Mossberg: Why Apple is like a movie studio

“Steve Jobs has been dead for about two and a half years now, and it’s hard not to notice that the regular parade of game-changing Apple products for which he was famous seems to have disappeared with him,” Walt Mossberg writes for Re/code. “Yes, Apple has announced some impressive features and design changes in the last couple of years. The iPhone has gained fingerprint recognition that actually works almost every time. The new iPad Air is has been made amazingly skinny and light, while actually increasing battery life.”

“And, yes, in the 2013 holiday season, the company once again set new sales records for iPhones and iPads, even as its share of the smartphone and tablet markets declined in the face of an onslaught of mostly inferior, but faster-selling, competitors from a host of companies using Google’s free Android operating system,” Mossberg writes. “But there have been no new game-changing products, the kind that establish whole new categories, or which finally get product categories right after others had attempted for years to do so. The last of these, the original iPad, was released four years ago this month.”

MacDailyNews Take:

• iPhone was released 5 years, 7 months, and 19 days after iPod.
• iPad was released 2 years, 9 months, and 5 days after iPhone.
• Tim Cook has been Apple CEO for 2 years, 7 months, and 30 days.

“Some have argued that Apple’s era of greatness is over, that with CEO Tim Cook sitting in Mr. Jobs’s chair, the magic is gone, and Apple is now, at best, just an ordinary company. Others have countered that, financially, Apple is still doing quite well, and that there’s no evidence that it’s out of ideas,” Mossberg writes. “But I think the most useful way of thinking about Apple is to see it as a movie studio. Studios release blockbuster franchise movies every few years, and then try to live off a series of sequels until the next big, successful franchise.”

“Steering the company through what must have been a tough transition in recent years, Cook has done just enough to keep his sequels appealing. I still believe that — when you combine hardware, software and the ecosystem — the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air remain best-in-class,” Mossberg writes. “Sometime in the next six to eight months, I expect we’ll see if Cook is the kind of producer who grinds out too many sequels, or the kind who brings forth an original ‘Godfather’ or ‘Spider-Man.'”

Much more in the full article here.

37 Comments

  1. “Sometime in the next six to eight months, I expect we’ll see if Cook is the kind of producer who grinds out too many sequels, or the kind who brings forth an original ‘Godfather’ or ‘Spider-Man.’”

    Is Walt – always lovable except when he demonstrates reality – now a troll? Is there anything – anything at all – about what he says here that any of the MDN lemmings will accept as a completely accurate description of what’s going on in the Tim Cook darkness? Anything?

    1. The problem that I (and I think many others) have with these sorts of articles is that they ignore realty. Apple was NOT birthing magical new products every year under Steve Jobs. As MDN noted above, it takes years to develop a real game-changer. If Tim Cook were CEO for at least 5+ years, I could agree with some complaints but he hasn’t been helming the company for even three!

      1. That’s all you’ve got, silverhawk and you are totally sophomoric without any meaningful response to those who don’t come here for the useless waste of time in praising the once great company that has become ordinary.

        1. Jay, you came here calling us lemmings which leads me to believe you didn’t want to discuss anything, but you were down for some trolling.

          Not getting enough attention lately?

        2. Hey Jay, what have you done that is so great? Does posting on MDN set the pinnacle of your achievements? Instead of putting Apple down because you feel entitled to being wowed every few months, how about creating your own mega company and making just one fantastic product?

    2. Yes, there will be unreasonable Apple fans (Arnold Ziffel, above, is an example) who will now bash Mossberg.

      But… Mossberg is actually right. If Apple does not come out with a new product in by the end of this calendar year, then it should be obvious to all that there really *is* a slowdown in the innovation at Apple.

      MDN’s constant statements of the timeline where MDN mixes product announcement dates with Tim Cook’s timeline is irrelevant. For Apple to keep its radical, new product timeline going this new product must have been *started* before Tim Cook took over. How it progressed and its eventual release are 100% under Tim Cook’s control.

      IF (a huge speculation) the initial concepts and designs were started four or more years ago and then starting 2 1/2 years ago once he took over Tim Cook slowed down the development cycle or killed it in favor of meeting some arbitrary financial goals, it *is* Tim Cook’s fault that the radical, new product will not be shipping this year.

      Remember, it took several years to develop the iPhone and iPad. People should remember that Steve Jobs, himself, stated that they started on the iPad *BEFORE* they started working on the iPhone. It was just that the technology to do a decent, innovative phone developed much, much more rapidly than that which was required for an innovative tablet resulting in the iPhone coming out first.

      It takes many years to develop ground breaking products. You don’t think of it today and have it shipping en mass in a couple years. However, the last two or three years before it finally ships are critical. There is a LOT of development and tweaking to make it *the* great product right up until all designs are frozen just a couple months before it finally ships. Those last couple years of any, theoretical new product by Apple are 100% under Tim Cook’s control.

      I’ve said it here before (Mossberg seems to just be waking up to this, and several other, sane observers are now saying it as well): Apple needs a new, innovative product by the end of 2014. If it does not, it will signal a change in Apple’s DNA. Will it spell doom and gloom for Apple? NO! Will it be the precursor for a new era of Dark Days? No. But, it will signal a significant change in Apple.

      1. It’s not really about a timeline. Showing the full timeline of all of Apple’s successful new/disruptive products is useful to put things in context, but in reality, the basis of measurement is looking at the competition.

        “But there have been no new game-changing products, the kind that establish whole new categories, or which finally get product categories right after others had attempted for years to do so. The last of these, the original iPad, was released four years ago this month.”

        See, that’s exactly it. Jobs & Co. were always stating that they didn’t just expand into any market with a product, but rather they looked at where they could go an unique provide a better experience.

        In other words, what’s needed is for us to scream, “Apple save us from the hellish landscape of mechanical keyboard phones with tiny screens” or “Save us from crappy netbooks” or whatever the next category of product will be.

        The discontent needs to be there first. And then Apple needs to be in a unique position to radically alter the industry.

        Car entertainment systems have been one of this things. Fscked up for years beyond belief. What do we have coming out now? CarPlay.

        I think it’s one thing to be critical of Apple not doing enough with things like the Apple TV, or asking why can’t we have a phablet, but it’s important to note that also during the Jobs era many things didn’t work out well and many products and services took a while to evolve into the right thing.

        I do think if we end this year without an upgrade to the Apple TV, without an iWatch/fitness band*, and without a larger screen iPhone, it’s worth asking what’s going on at Apple that they can’t evolve these things that are clearly wanted by consumers (when the competition can), but in terms of innovative and disruptive product launches, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t look back at this time and see that things like CarPlay did in fact end up having the same impact just played out long term.

        *iWatch/fitness band… Depending on the product, it could be innovative and disruptive, or it could simply be a niche accessory that while being successful, isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things.

      1. I see, so with the last 2 iPhone reviews where he stated it was the best phone on the market, he wasn’t being objective? Just being a fanboy and all, and not rating the phone on it’s merits eh?
        When he called MobileMe out to be the debacle it really was, he wasn’t being objective; just a hater eh? Nevermind the fact that Apple publicly apologized for said debacle but facts schmacts… agreeing with Apples own opinion obviously isn’t objective right?
        When he called Apple Maps out to be a debacle it really was, he wasn’t being objective here either right? Even though again there was a public apology over this and a very senior high level executive was fired… Walt’s opinion was completely unfounded eh?

        So which one is it? Either he’s only objective in your mind when he says something positive? Or maybe just maybe you care a lot about Apple and their products which is fine; we all do and it’s the reason that we are glued to Apple blogs when we get the chance. However you don’t actually care about the company if your devout loyalty goes beyond being able to acknowledge objective criticism… You care more about tour own perception of the company; not the company itself.

  2. What about the Mac Pro? No one attempted to do a desktop like it. No one never dreamed of it. Because it is a nice product people say it is just another desktop, but ask someone that uses a Mac Pro for work, and he/she will tell it is a game changer.

    1. You are correct, Marco… the problem is that Cook & Co. committed the blunder of all time with this wondrous machine arriving too late to capture the huge corporate/government market that would have been possible had the Mac Pro come around at least a couple of years ago or, even better, when Steve was running it into the ground by declaring Apple had been converted to a mobile device company and no longer interested in building “trucks.” We can only imagine what might have been with a one-of-a-kind computer that nothing else, especially MSoft, could have ever touched.. Instead we have wonderful mobile devices – just like everyone else.

    2. The new Mac Pro does not count. It does neither of 1) creating a new product category for Apple (e.g., iPod, iPhone, and iPad) or 2) radically changing a category to open it up to much, much larger sales (e.g., iMac and XServe). While the new Mac Pro is a major step forward in Desktop Computer architectures, it is still just an evolutionary step that does not *significantly* move Apple forward.

      1. Well, the iPhone was not a new thing. It only was new to Apple, but we can’t forget Apple had Newton before. So the only magical thing to the smartphone was the OS and the touch sensitiveness, packed in a way that make it all work easier and different from before.

        A new product category for Apple came in more or less 30 years. The next game changer category or product is 10-15 years away.

        I tell you more, the next game change will be in the software side. Because today it still complex to someone learn a language to make an app.

  3. Mossberg is just acknowleging the pink elephant in the room… Tim Cook is a DUD!

    The sooner the world and MDN apologists recognize this fact, the sooner we can save Apple.

    This guy only cares about gay rights, pretends to care about workplace diversity, but is only really concerned with changing Apple’s logo to a rainbow, while strutting around San Francisco and West Hollywood in tiger shorts.

    Tim Cook is an incompetent. We will all die and go straight to hell before this clown ever grows a visionary bone in his scrawny little effeminate body.

    I know you guys are tired of hearing this, but just remember that lies can passify but the truth hurts!

    1. Repetition of whining hurts too.

      Steve Jobs released new products when they were ready, not before, and not on any other kind of schedule or regular pattern.

      Until Cook introduces a half baked product, or several years go buy without anything major, there is not enough data to conclude anything.

    2. Take your homophobic rant elsewhere.

      Tim Cook has done more for Apple than any other CEOs except Steve Jobs and John Sculley — and has had none of the major false steps that Sculley had. You want to name incompetent CEOs? Look at any between Sculley and the return of Jobs. And, to the best of anyone’s knowledge no one claimed any of them were gay or had gay leanings.

      As I’ve already stated, the story is still unwritten as to whether Tim Cook will measure up to the innovation scale of Steve Jobs, but the time frame to prove himself is coming to a close by the end of this calendar year.

  4. People seem to forget how few truly innovative form factors have EVER come along in personal computing, let alone every two to three years.

    I don’t have time this morning to research the years between, so I’ll guess and someone else can correct me, BUT . . .
    Apple I and II (late 1970s)

    Macintosh (5-6 years later in 1984)

    Laptop versions (really not anything like we have today until the mid 1990s, so 10 years after Mac)

    Newton/PDAs/Cell phones with some data features (late 1990s, so another 5 years after laptops)

    iPod (2001, so another few years after PDAs and first smarter cell phones)

    iPhone (2007, very large gap between iPod and iPhone)

    iPad (2010, this took a couple of years and was somewhat more obvious given the capabilities of the iPhone)

    The point is of my rant is that revolutionary form factors are not generally going to happen every 2 to 3 years. The ones worth doing sometimes take a decade to bake.

    Smart watches? All signs are pointing to “yes” for Apple — the one company that really tries to get it right the first time instead of throwing poo against your wrist to see what sticks.

    My patience is far from running out given the historical trends of personal computing, though I will judge Apple on what it produces in the next new category (and I will judge harshly if they rush it).

  5. Does the nMP count for innovation? The fact it is being manufactured in the USA, granted slowly. Both took time to develop. The fact Apple is powering all of their data centers with renewable energy is another area. I believe we will see a lot more from Apple at WWDC and thru the rest of the year.

  6. “Google’s free Android operating system”

    No such thing, Walt.

    Microsoft is getting a drag on just about every “free” Android device being sold or is suing to get one thanks to patent infringement. Apple is going down the same road- both through direct legal action and through Rockstar.

    True, Google does not charge manufacturers for use of Android. What is not true is that it is free. Time will tell, but the patent licensing fees are adding up.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.