January 22, 2013
• Apple iPhone continues lead with 51.2% U.S. market share as Android users increasingly switch to iPhone – January 22, 2013
Apple iPhone takes 53.3% of U.S. smartphone sales, Android falls to 41.9% – January 7, 2013

In the end, however, Kedrosky cannot be blamed for weaving whatever fairy tale he wants to weave; it’s Apple’s institutionalized cone of silence that’s to blame for creating the information vacuum in the first place. In other words, just tell us that the friction-stir welding process (or whatever) ran into an unforeseen snag and that you’re working on the issue and hope to have iMacs in customers’ hands ASAP, Apple. It’s okay to simply admit and explain the issues to customers, Apple. We’ll understand. Really, we will.

With such a simple statement, none of this soap opera bovine excrement would be floating around out there.

Related article:
Paul Kedrosky on what’s gone wrong at Apple: Power balance has been altered – February 2, 2013


  1. I disagree with Kedrosky. Constrained iMac supply shows Apple is doing what it has always done: push the design envelope. For products, key components, and even for production equipment. While Apple has made all this look easy in the past, it is unrealistic to think this gonzo approach must always yield solutions within the desired time frame. (Not to mention that Apple’s products are getting increasingly sophisticated, and must be produced in larger quantities.) Sometimes reality is a constraint. If the iMacs could not be produced in quantity, there is surely a good reason for it, and Apple no doubt has smart, dedicated, and hard-working people working to find a solution. On the bright side: (1) the new iMacs will be produced in quantity sooner than would be the case if Apple had not pushed to make it happen, (2) iMac sales will be delayed, not lost, and (3) the moat around this product will be huge, since no competitor will have the production expertise to make anything like it. Yes, the delays are unfortunate. No, it does not reflect a fundamental change at Apple. It is perhaps a good opportunity to practice patience.

  2. Still waiting for my CTO 27″. Ordered on the first day of release…..
    Took an email to Tim Cook to get a response and now expecting it this week instead of the recently advised Feb 18th.
    Happy it’s coming but Apple really needs to improve its communication about realistic ship times and ensure it prioritises the earliest orders once it has fixed up production

  3. Does Kedrosky offer proof to back up his claims?

    The last couple of years have shown betaware as Gold Master SW and many HW shipments are late or heavily restricted in availability.

    Cook’s claim to fame was that he made the trains run on time and on budget- a great operations man. In recent times it seems that ops are not where they should be.

  4. Tim Cook lack the consistency and vision on Steve.

    Why did they not do what they did when they released iPad retina, keep to older cheaper iPad 2 to forfill customer demands.

    The most damaging aspect of this debacle is not the the onesies or twosies home or fanboy purchases. But the corporate business users with no supply line or alternative.

    This is why no supply/IT manager will ever be sacked for choosing to purchase PC’s for their organization.

    We have had to stoop as low as supply 2nd hand dual core 24″ imacs as a temporary solution. Its down right embarrassing so good on someone kicking Apple on national TV why should we be quiet when Apple have taken our money.

  5. I would say about 75% of all of the complaints I hear about TC are neither new nor exclusive to him. It wasn’t until quite late in the game that SJ could come out with a new product and then have enough to cover demand for the first 3-8 months.

    As for design, now that SJ is gone it becomes very apparent that the design team he oversaw, nay, worked with, was no slouch – it becomes very apparent to us and to them. Now if they can’t just realize that they really are the sum of all their parts I think they can give TC something to work with.

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