Apple’s desperate Mac Pro damage control message hints at a confused, divided company

“Earlier this week Apple held what can only be described as an emergency damage control press conference meant to reassure customers that the company hasn’t forgotten about the desktop Mac,” Adrian Kingsley-Hughes writes for ZDNet. “But instead of feeling reassured, I feel the meeting highlighted divisions within Apple.”

“The first thing that struck me was the Apple executives who were and weren’t present at the meeting. Present were Phil Schiller (SVP worldwide marketing), Craig Federighi (SVP software engineering), John Ternus (VP hardware engineering), and Bill Evans (Sr. Director Corporate Communications),” Kingsley-Hughes writes. “Not present were CEO Tim Cook and Chief Design Officer Jony Ive.”

Kingsley-Hughes writes, “Ive’s absence is interesting given Federighi’s claim that Apple ‘designed ourselves into a bit of a corner’ with the Mac Pro, and suggests that Ive had nothing to do with the Mac Pro and didn’t want to be caught up in any toxic fallout from that blunder.”

MacDailyNews Take: That’s an interesting conclusion to jump to so quickly. Why couldn’t Jony’s absence be because he believes in the Mac Pro that he designed and refused to denigrate it? Or because he doesn’t want to answer the obvious questions about his form-over-function dead-end design? There are any number of plausible alternate conclusions to Ive’s absence. Suggesting that “Ive had nothing to do with the Mac Pro” rings exceedingly hollow to us. Would Jony really have nothing to do with the design of Apple’s top-of-the-line Macintosh?

“There was also something else that you don’t normally see from Apple — desperation. It was so palpable that Mashable’s Ulanoff even commented on it: ‘Part of the reason Schiller and company are talking to us in between product cycles is an almost desperate need to communicate to Mac Pro users Apple’s continuing commitment to the market,'” Kingsley-Hughes writes. “I’d also wager that there’s a split at Apple as to its future, with Cook and Ive, along with Eddy Cue (SVP internet software and services) and Jeff Williams (COO) seeing the future belonging to the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, while Schiller, Federighi, and Ternus still seeing a future — and profits — in high-end Macs.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: After years of cutting him slack — first hopefully, later charitably — asserting that “those who underestimate Tim Cook are in for a rude awakening,” even as the avoidable mistakes kept piling up*, perhaps it’s time to openly question if “the operations guy from Compaq” was the best choice for Apple’s CEO? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time Steve Jobs made the wrong CEO pick.

If the core problem isn’t with the CEO, but with certain Senior VPs who cannot successfully perform their jobs, then the problem remains the CEO, as he’s failing to properly correct his subordinates’ failures.

We get a lot of emails from AAPL shareholders here. More than a few of which fall into a theme that can be boiled down to this:

From Cook, we see lots of social justice crusading. Lots of personal and political opinions, oftentimes under the name “Apple” instead of just “Cook.” (By the way, is the net effect of all that helping or hurting Apple’s business worldwide?) But, beyond Apple Watch, where are the new products? And where are the expected and necessary product updates – Macs, Apple displays, etc.? Apple’s CEO seems confused about his primary focus. – Distilled from recent AAPL shareholder emails

*As we wrote last December:

Currently, when it comes to the Macintosh (and Apple TV, among other products and services), Apple under CEO Tim Cook is struggling.

“It’s not about charisma and personality, it’s about results and products.” — Steve Jobs

Cook, who never remotely threatened to offer either of the former attributes, is now obviously having difficulty delivering the latter.

The question is how far up the food chain does this mismanagement problem go? Is this fish rotting from the head down? Or is there a layer of incompetent upper management or an integral structural problem coming to light as Apple grows like a weed with post-Steve employees that’s gumming up the works?

Under Tim Cook, Apple has endured:

• John Browett
• Apple Maps launch debacle (tarring Maps with a bad rep to this day)
• No iMacs for Christmas 2012
• Massive undersupply of Apple Watch at launch, basically killing all momentum
• Massive undersupply of Apple Pencils and Smart Keyboards on hand for the iPad Pro launch
• No updated Mac Pro for 3+ years (an eternity in tech time, especially for pros)
• No updated Apple TV for Christmas 2016 (A 4K-capable Apple TV would have been so easy and it’s so obvious that it’s inexplicable and unforgivable not to have had this on the market)
• No Apple skinny bundle(s) for Apple TV while other companies ink deals and announce launches – these customers will be tough for Apple to get back once lost, if they ever get the deals signed. (Perhaps, Tim, you need to hire better negotiator(s) who can get the ink? Or make an acquisition that reshapes the industry, causing them to line up to work with you?)
• No compatible Remote app for Apple TV at launch
• No Apple Music capability in Siri on Apple TV at launch
• Apple TV remote looks to have been “designed” by Steve Ballmer himself (If Steve wasn’t already dead, the Apple TV Remote would have killed him; he would’ve had an aneurysm the second the mockup was handed to him)**
• Flagship iPhone launches without its flagship feature (Portrait mode) and is currently still only in “beta” (seriously?)
• No new iPads for Christmas 2016 (Even simply “refreshed” with current A-series processors would have created significantly more sales)
• No updated iMacs for Christmas 2016
• No updated Mac mini for 2+ years
• No AirPods in any meaningful supply for Christmas 2016

Unfortunately, that’s just a partial list of painfully obvious mistakes.

When you’re walking the halls, Tim, look at the walls once in a while. Hopefully, you’ll see these:

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have… It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” — Steve Jobs

“Real artists ship.” — Steve Jobs

In closing:

This is absolutely shameful for a company claiming to be a leader in technology.

Exactly how rich and big does Apple have to be before the company runs like it has more than five guys working 18-hour days trying to do everything? The world’s most valuable company is incapable of updating the Mac Pro for two and a half fscking years? Seriously? “Mismanagement” is not too strong a word to apply to the ongoing Mac Pro fiasco.

Just like every other human, there are things Tim Cook does very well and there are other things about which he seems painfully inept.

Hint: Make new Macs and update them with regularity while advertising them strongly. Obviously, as you might have noted by perusing iPad unit sales reports, not everyone has fallen for your “iPad is the next PC” meme, yet, Tim.

We only say that as those who were already Mac users for over 13 years at the point Cook was still over at Compaq trying to get his Windows PC to work.MacDailyNews, July 12, 2016

**With the Siri Remote, users can’t tell which end is up in a darkened room due to uniform rectangular shape. The remote is still too small, so it gets lost easily. All buttons are the same size and similarly smooth. Only the Siri button attempts to be different, but the slightness of its concavity is too subtle to matter; a raised dot on the button would have been much easier for users to feel. The tactile difference between the bottom of the remote vs. the upper Glass Touch surface is too subtle as well; this also leads to not being able to tell which end is up. A remote with a simple wedge shape (slightly thicker in depth at the bottom vs. the top), as opposed to a uniform slab, would have instantly communicated the proper orientation to the user.

SEE ALSO:
Who has taken over at Apple? – April 5, 2017
Apple’s embarrassing Mac Pro mea culpa – April 4, 2017
Who’s going to buy a Mac Pro now? – April 4, 2017
Mac Pro: Why did it take Apple so long to wake up? – April 4, 2017
Apple sorry for what happened with the Mac Pro over the last 3+ years – namely, nothing – April 4, 2017
Apple to unveil ‘iMac Pro’ later this year; rethought, modular Mac Pro and Apple pro displays in the pipeline – April 4, 2017
Apple’s apparent antipathy towards the Mac prompts calls for macOS licensing – March 27, 2017
Why Apple’s new Mac Pro might never arrive – March 10, 2017
Dare we hold out hope for the Mac Pro? – March 1, 2017
Apple CEO Cook pledges support to pro users, says ‘we don’t like politics’ at Apple’s annual shareholders meeting – February 28, 2017
Yes, I just bought a ‘new’ Mac Pro (released on December 19, 2013 and never updated) – January 4, 2017
Attention, Tim Cook! Apple isn’t firing on all cylinders and you need to fix it – January 4, 2017
No, Apple, do not simplify, get better – December 23, 2016
Rare video shows Steve Jobs warning Apple to focus less on profits and more on great products – December 23, 2016
Marco Arment: Apple’s Mac Pro is ‘very likely dead’ – December 20, 2016
How Tim Cook’s Apple alienated Mac loyalists – December 20, 2016
Apple’s not very good, really quite poor 2016 – December 19, 2016
Apple’s software has been anything but ‘magical’ lately – December 19, 2016
Lazy Apple. It’s not hard to imagine Steve Jobs asking, ‘What have you been doing for the last four years?’ – December 9, 2016
Rush Limbaugh: Is Apple losing their edge? – December 9, 2016
AirPods: MIA for the holidays; delayed product damages Apple’s credibility, stokes customer frustration – December 9, 2016
Apple may have finally gotten too big for its unusual corporate structure – November 28, 2016
Apple has no idea what they’re doing in the TV space, and it’s embarrassing – November 3, 2016
Apple’s disgracefully outdated, utterly mismanaged Mac lineup is killing sales – October 13, 2016
Apple takes its eye off the ball: Why users are complaining about Apple’s software – February 9, 2016
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015

91 Comments

  1. Ives may not have been at the meeting, but he was definitely in the promos. Now I suspect he’s in his mansion in San Francisco wiping the egg off of his face. The cylinder really IS a fascinating piece of engineering, but it was a dumb idea to try to implement it for something supposedly top of the line.

    Also, agreed about Eddie Cue – though possibly a very nice guy, he is a clown. I don’t know what they are thinking having him in such a visible senior position. Egos run riot.

  2. What I find odd about the Mac Pro screw-up is how relatively easy it would have been to set aside a small group of engineers to work on the Mac Pro to keep it up to date.

    They didn’t need to create the latest and greatest, just something that was competitive with a crappy DELL or HP workstation. Come on, that’s not asking for all that much.

    Furthermore, if the market is so small and there is no profit in it, then who really cares about “throwing away” a few tens of millions on the engineers? Even if they would sell the boxes at a loss, they would at least been a lost leader for keeping 10,000 to 100,000 professionals, artists, scientists, etc. happy with their new Mac Pros.

    It strikes me that APPLE was blind to this particular tiny niche in their gigantic market. What they missed is that the little niche they were pissing on was an important social/psychological market filled with a lot of opinion makers who are outspoken about things. Why piss these people off? Why not go out of your way to make them happy?

    APPLE: My advice – DON’T TAKE 12+ months to crank this out. It’s NOT THAT HARD. If you have to, rent some crappy space (an old warehouse), put 10 good engineers in it and have them come up with a design. Tell them they have two months and to burn the midnight oil. Once done, hand it to the design lab. Give them another two months.

    Fly the flag of the Jolly Rodger over the warehouse, and then move it to the design lab after that.

    Rekindle the spirit of Jobs when they were creating the Mac.

    Creating the next Mac Pro is child’s play compared to what they had to do when creating the original mac, but you know that.

    I know, this is all silly talk on my part, and these things are difficult, but you really shouldn’t have let it come to this in light of what these customers do and who they are.

    P.S. Maybe we needed a Nikita Khrushchev at APPLE representing Mac Pro interests? At the executive meetings he would have yelled and taken off his shoe to pound it on the table demanding a new Mac Pro.

    Nikita, where are you? Mac Pro users need you!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoe-banging_incident

    1. The 12 month lead time may also be tied to Intel’s release schedule. No point launching now if there is an upgrade coming in Q4. I don’t know enough about Intel’s workstation chip roadmap, but I think the best E5 Xeons are still Haswell based, putting them 3 generations behind the E3 series. I have to imagine that the E5 and E7 have to move to at least skylake this year, which is maybe what they are waiting for.

      1. Considering Apple is saying they want modular design, waiting on CPUs doesn’t make sense to me. They are considered at the moment behind so why not design for ‘now’ and have a 2nd team design for the next CPU. Does that pile of money look so good and sacred on the mantle?

  3. It isn’t all or nothing with Macs and the rest of Apple’s product line. Give people reasons to still also want Macs, don’t preordain their automatic demise just because you think (wrongly) they are a dead technology. (First you established the Apple ecosystem and then you downplay it’s Mac foundation? Get real!)

    You build up ALL your device markets. A rising tide lifts all Apple boats. Just don’t be negligent ever again!! If you don’t care your customers won’t either. Yes and up your advertising budget significantly! And delegate to the right people and create & watch closely every device designated department since every one is a huge revenue maker on it’s own.

    Well the company survived Sculley, Spindler, etc.. I only hope it survives Cook. I too once gave the benefit of the doubt but those days are over. Tim has something now he has to prove to us. Less reassurance yakkin’ and more action.

    1. “First you established the Apple ecosystem and then you downplay it’s Mac foundation? Get real!”

      One of the biggest proofs that even Apple doesn’t think iOS can replace the desktop? It’s a totally trivial thing, but one that my girlfriend ran into yesterday, forcing me yet again to admit to her that Apple makes some truly idiotic design limitations.

      You can’t create a new group within the Contacts app!! Not on iPhone, not on iPad. You have to either download the Groups app, or log in to the iCloud.com DESKTOP website (or use the Mac Contacts app sync’ed to iCloud).

  4. Steve Jobs would never have allowed a rebellious group to make a dramatic public public mea culpa as if they were taking over leadership. It was also weakly made as if the three were hedging their bets.

    1. They didn’t “take over leadership”, they were sent out with a message. SJ would have done the same. There is no way in hell you would have ever had SJ at a press event making a public apology

      1. Your passive voice allows you not to commit as to who sent them out. Was it the Board, Ive, Cook? I say that the three rebelled and that this indicates the incipiency of functionally new leadership at CEO.

  5. Funny about the Siri remote thing. The Roku remote has a small fabric tab, so you can always tell the orientation. Amazing how a cheap little piece of fabric could solve that problem. For Apple, I’m stunned they couldn’t devise something similar.

  6. For a company with so much money and talent and resources, just go design and build a f’n powerful pro mac that is easy to upgrade. I am not looking for an art masterpiece for my desk. It’s most likely going to end up under my desk. I have work to do, I need power.

  7. In my part of the world you NEVER, EVER see an ad for Mac, very, very seldom any for iPhone/iPad. It’s been painful to watch the demise of the mac, not long ago it increased market share and it all looked so good and now it’s like Apple’s just a helpless bystander. With all these resources it’s just seems inexplicable?

      1. I loved that. Was not everything nor every time but, often enough to look forward. Master showman and crowd pleaser – get us hyped up and drooling, then says “it’s available today!”, wooo! Instant sales boost. Launch days would actually have product available, because, you know, is Launch Day, unlike the watch which I think only had some to look at, as they sold out of first batch in 3 minutes after preorders going live midnight PST.

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