You don’t get to be the world’s most valuable technology company without the entire internet telling you that you’re doing it wrong.
Pundits, analysts, flamers and fanboys all have their own suggestions on what Apple absolutely needs to do to avoid oblivion – so which ones are sensible? Let’s find out, by going through the advice and seeing what we make of it.
Apple needs to make a cheap iPhone
“Apple needs to develop a phone in the $200 to $300 range, simple as that,” says Tim Brugger in The Motley Fool. The reason? The iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 will “spark sales but not the kind of growth a company of Apple’s ilk requires.”
We’d argue that growth is more important to investors than it is to Apple – if Apple’s growth stopped it’d still be the world’s most valuable tech firm – but Brugger does have a point: the smartphone market is saturated, and developing countries are where the next market is. The big question is whether Apple wants to play in that market.
We say: A cheaper to manufacture iPhone 4 variant seems likely. The iPhone 4 is already down to 319/US$450/AU$449 unlocked.
Apple needs to make a giant iPhone
Apple needs a phablet, says Barclays analyst Ben Reitzes in Forbes. Less than 5 inches is not enough: Apple needs to make a phone so big you can’t lift it. Forbes points out that “Apple initially rejected the idea of a 7-inch tablet – and the iPad mini has been wildly successful”.
Of course the iPad mini isn’t actually a 7-inch tablet (it’s 7.9 inches), but you get the idea. Consumers certainly like big phones, and Apple could certainly make an iPhone Plus work.
We say: We’re not going to bet against this one.
Apple needs to Think Different about ads
Ken Segall, the man behind the Think Different ads, reckons that Apple is “battling where it used to crush”, and that Samsung is winning the advertising war. It’s spending more, and its message is “tremendously potent”.
Segall has ideas of what Apple should do, but hasn’t posted them yet – and many of his commenters disagree with his analysis.
We say: We’d argue that Samsung’s edge is in specs and price rather than advertising, but we’d love to see Segall’s ideas.
Apple needs to go into search
Bryan Chaffin had an interesting idea: when Apple launched iOS 6 Maps and completely blew it, “it dawned on me that Apple needs to go into search, and in a big way.” Not in a Bing billions “OMG APPLE HAS TO COPY TEH GOOGLEZ” way, but by giving Siri more data to play with.
Search Engine Land‘s Danny Sullivan has written about this before and concluded that the trick is to grow Siri “to work with other search partners, to keep Google contained”. Unlike Maps, “no bombs get dropped; no consumer is even aware you’re fighting a war.”
We say: Doable, yes, but difficult and expensive.
Apple needs to buy Orchestra
Remember Sparrow, the clever email app for iOS? Google bought it. Have you seen Mailbox, the clever email app for Gmail? Apple should buy its developer, Orchestra. That’s what Evan Niu says on The Motley Fool. He says Apple is lagging when it comes to interface design, and if Apple doesn’t buy it, Google will.
We say: It’s a lovely app and the developers have great ideas, but does that mean it’s a must-buy or that Jonathan Ive can’t do software?
Apple needs to lose the Steve Jobs ‘Depression Mentality’
Under Steve Jobs, Apple went from near-bankruptcy to enormous success, and that’s bad because Apple now has a “Depression” mentality where it hoards cash that would be better off in investors’ pockets. So says hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who sued Apple for being stingier than his gran.
Tim Cook called the lawsuit a “silly sideshow”. He explained: “Apple makes bold and ambitious bets on products and we’re conservative financially… deliver it thoughtful is our mantra. Cash is not burning a hole in our pocket.”
We say: Wall Street. They crazy!
Apple needs to make sure the iWatch is good
If the iWatch is going to sell, Ashley Norris of Tech Digest says, it’ll need to be good. Because if it isn’t, then that will be bad.
It’ll need a “really smart innovative design”, “a clever way of operating the watch” and needs to “replicate a lot of features its rivals offer”. Rivals in this context include Nike’s FuelBand, which isn’t a watch.
We say: Well, yes.
Apple needs to get into the TV business
Legendary journalist Hunter S Thompson called the TV business a “cruel and shallow money trench” where “thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs”. Why would Apple want to play there? The reason, says Robert D Hof of MIT Technology Review, is growth; “it needs something very big to keep growth humming after the next year or two of the iPad boom.”
Apple would enter this low margin business and find a way to make high margins by selling an ecosystem of iPads, iPhones and Apple TVs rather than just enormous and enormously expensive TVs. “Don’t just think of an Apple TV as the big screen in the living room, or else you might miss where Apple really envisions the 75-year-old medium going next: everywhere.”
We say: The ecosystem argument makes sense. For many of us the iPad is the first screen, not the second one.
Apple needs to fire Tim Cook
Oh yes it does, says Jeff Macke on Yahoo Finance. “Since Cook arrived Apple has missed Street estimates about half the time and released no earth-shaking new products, despite endless hints that a TV revolution was imminent.”
Not only has Cook failed to meet other people’s made-up figures, but demand for Apple products outstrips supply. “It’s Cook’s job to make sure Apple is has the products it hypes,” Macke says.
We say: Wall Street. They crazy! Again!
Apple needs to start innovating again
“Apple has stopped innovating and Microsoft is doing a better job,” says eWeek‘s Wayne Rash, but it turns out that the problem is the same old G-word: growth. “What’s the point [of] buying Apple stock if it’s not going up in value consistently, and the company isn’t paying dividends despite its huge profit margins?”
Rash also makes the strange claim that “Macintosh computers went for years without an upgrade and when the upgrade was delivered the primary difference was a better display”. He’s talking about the MacBook Pro with Retina display.
He’s right that Siri could be better and Maps was crap, but while Apple is clearly in the refinement stage of many products – it’s shipped the iPhone 5, iPad 4, MacBook Air 2012 and MacBook Pro with Retina display, and now it’s refining those products – it’s a bit of a stretch to argue that Apple must now “actually invent something, anything, that shows that the company hasn’t lost its innovative edge”.
We say: We’d like it a lot more if experts explained what exactly Apple needs to invent. “Something awesome!” isn’t really enough.
Apple needs to accept that it has peaked
“Apple has reached its long-term peak… and it will not regain its glory,” says David Dines of ACG Research. “Not only did the iPhone 5 force everyone to a different charger, but it also broke Bluetooth connections with many devices.” Er, what? Let’s not get distracted: “Since the company no longer has a one-of-a-kind product visionary, Apple needs to either replace the visionary or transition to a different business model.”
Dines is right that “competitors Samsung and Google are formidable if you do not keep changing the rules of the game or the categories”, but we think he’s being rather dismissive of Jonathan Ive.
We say: Peak Apple? Quite possibly. But we’d like to see iOS 7 before calling this one.
Apple needs to keep setting the standard
You can always count on Steve Wozniak to say something vague that’ll be reported as ‘OMG WOZ SAYS APPLE IS DOOMED’. This month he told Bloomberg that “Apple must keep setting standards or lose its cool”. Apple should let “buyers of mobile devices running Microsoft Corp or Google Android to use the iTunes media management software” – presumably because they haven’t suffered enough – and an iWatch would be good if Siri was better.
Did Woz actually say that Apple had stopped setting the standard? Er, nope: his actual words were “Apple is really good at setting a standard with a new device. Apple still has its halo in that regard.”
We say: The message here is really “Hey, Apple! Don’t screw up!” We can get behind that.