How Apple lost its way: The simplicity Steve Jobs loved is gone

“Though Apple’s customers remain fiercely loyal, the natives are getting restless. A growing number of people are sensing that Tim Cook’s Apple isn’t as simple as Steve’s Apple,” Ken Segall writes for The Guardian. “They see complexity in expanding product lines, confusing product names, and the products themselves.”

“My experience with Steve has led me to admire Apple – but I also believe in tough love. This is a good time to put emotions aside and take a cold, hard look at Apple’s current ‘state of simplicity,'” Segall writes. “First, we need to get one critical fact out of the way: Steve Jobs cannot be replaced. He had the credibility of the founder, extraordinary instinct, vision and energy, and he could make things happen by sheer force of will. It’s just not possible for Apple to be the same without him – but it can still succeed. Tim Cook has a different style… Steve’s vision, strength and charisma made him the benevolent dictator – able to align all the forces within Apple. That kind of performance doesn’t come as naturally to Tim.”

“With the current models consisting of iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and SE, Apple’s naming scheme is becoming noticeably less simple” Segall writes. “Then there’s the issue of the S. For some reason, Apple has decided that every other year, it should just add an S to the current model number, because the S-year improvements are internal only. So Apple’s own actions have served to train the public that S years are the ‘off years.’ This is an absurdity, given that such revolutionary features as Siri, Touch ID and 64-bit processing have all been introduced in S models. The S naming has only served to confuse customers, and make it significantly more difficult for marketing to do its job.”

Tons more in the full article – recommended – here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yes.

That’s been one of my mantras: Focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. — Steve Jobs

Death to the S!

As we wrote last September:

Apple, enough with the stupid iPhone ‘S’ naming already.

iPhone “S” years usher in hugely significant features, such as oleophobic displays, significant GPU improvements, world phone capability, Siri personal assistant, video stabilization, panorama photos, 64-bit processors, TD-LTE support, Touch ID, and 3D Touch, among other improvements and additions. Each year’s iPhone deserves its own number. By not doing so, Apple is shooting itself in the foot; handicapping iPhones with an “S” every other year. Why Tim Cook or Phil Schiller haven’t put an end to this stupid – yes, stupid – “S” naming is inexplicable. Why don’t you just name it “iPhone No Big Deal This Year,” Tim and Phil?

Here’s what you say onstage and in the press release when there’s no “iPhone 7s” and you jump directly from iPhone 7 to iPhone 8: “The improvements are such that the new iPhone deserves its own number.” Period. Done. Mission accomplished. It’s your naming convention, Apple, and you can correct your stupid mistake at any time.

And from April:

Apple should strive to execute annual iPhone updates, in three display sizes if the SE is successful (which we think it will be), and drop the off-year “S” model concept. Apple is certainly big enough and rich enough to do a new iPhone family each and every year. Apple should have killed the tock year “S” model idea years ago.

What’s happened with iPhone is painfully obvious: Apple was at least a year (more likely two years) late with properly-sized iPhones. When iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus finally, blessedly materialized, buyers quite literally stampeded to get them. Then, when faced with such a “tough compare” this year, Apple was still sticking with their ill-conceived “S” model concept – making the tough compare much, much tougher.

The “iPhone 7” family – three models with the same case design and all with 3D Touch — comprised of the 4-inch iPhone 7 SE, the 4.7-inch iPhone 7, and the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus — should have debuted last September. That would have taken care of the current tough compare with iPhone 6/Plus. Then, this year, the iPhone 8 family, again with a new case design, but now waterproof, with dual cameras, etc. would debut this September. In 2017, perhaps Liquidmetal and AMOLED will be ready go for the iPhone 9. Etcetera. No more “S” years, Apple. Duh.

Had Apple done as we’ve just described, they’d have sold millions more iPhone units this year and millions upon millions more each year going forward.

Apple’s raison d’être is to delight customers. “S” model “tock” year iPhones do not delight customers in the same way as new “tick” year models. Obviously. They’re still the best smartphones on the planet, but they’re just okay. A bit of a meh. We all know that “S” models exist so Apple can wring out nice margins from existing designs and tooling, not expressly to delight customers. When Apple strays from its main goal is when things get wobbly. Just delight customers, Apple, and the world will beat a path to your door.

If we didn’t work for MacDailyNews, we’d have skipped the iPhone 6s Plus and held onto our iPhone 6 Plus units with no qualms – and we’re the most rabid Day One iPhone buyers you’ll ever find.

Why have an annual iPhone upgrade program, if you’re not going to wow us annually with new iPhones?

Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015


  1. The problem is not naming schemes; the problem is retaining obsolete technology in the lineup. When the iPhone 6 came out, the iPhone 5 should have vanished from the lineup. When the newer iPad versions came out the iPad 2 should have vanished. The MacBook should have eliminated MacBook Air.

    Too many choices simply confuse then customer, and the obsolete products are only retained to squeeze out more profit.

    THAT is the difference between Steve Jobs and Tim Cook: Cook tries to please shareholders, suppliers, resellers, potential foreign markets and everyone else like business managers do while Steve Jobs didn’t really give a crap about pleasing anyone. He was focused on creating the future, not trying to make people happy in the present.

  2. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he saw a lot of bloat… He reduced the product lines by 70%. The strategy was to have limited devices. For the Mac’s for example, there were four. One desktop and one portable for consumers (iBook and iMac) and another set for professionals (Powerbook, Power Macintosh). That is it.

    Look at it now.

    Mac Mini
    iMac 21.5 Standard
    iMac 21.5 Retina
    iMac 27 Retina 5K
    Mac Pro

    MacBook (12 inch)
    MacBook Air (11 & 13)
    MacBook Pro (13 & 15)

    iPad Mini 2 (last year model)
    iPad Mini 4
    iPad Air 2
    iPad Pro (9.7 & 12.9)

    iPhone SE
    iPhone 6
    iPhone 6s

    Apple Watch
    Apple Watch Sport

    Apple TV 3 (last year model)
    Apple TV 4 (32 & 64 GB)

    iPod Shuffle (last year model)
    iPod Nano (last year model)
    iPod Touch (last year model) (16/32/64/128 GB)

    Come on, who is in charge? John Scully? Gil Amelio? Jean-Louis Gasse? Oh, wait. It is Tim Cook.

  3. Just sort out the Mac Laptops that’s where the naming conventions are terrible and worryingly suggests to the buyer the company doesn’t know what it is doing. There simply is no logic at all currently. How difficult is it to get that right expecially a year after they confused everyone in the first place with the new, now second gen MacBooks.

    1. He’s an ad guy who overemphasises branding, living in the long shadow of Jobs who obsessed about it. Post-Jobs, the company and the world have changed. Ken, and a lot of others who miss the old days, lament and fuss, hoping to force Apple to Get Back to where they once belonged. It may not be possible.

      Ken’s first book was about simplicity under Jobs. His new book is about what CEOs today consider is the value of simplicity. I predict he’ll continue to publish books about Jobsian simplicity because it’s a popular but elusive ideal, one that draws a great many people to Ken’s speaking engagements.

      1. That’s interesting!

        Simplicity as a subject is poorly understood. I rant about it around here frequently enough that I won’t bother today.

        But I will point out that simplicity in the use and application of technology is the great goal. The vast majority of people aren’t going to know or want to know the actual technology. They just want to get things done as Q&E (Quick and Easy) as possible, the eternal marketing term and customer need.

        1. Since you know so much about simplicity, read both books then let’s discuss. The vast majority may want simplicity, but those who control technology may not, and there are reasons why Steve Jobs’s legacy as articulated by Ken Segal may be begging a few points. Remember, there is always one more variable, one more parameter unaccounted for in the “perfect” equation that purports to Explain It All..

  4. I’m not confused. The S is an “on year”, your getting (hopefully) a debugged and refined product. Apple can also reduce some of their prohibitively expensive tooling costs too therefore keeping prices competitive. It’s common sense!

  5. Apple needs to do something about Mac OSX, which become as bloated a monstrosity as Windows. I have the newest, fastest MacBook Pro and iMac and I spend more time watching the spinning beachball of death than ever before.

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