Here’s one way that Apple is becoming a lot like Microsoft: It has a lot of people declaring that it’s “doomed” despite the fact that it’s still posting enormous profits and is still entrenched as one of the world’s most important computing companies. The New Yorker’s Yukari Iwatani Kane, who for years worked as the top Apple reporter at The Wall Street Journal, has written a blistering attack on Apple’s current management that basically rehashes everything we’ve heard since Tim Cook took over as CEO: Namely, that the company is doomed without the leadership of Steve Jobs.
Kane seems particularly annoyed at Apple’s latest ad commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Mac that was shot entirely with iPhone cameras. In essence, she sees it as a sign that the company is too focussed on being nostalgic about its past glories and isn’t doing enough to figure out what its Next Big Thing will be.
“Although the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, insists otherwise, Apple seems more eager to talk about the past than about the future,” she writes. “Even when it refers to the future, it is more intent on showing consumers how it hasn’t changed rather than how it is evolving. The thirtieth anniversary of the Macintosh — and the ‘1984’ ad — is not just commemorative. It is a reminder of what Apple has stopped being.”
She also basically says that Apple has gotten lazy and that it hasn’t released a revolutionary, game-changing product since the iPad in 2010. She also cites the very real failure of Apple Maps and the assorted bugs that have cropped up in iOS 7 as evidence that mistakes are being made that wouldn’t have happened were Jobs still in charge. Of course, this sort of analysis sounds like Kane is wearing nostalgia goggles herself: Apple had its share of flops while Jobs was in charge (anyone remember MobileMe?) and its products weren’t models of perfection under his watch (see: Antennagate).
What’s more, Kane doesn’t show that the mistakes Apple is making are any different or worse than the mistakes that other tech companies have made. Google is certainly Apple’s biggest rival in the consumer electronics software space but it’s also had its share of flops: The Nexus Q was so bad that it never even launched, the decision to buy Motorola turned out to be a major bust and Google Glass is a turnoff for even some of its most diehard fans.
As for Microsoft, while it’s still an absolute beast in the enterprise space it’s floundered in the consumer electronics space with the exception of its Xbox line of gaming consoles. The Zune, the Kin and the first Surface RT were all grade-A flops and yet the company isn’t doomed to irrelevancy by any stretch of the imagination.
This isn’t to say that Apple is above criticism — I think the iPhone 5c and the Retina iPad mini are seriously overpriced for what they deliver, for instance — but more that it’s silly to spout off apocalyptic doomsaying for a company that just last quarter sold 51 million iPhones and 26 million iPads, and whose customers are still the most loyal of any other in the tech industry.