Under ‘operations genius’ Tim Cook, product delays and other problems are no longer unusual for Apple

“Christmas will be a little disappointing for some Apple fans. And the company’s holiday season slip-up may be another sign that its crown as the disciplined king of manufacturing is becoming tarnished,” Shira Ovide writes for Bloomberg. “Apple Inc. acknowledged on Friday that its much-hyped HomePod voice-activated home speaker won’t go on sale next month in the U.S. and two other countries, as the company had announced in June. The company said the product needs more seasoning… It has been odd that Apple merely said the HomePod would be ready for sale in ‘December’ but had not provided a more specific date since the summer. Now we know why.”

“A delayed product on its own isn’t necessarily a big deal. Sure, Apple misses a shot at 2017 holiday sales for the HomePod, but this is a long game and one holiday season doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things for the world’s most valuable public company,” Ovide writes. “The troubling thing, though, is product delays or other problems are no longer unusual for Apple. ”

“A year ago, Apple also pushed back the sales date for its AirPods wireless headphones, and the products were also in short supply for some time afterward. Apple’s statement on Friday about the HomePod delay seems to be lifted almost directly from its AirPods delay announcement in October 2016,” Ovide writes. “Remember that before Tim Cook was promoted to CEO of Apple, he was the company’s maestro of manufacturing. Cook managed Apple’s global network of component suppliers and assembly factories and kept everything running smoothly and on schedule. Now, though, Apple’s product lineup is more sprawling than even before. And its discipline is showing some signs of wear.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We imagine the parties at Amazon and Google over Apple’s HomePod debacle continue to rage. Missing one Christmas might not seem like a lot, but every user lost to another ecosystem is much, much more difficult to convert into a customer when you finally get your ass in gear and ship.

And, under the tree this year, there will be millions upon millions getting Amazon Echo and Google Home products and into their ecosystems*, not Apple’s.

*And other services, like Spotify instead of Apple Music, for one prominent example.

Apple really screwed the pooch on this one.

Real artists ship. – Steve Jobs

Something along the lines of Amazon Echo is what Apple should have done if run by competent, forward-thinking management. When Apple finally does do their version of Amazon Echo (and they will get around to doing such a product eventually) they will rightly be called a follower. The company had all of the ingredients to make their own Echo before Amazon, except for the vision, it seems.MacDailyNews, March 29, 2016

There could be a psychological component to this that leads people use Alexa over Siri precisely because they know the Echo is there (it’s a physical object), but forget about Siri being everywhere, even on their wrists (because Siri is embedded inside devices that are “for other things” in the user’s mind (telling time, watching TV, computing, phone calls, etc.) and therefore “hidden” to the user. Hence, Siri gets forgotten and goes unused while people use Alexa…

Again: We believe people use Alexa because Amazon Echo is a physical manifestation of “her,” while forgetting about Siri even though she’s on their wrists at all times and/or in their iPhones and iPads because Siri is hidden inside objects whose primary function is something other than “personal assistant” in people’s minds (watch, TV, phone or tablet, as opposed to “Siri.”) Alexa is present thanks to the Amazon Echo. Siri is absent because she has no such counterpart; no physical manifestation.

Siri is a ghost. Alexa is that cool, fun, glowing tube right there on the counter.

Apple would do well to not discount the psychology behind why people use certain features, even though cold, hard logic tells them it’s a redundant and unnecessary product.

An “Apple Echo” device would sell in the millions of units per quarter and boost Siri usage immensely.MacDailyNews, June 15, 2016

Once they finally get something shipping in quantity, it’ll be fun to watch how quickly Apple takes the top end of the market away from Amazon’s Echo since Apple’s solution will certainly have unique advantages within Apple’s ecosystem that makes it the obvious choice for Mac, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch users. — MacDailyNews, May 10, 2017

SEE ALSO:
Apple delays HomePod release to early 2018 – November 17, 2017
Apple CEO Tim Cook: The ‘operations genius’ who never has enough products to sell at launch – October 23, 2017
Apple reveals HomePod smart home music speaker – June 5, 2017
Apple is misplaying the hand Steve Jobs left them – November 30, 2016
Apple delays AirPod rollout – October 26, 2016
Apple delays release of watchOS 2 due to bug – September 16, 2015
Apple delays HomeKit launch until autumn – May 14, 2015
Apple delays production of 12.9-inch ‘iPad Pro’ in face of overwhelming iPhone 6/Plus demand – October 9, 2014
Tim Cook’s mea culpa: iMac launch should have been postponed – April 24, 2013

37 Comments

  1. He has to put the hammer down and tell people things must be done on time.I think this is going to be a huge blunder not having it ready for Christmas. It’s severely bumming me out

    1. All this hype over HomePod. MDN, why do you think anyone needs a HomePod? It’s a speaker with Siri. And Siri sucks.

      I have the same functionality in my iPhone and while connected to, for instance, a Bose Soundlink Mini stereo speaker, I have a “smart speaker” without having to buy a “smart speaker.”

      Like Apple TV, which is superfluous in relation to smart TVs, the Apple HomePod will be a nice to have for some, but not necessary and largely superfluous given the device mix already in play in people’s lives.

      So as far as delays for HomePod are concerened, I could care less.

      1. Well, if you “could care less,” you must still be concerned with the problem described above. Perhaps, just perhaps, you meant you “couldn’t care less.” Is that a possibility, or are you just linguistically imprecise in general?

      2. Yeah, the HomePod is a ridiculously overpriced useless gadget, not worth my attention.

        Where Apple has really fallen down is with the years-late Mac mini and Mac Pro refreshes. Both of those should see new models at least every year, the Mac Pro should never have been made to look like a ridiculous trash can, and should have gotten a refresh every time Intel released a new Xeon.

        The iMac “Pro” is ridiculous. A Pro machine has proper thermal design, it’s not designed for thinness. And it’s got slots. Apple is building ridiculousness, and they’re being insanely slow about it.

      1. Maybe it’s not that Tim Cook is the problem, but that he’s in the wrong position to fully control the minutiae of operations as he did in his prior office. Perhaps he can spend some time off his non-business speaking engagements and mentor the person currently in his old seat.

        1. Tim Cook is in charge of Apple which makes him in the right position to effect control. If you are suggesting that Tim Cook is not performing well as CEO then I agree, he is not the right person for the position.

  2. Pushing the tech envelope while also being as large as apple is can’t be an easy job. It’s much easier to hone a production line of also-ran commodity products with off the shelf parts.

    Not to mention, as a company, I’d rather have customers continually scrambling for my products (artificial scarcity or otherwise) than have overstocks sitting for weeks and months discounted on shelves.

    There will still be record sales this quarter and the company is worth almost a trillion dollars with cash reserves the size of a small country.

    Can’t really knock him. Not many people in the world can do the job he does – let’s be honest.

    1. Not many can do it but a few would find a few more that they could delegate it to. Ask Microsoft how fast reality can set it. It’s tomorrow before you realize you were yesterday’s girl.

    2. I agree. When Tim did the supply chain, the company was much much smaller than it is now. There are at least 5 different iPhones on the market, each with its own supply chain. When Tim did the job, there was only one. the fact that I’ve had my iPhone X for a week is a bloody miracle considering demand. AND I got it a week ahead of the promised deliver date. I waited longer for my AirPods.

    3. I would have done far better than Timbo on all the products he kicked to the curb while he put all emphasis on the iPhone. Apple is acting like a one trick pony. Cook will leave Apple with Immelt style empty cabinets.

      These are all viable product lines that are underperforming dead or thoroughly outclassed due to total lack of leadership:

      Macs
      Displays & peripherals
      Airport
      IPods
      ITunes
      iWork
      A TV
      ………

      With a stale lineup like that, it would be like Toyota arriving at a 2017 car show with a fresh shiny new Camry and practically nothing else new since 2009.

  3. Hi all,

    I think this article misses a really important point. Apple has never shipped a product that wasn’t ready (well, not on purpose, anyway). Steve was a master at ensuring any product not ready to ship was just not talked about much. Since the iPhone, the company has come under a blanket of scrutiny from everyone from amateur bloggers to the kings of the financial press, all of whom look for ways to produce clicks, etc. In response, the company and its CEO work hard to control information flow about new products, mostly to minimize damage to the brand. What that means is that sometimes a product may be announced a little earlier than proves prudent. That happened to AirPods and it appears to be happening to the speaker system.

    You’re too quick to jump on the company and Mr. Cook, frankly.

  4. Add this to the pot above. I placed my order for the iPhone X on preorder night and was scheduled to get it this week. I also ordered the case and got the case and was billed for it right away. When it was time for my phone to ship, my card provider had discovered a ‘glitch’ in their system that caused them to send me a new card with a new expiration date without telling me. I got a problem with my payment from Apple on 11/12 and tried about 8 other cards to change the payment that night. None worked. I called them back on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday and again on Thursday trying to get the problem taken care of. At one point on Tuesday I think, they billed my card for all of the balance except about $5. But they still wouldn’t ship my phone because of that balance which I was begging to pay anywhere/anyhow. I finally asked for a manager on Thursday who was DILIGENT in getting the problem taken care of. And, yes, I am getting my phone tomorrow according to UPS but really – what was the ‘glitch’ in Apple’s system that makes it virtually impossible without and act of God – I did do a lot of praying – to change the credit card to bill to? The root of this problem is the bank that my card is with and I’ll deal with that – it’s a freaking gas card after all. But this systemic problem with Apple worries me. Glad I have a line of Windows devices as well. It feels like the Apple thread is going to break soon.

  5. Two ways to look at this:

    1. New products shouldn’t be discussed until they are ready because, a)if you miss, you damage your credibility and/or b)You take all the excitement, surprise and momentum of when you truly are ready to ship.

    2. Lessons learned through Apple Maps and other not ready for prime time launches taught Cook & Co. to only ship products when they are ready. When Cook says, “We don’t have specific timelines for shipping products, other than when they are ready, I think he really means this.”

    There are, of course, exceptions to both, like when you have a new platform for which you need developers to get a head start on, so you launch 6 months before you ship. Or when you ship a Beta product like some of the health apps so that you can learn through experience and iteration.

    So, on the whole, I think it shows great patience on Apple’s part to resist the urge to force a launch in December when it would be truly disruptive to retail to execute this. Better for the launch to go smoothly and with building momentum in early 2018 than to stumble and damage the reputation of the product now. AirPods survived and thrived because of this patient and wise approach. It sucks that Amazon and Google have the season to themselves but Apple’s reputation for well executed products is more important. Amazon and Google’s game is to iterate and experiment often, allowing for a lot of mistakes, which is fine. But as the high price, high value, high margin premium player, Apple has to be more careful and thoughtful.

    1. I neglected to say that I applaud Apple for their patience BUT big thumbs down for taking all the excitement and element of surprise out of launching a product that is worthy of a true reveal. I know they did it to give some Alexa and Google shoppers pause before buying but now this product has lost all its momentum. There was no good reason for showing their hand on this product until it was ready. Yes, Jobs would never have done this. This broke a cardinal rule, imho.

    2. Bullwinkle:

      1. Apple has chosen to discuss homepod and iMac Pro and Mac Pro this year despite none of them being anything more than vapors at this point. Apple is desperate to retain Mac pros who have been leaving. Still, admitting their atrocious Mac product management is hollow comfort for not offering a continuously up to date family of Macs.

      2. Apple TV still underwhelming. Whoever thinks this is good enough is setting the bar very low. Same for iWork, iTunes, etc. Many people are seeing that Apple isn’t consistently top quality across the board. Unless you place fashion first, cost no object. Then Cook is your man.

      I am continually amazed how a company with this much in resources can be so slow and inconsistent in so many areas.

      Weeks of constant iPhone X hype don’t change the facts that Cook and his fashionistas are getting fat and lazy.

      1. Sarah, you make two good points. In the case of Mac Pros, though, I think you provided the answer to why they gave a partial reveal of this product too early. They had to quell the unrest. There’s no comfort in it, but I respect why their product management did it. You can’t change the past, all you can do is try to address your mistakes going forward.

        As for Apple TV – complete agreement. I find myself creeping back to the cable box more and more because this product sucks and has not improved over time like other Apple products do. I know Apple hired someone new to lead this business so I would expect to see some results of a new strategy sometime in 2018. Its obvious whoever was captaining the ship in the past did not have a big enough vision. And their TV content strategy under Eddie Cue was piss poor. Seems like they are getting their act together, but we’ll see.

        As for getting “fat and lazy” – as Obama would say, “come-on mannnnnnn.” Do you have any idea of the scale and speed at which Apple is moving? Chip cycles are a year to 3 years depending on how digital or analog the chip is. Design takes time. Prototyping. Sourcing. Planning and ramping up production. Getting it to retail, etc. And Apple is no longer just a Mac and iPod company. We’re spoiled with all the products Apple delivers to us every year. Before Apple entered consumer electronics, we had to deal with the boring, me-too crap from companies in Asia with their minor iterations with no real benefits from year to year just to slow the tide of price erosion. I mean not only does Apple deliver several new hardware products a year, they keep upgrading iOS, MacOS, WatchOS and TVOS for free a few times a year. I am more and more impressed each year with how Apple is able to keep all of this going and growing. I do wonder how Apple Park will impact productivity going forward, but lazy you say? Well that’s just being Veruca Salt.

        1. Concerning chip cycles, Intel moves just as fast (or slow depending on your perspective) to develop new chips. One of my High School classmates one year ahead of me was hired there and from what he tells me there are always at least 3 groups of chip development teams each working on a design to be released one year after the prior group’s design. Once that year’s design is done they leapfrog the other two groups and design for the next chip 3 years from their prior design. Unless you are saying Apple doesn’t do the same, they are ‘on par’ in speed with other chip designers but with a LOT more financial resources to draw from to hire the best.

  6. Its the fact that its up to two years late thats more of a problem than a few months. They had this market there and practically ready to go 3 years ago, at least according to the tech media at the time, it was expected within that year having been talked about well before that but didn’t arrive. Ok its delayed a year, still didn’t arrive and now a year later than that and its still not ready.

    Hell in the time that Apple was spoken of inventing let alone producing such a device (even if it were part of AppleTV and HomeKit) other companies thought what a good idea no doubt thinking that they would have to be competing with Apple only to find they are actually first to market, indeed second to market for Google and still have a year or more on Apple’s belated product. Sounds like the long delayed Newton all those years back, but at least that had a few decent excuses. This is a true balls-up because clearly whatever work they did on this sort of product was shelved, with the attitude it was irrelavent in an iPhone world, or alternatively delayed to some imaginary point in the future when they felt the technology would be more to the job only to find others had made actually made that technology up to the job through vision and well understood the physical need for a ‘living’ assistant at least in the short term just to get customers on board to the concept. How Jobsian that move was, for this is what Apple used to be so good at doing while the opposition at first laughed and then copied frantically while playing catch up.

    Yes someone answerable long before this recent delay for leaving the original concept clearly unloved.

    1. Here’s a theory. Apple has a “Security Policy” policing group, Security is paramount to Apple’s image that will not bear tarnish, that won’t allow something with a high security risk potential as voice-activated speakers until proper functions are implemented (whatever they may be).

      1. Dream on.

        Siri collects all the same data that the competitors do. The only difference is Apple claims to anonymize the data so a specific user isn’t being tracked. Those claims may or may not be true, and it probably makes no difference since at this point all electronic and political divisions are religious in nature with zero objective analysis or facts being brought to bear. Cook once claimed that Apple wasn’t playing shell games with offshore companies hiding profits too. It has since been proven that Apple started doing precisely that very aggressively in 2014.

        I hope Apple’s security is more comprehensive than just a thin policy that recommends that Apple employees can’t datamine a specific user’s iCloud account. But it would be stupid to assume that Apple couldn’t possibly have a security breach and Cook is a f$cking liar. Do you all “trust but verify”? Some posters here are so deep in the kool aid that you may indeed be using faith alone to let Apple or other cloud vendors and interweb pipelines handle your data.

        Which brings us to an interesting sidebar for Politics Daily News: How much has Trump earmarked for the Trans pipeline spill cleanup???????

        1. The way Apple is going, only data that never leaves the iOS device on which it was created will be secure. All the more reason for Apple to get Siri smart enough to work entirely on a single device. Though it will limit certain things, it will certainly be ‘secure’ and most likely work w/o a data connection for many on device functions like completely being hands-free for standard utility apps (e.g. note taking, making calls, composing/responding to email, etc.) Unlocking the phone would of course be FaceID.

  7. Apple delaying the HomePod is no big deal especially if they’re using the time to make Siri smarter. Siri seems rather stupid when compared to Alexa and Google Assistant. I really can’t understand why Siri was allowed to fall behind those other AI assistants when it had such a head-start. I guess it can’t be helped. I wasn’t in the market for a HomePod, so the delay doesn’t affect me at all. I’m just hoping Apple improves Siri on the desktop.

    I don’t believe the HomePod delay will seriously hurt Apple. Loyal Apple consumers will wait for it and buy it when it’s ready. There are too many worrywarts when it comes to Apple. Tesla announced the Tesla Roadster 2 for 2020 and I’ll bet it won’t be ready until the end of that year with plenty of delivery promises broken and no one will be asking for Elon Musk to be fired from his CEO post.

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