The Macalope: Projection


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Writing for Fortune, Adam Lashinsky sets up the great argument of our time:

“Apple: Game over or room to grow?” (tip o’ the antlers to the Jony Ive parody account on Twitter).

And then whiffs on it.

But there’s no question: Apple has lost a step since the death of Steve Jobs.

There is literally no question. It’s unquestionable! You cannot question it!

How has Apple fallen? Let us count the ways.

Oh, yes, let’s.

It has been three years since the release of the iPad, the company’s last breakthrough product.

This is apparently one of the countable ways in which Apple has fallen. The linear nature of time. Steve Jobs regularly made time stand still, if you don’t remember.

Forget the fact that the iPad has been a tremendous success, having reinvented the tablet “industry” into an actual industry, instead of just the sound of a sad trombone coming from Redmond. And forget the fact that Apple followed up on the iPad’s remarkable success with the highly successful iPad mini. And, finally, forget that the success of the iPad has been the footsteps of doom to the PC industry. Forget all those because it’s been three years since 2010. Much like it was three years between the launch of the iPhone and the launch of the iPad. Which happened during Steve Jobs’s tenure.

Don’t things have to make sense to get published by Fortune or … ?

Apple’s management is defensive, its people are less committed and its competitors are resurgent.

Like Samsung, whose stock is also falling and whose flagship phone sold half as many units as the iPhone 5 at launch? Or Microsoft? Does the Macalope even need to bother looking for any supporting links about them?

No, the real problem with Apple is that this company, long the arbiter of cool, the corporate trendsetter on all matters from design to marketing to operational excellence, has gone from being insanely great to merely great.

Because unlike three years ago, when the company came out with completely new products every three years, it’s been three years since Apple’s come out with a completely new product.

Indeed, though Apple’s bulletproof finances and solid product lineup today bear no resemblance whatsoever to its sorry state of affairs before the iMac, iTunes, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad changed our lives, the image Apple is projecting of itself harks back to that troubled time.

Wrong. The image that silly pundits like Adam Lashinsky are trying to project hearkens back to that troubled time. It is an image, however, that has no basis in reality.

Introducing a new and impressively redesigned version of its Macintosh computer for professional customers, Phil Schiller, the company’s senior vice president for worldwide marketing, blurted out, “Can’t innovate anymore, my ass.” This was a call to action in front of a friendly audience, and it drew predictably approving hoots and hollers. But it acknowledged the existence of doubt …

Again Lashinsky projects something that does not exist. It’s not doubt, it’s annoyance. We can argue whether or not Schiller should have let his annoyance show, but Apple has no doubt that it can innovate.

The best Apple has to offer these days is a new look and feel—a fresh coat of paint, the critics sneered—for its updated mobile software, iOS 7.

“I have no idea what differences really exist in iOS 7.”

Everywhere are signs that Apple is stuck in its ways, from the superficial to the meaningful. It has dropped hints that new product categories are on the way … Yet those products are nowhere to be seen.

“I’ll just pretend Tim Cook wasn’t clear about when those might be coming.”

Part of the reason Lashinsky is so lazy in developing this argument is that he’s preparing to rebut it himself. Yes, he wants to have his straw man and burn it, too. But he does pick a side, even if it happens to be the wrong one.

The preponderance of the evidence, common sense, and gut instinct all suggest that the Apple-has-peaked argument is the stronger of the two.

Even if the “evidence” is all based on perception, the “common sense” is groupthink, and the gut instinct of pundits is almost always wrong. When your big “evidence” against Apple’s continued ability to innovate is that it hasn’t shipped anything faster than it previously did, you might consider the possibility that your argument is a little flawed.

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