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. I’m very disappointed in countryman Jony Ive these last few years. He’s bored, it seems, and it shows in his oroducts. And the Mac Pro debacle suggests he throws his toys out of the pram as soon as somebody suggests changing the design (which must have been suggest countless times in the last three years.) and I’m disappointed in Tim too, for not managing Ive better (though it may be the structure doesn’t allow the CEO to manage him), but should replace them?

  2. Just put the latest Xeon, DDR4 and NVMe SSD in the prior Mac Pro chassis and release it. It shouldn’t take more than a few months to update it.

    Then, spend the next year improving the chassis. But not at the expense of function and capability.

  3. if i can build a hackintosh thats faster and cheaper then whatever overpriced crippled mac pro they come up with.. I will.

    I already did.

    And I will again.

  4. I really am sick of every single product at Apple having an angering staleness to it. They should be getting ready to update the Mac Pro for the third time since it’s release in 2013. All of their products are disgustingly outdated and embarrassing. I can no longer be proud to have the latest high-end technology. I simply have outdated stuff even if I do have the latest version of everything they make. I’m angry.

    1. No way can I agree regarding most non-Mac stuff. Despite the Apple Bear Bullshit 🍎🐻🐂💩 about iOS gear, Apple continues to be the master of that market and continues to make the competition embarrassed.

      Regarding Mac stuff, I have to as usual point to the death of Moore’s Law at Intel 💀 where they’re now incredibly late to market with their promised CPUs. Macs suffer from that fact.

      AND YET: The situation with the stale old Mac Pro makes all Mac fanatics sick. Apple clearly can’t managed to manage both iOS AND Mac at the same time in its current state. It doesn’t help that Tim Cook himself invented the absurd illusion that iOS gear was any replacement for the Mac. What a maroon. 😛 🙃

      1. If you really think Moore’s Law died, or that it is somehow reliant on Intel’s methodologies, then you are misinformed. Don’t believe every journalist’s “news” article.

        If you really think the iPhone 7 counts as being fresh, I disagree. It’s the equivalent to what should have been released as an iPhone 6SE alongside a real 7 for $200 cheaper.

        The iPad hasn’t seen a real refresh since 2015.

        The watch is waterproof now, though. Great! I just love the creative productivity that comes along with a waterproof watch.

        Where is a refreshed AirPort or Time Capsule? Where is the 4K Apple TV and 4K iTunes content? Where is my decent 5K TB3 daisy-chainable set of displays? Where are literally any of the product or service upgrades we have been waiting years for?

        1. You certainly have some valid points. But a lot of the others are either off base, ignoring improved specs, or the rest are BFD.

          As such, I’d rather support you than pull a pointless argument. Apple DOES have some major improvements to make. Apple HAS been lazy in many respects.

          As for Intel, there is no way anyone could not be profoundly disappointed with them slipping their own CPU release schedules over and over again for years now. THAT is Intel making it clear that THEY know Moore’s Law is dead… for now. This blatant problem has considerably held back Apple’s CPU upgrades. Nonetheless, Apple again clearly qualifies as lazy in their Mac CPU upgrades. My point is to take BOTH situations into account, rather than being simplistic.

          As I often say: KISS stands for Keep It Stupid, Simple. The world is FAR more complex than most people are willing to admit or engage. It’s one of the greatest blunders of our current age. All I have to do is point at the 1-dimensional clown show we call modern politics as an example.

  5. While I agree that the buck stops at the CEO, I think it’s fair to say that there were problems with Apple’s leadership for letting this product sit idle for more than 3 years now.

    On one hand, I don’t blame them for trying something bold like the trash can Mac Pro. I don’t agree with the design as I never thought it properly addressed the market it was intended to. However, I do applaud Apple for trying something different.
    That said, Apple has the resources such that they could have hedged their bets with a more conservative, but updated design internally. That’s not a bad path to take when you try something entirely new or controversial. Clearly, they didn’t take this path.

    My other issue is why it took so long to realize the Mac Pro was a mistake. Since the replacement won’t be out this year, it seems very clear that they have only recently come to this conclusion. What were they doing 2+ years ago when the 2013 Mac Pro was over due for an update? Nothing. Why did they wait until many of their pro users left the Mac platform to think… maybe we have a problem?

    All that said, the damage is done. Coming out to openly acknowledge their mistake was the right move. I’m far more willing to stay with the platform knowing they are getting back on track than I was when I heard nothing from the pro space in years. Having said that, Apple has lost a fair amount of good will and trust from their pro users. They’re really going to have to execute well and demonstrate several cycles of regular attention before that trust is fully restored. In the meantime, I’m sure higher powered iMacs this year will help minimizes Apple’s losses of pro users to Windows. Apple is truly lucky that the Windows alternative (from an OS perspective) isn’t very appealing.

    1. One of the rules with Customer Relationship Management is that it is always cheaper to maintain your current customers than gain new ones. With Apple having lost so many of their core customers they’ll have to invest a lot more to get them back.

  6. Swift was written by an Apple employee on his own time. After three or four years of hard work, he showed off that work to his colleagues and they brought it in-house to further refine before releasing it.

    I wish there were an Apple engineer who loved the Pro so much that he has been working on a replacement Mac Pro in his garage for the past three years. Maybe that person will step forward in the next week or two and show Apple what he has done. I know that ONE good engineer can make magic. Let’s hope something like that will happen in Cupertino this year.

  7. If Ive had anything to do with the stupid MacBook Pro design, he needs to go!! What?!?! Cannot even add RAM after you buy it?!?! If not for macOS, I’d be gone… Apple hardware is not keeping me these days.

  8. Tim is no product guy. We all know this. Jony was meant to be the product guy but he seems to be phasing out.
    Things might get a bit better after the move to the spaceship is accomplished. Still this is not the Apple I started investing in many many years ago. So I’m reducing my 12’000 shares. I’m now down to 7000. Need to keep 4000 for a call option I sold. 3000 remain which I’m about to sell as well.

    As I’ve pointed out before Apple has become too complex for the organisational structure it has. A reorganisation is overdue. That’s were the board is failing.

  9. The best thing I can say about the [expletives deleted] Mac Pro fiasco is that:

    Apple woke up and applied a fire extinguisher

    At the expense of reputation. This effectively killed interest in buy ye olde Mac Pro trash can. I hope it was worth it. We wait wait wait and see.

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