Apple has a big challenge. And, even if you don’t use Apple products, you and your company have a problem, too. You see, finding your next is not an option. That is one of the core messages in my most recent e‑book, announced last week [link].
Just ask John Sculley. Or Michael Spindler. Or Gil Amelio. “Who?” you ask. They were three CEOs of Apple who, for different reasons, failed to find the right “next” for Apple. It was 1997, when Steve Jobs (one of the co-founders) returned as CEO, that Apple started down the path that led to iMacs, iPods, iTunes and all that the company is now famous for. But 2014 will approach two decades after the Steve Jobs’ Apple renaissance. And people are wondering if the current CEO, Tim Cook, can answer correctly the same question Steve Jobs faced: “What’s next?”
That’s why I said in my last post that Apple does not have a present-tense problem: the numbers the company recently posted are impressive. But Apple sure has a future-tense problem. Consider:
Alex Rosenberg (@CNBCAlex) reported recently that “Famed investor Marc Faber believes that Apple is a troubled company making an array of frivolous products — and for that reason could be on the road to bankruptcy.” [link]
One reason, perhaps, that Faber and others believe what they do is that Apple has yet to put forward a genuine game-changing concept of television. It has, say many, been sitting on old ideas too long. What happens, some say, when everyone who’s going to buy an iPhone or an iPad (Apple’s two largest product lines by sales) has done so? Can Apple survive mainly by people upgrading what they already own? Not likely. Thus, the growing din for a new Apple TV, not the computer-to-TV appliance it now sells.
Travis Hoium says that Apple could be eclipsed by Netflix in this regard [link]:
Before Steve Jobs died, he had a vision of an integrated television set, and he told biographer Walter Isaacson he had “finally cracked it.” Two years later, Apple has added a few apps to the Apple TV, but there’s still no iTV, no streaming subscription, and no visible plan to upend the cable business.
So far, Netflix appears to be closer to upending the TV market.
I just spotted an interview on Bloomberg TV between host Emily Chang and SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg. The subject: “Has Apple Lost Its Cool Factor?” [link] But just go to YouTube and type that question in and you will find many asking the same question in many different ways.
On the other hand, many are speculating that Apple will soon dazzle everyone with a TV experience unlike any other. Steve Kovach (@stevekovach) reported on 22 October that “Analyst Says Apple Will Launch A 65-Inch Television Set With ‘Frameless’ Design In 2014.” [link] Matthew Panzarino (@Panzer) is optimistic a new TV concept from Apple could be an “ouroboros”, an eternally renewing entity inside everyone’s home, but he’s also wondering what’s taking Apple so long [link]:
Apple has been ‘pulling the string’ on the Apple TV for seven years now. Think about that one for a minute: it’s had a set-top box since before the iPhone.
During that time, the landscape of online video entertainment has completely changed, largely as a result of the iPhone, iPad and iTunes Store. While Apple has a long way to go in order to make the Apple TV a decent solution for countries outside of the US, it has made some progress and continues to very slowly iterate on the original premise of an in-home media streaming device.
A large part of that is iCloud, which now allows users to watch any purchases they’ve made from iTunes on any device, including ATV. But there’s still a lot of work to be done if the device is going to become a major pillar of Apple’s business, as I believe that it could be — and should be if cards are played right.
Peter Burrows and Andy Fixmer have reported that “Apple Said Developing Ad-Skipping as Part of TV Strategy” [link]. Patrick Seitz (@IBD_PSeitz) reported that at least one industry analyst thinks the new TV will be controlled by users wearing a ring on their fingers [link]. And Zach Epstein (@zacharye) expands on another analyst’s views and details many ways that the new Apple TV could “revolutionise” what it means to watch television [link].
I could go on and tell you about MIT Technology Review and its declaration that “Television viewers [still] fumble with awkward remote controls and crave a richer array of on-demand programming. It’s time for Apple to step in and disrupt the TV business” [link]. Or I could mention Richard Waters on FT.com stating that “Apple must plant its flag in living room” [link]. Or send you to Brian Stelter in The New York Times who reports that Apple appears to be linking arms with many other industry leaders to create a TV experience that is unrivalled [link].
I have asked my team of NextSensors [link] to consider the look and feel of the future of Apple TV, and we will publish some of their views right here in the coming weeks.
Who will win the race to invent the “next” TV is uncertain.
What is certain is that Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook, and his top team [link] must realise that finding Apple’s next is not an option. Please ditto that for you and your own company.