November 23, 2004
I got 101 problems but Apple ain't one
So Matt Haughey was looking back on a 1997 article from Wired giving 101 Ways to Save Apple and since he's into hippie copyrights he won't mind me stealing his blog post idea. (You too can steal future blog ideas at del.icio.us's toblog tag)Remember that the list was written in 1997, before the iPod, before the MP3 revolution, before even the Bondi Blue iMacs. As far as anyone could tell, Apple would be dead within a year.
Reading through the suggestions, there are a lot that were amazingly prescient, specifically numbers 4, 7, 10, 12, 14, 19, 23, 25, 29, 37, 40, 50, 62, 70, 77, 83, 98 and 100. None of these predict the iPod as a way to turn the company around, but who could have?
91. Start a new special projects group led by either Jobs or another passionate and creative designer to create the next "insanely great" technology. This time, focus on rolling the technology into the existing Mac line; make sure developers are inspired and in the loop.
It's not exactly marketing genius to say "you need a killer product." However, the Senior Director of the Special Projects Group is Tony Fadell, the man who came up with the idea of creating an MP3 player tied to a downloadable music store. You can read about how he came to be at Apple at Wired's article on the history of the iPod.
70. Simplify your PC product line. Reduce the number of Apple motherboards and the number of distinct Apple system models.
Apple definitely did this, you can now choose between an iMac, PowerMac, iBook, PowerBook and eMac. Of course there's still some confusion, I'd be hard pressed to tell you the advantages of a 12" G4 PowerBook over a 12" G4 iBook.
7. Don't disappear from the retail chains. Rent space in a computer store, flood it with Apple products (especially software), staff it with Apple salespeople, and display everything like you're a living, breathing company and not a remote, dusty concept.
That's a big affirmative. Apple started in 1997 by putting Apple sections in CompUSA stores, and in 2001 they opened the first Apple store. They now have over 90 stores and the devotion Apple fans have to the stores can be seen in this video of the line for the grand opening of the Ginza Apple store in Tokyo.
98. Testimonials. Create commercials featuring real-life people in situations where buying a Mac (or switching to a Mac) saved the day.
Apple's Switch campaign from 2003 was a huge success, making a minor star out of at least one switcher. There was an absolute flood of parodies, which is a good measure of how influential an ad has been.
37. Take advantage of NeXT's easy and powerful OpenStep programming tools to entice a new generation of Mac software developers.
OS X (the reason I own a Mac) is a direct descendant of NeXT and was a revolution for MacOS. Apple acquired NeXT in early 1997, you would do well to find out where OS X came from.
14. Do something creative with the design of the box and separate yourselves from the pack. The original Macs stood out because of their innovative look. Repeat that. Get the folks at Porsche to design a box. Or Giorgio Giugiaro. Or Philippe Starck. We'd all feel better about shelling out the bucks for a Power Mac 9600 if we could get a tower with leopard spots.
I don't even need to provide links for this. In 1998 Apple introduced the iMac, which ushered in a new era for Apple. Since then Apple's industrial design has been consistently top notch. This was probably the most important thing to turn Apple around, more than OS X, more than the iPod. The iMac gave Apple a new lease and the momentum to pursue the things people think of as Apple now.
Of course not all the suggestions were as good. These are some that the opposite was done to Apple's success, or simply weren't tried, or were tried and cancelled or some other sort of negative outcome.
One of the most prolific memes is the idea of getting MacOS to run on Intel chips:
34. Port the OS to the Intel platform, with its huge amount of investment in hardware, software, training, and experience. Don't ignore it; co-opt it. Operating systems are dependent on installed base; that is your biggest hurdle now. It is not the head-to-head, feature-set comparison between Windows and Mac OS.
60. Abandon the Mach operating system you just acquired and run Windows NT kernel instead. This would let Mac run existing PC programs. (Microsoft actually has Windows NT working on Mac hardware. It also has emulation of Mac programs with NT running on both Power PC and x86.)
76. Make damn sure that Rhapsody runs on an Intel chip. Write a Windows NT emulator for Rhapsody's Intel version.
94. Maintain differentiation between Wintel and Apple. Cross-platform means Apple OS on Intel boxes, not just add-ins to Windows. Making the Mac more like Windows, or making all technologies "cross-platform," is a going-out-of business strategy. Extend and improve the Mac's capabilities to handle Wintel data and emulate Wintel for those applications that require it.
It's almost like Slashdot wrote these, because whenever the topic of OS X comes up someone invariably says "I'd love to run OS X, why won't Apple put it on my cheap, home-built x86 box?" Since it's a Slashdot
troll question, I'll let Slashdot answer: "Silly idea," "Doesn't make sense," and a bonus "No Intel On OS X Part I: Economics 101."
Apple is definitely in the hardware game, they're not going to port to Intel. Do you see that dot after the word "Intel"? It's a period, the argument is over. But because there are idiots out there who like to point to the x86 port of Darwin as evidence, let me add that if by some cosmic collision Apple decided to throw out all software that had been written for OS X/PPC and put OS X on x86 you'd be no more able to run it on your home-built system than you are able to run OS X/PPC on a non-Apple PPC. Which brings us to our next collection of bad business ideas:
1. Admit it. You're out of the hardware game. Outsource your hardware production, or scrap it entirely, to compete more directly with Microsoft without the liability of manufacturing boxes.
36. Clone the PowerBook. When the shabbily made 5300s started to fall apart, catch on fire, and explode, a lot of Apple customers were forced to turn to Wintel for laptops. There was no place else to go. If clones had been available, the users might have stayed in the family.
It's understandable that people would think that cloning would save Apple at the time this was written. Microsoft was doing well, Apple wasn't, people used install base as a measure of success. However, Apple lost money on clones so Steve Jobs killed the clone program when he came back to Apple.
3. Start pampering independent software vendors. Your future depends on strong, user-friendly software. ISVs are losing confidence and crossing over to the Dark Side to take advantage of Wintel's market share. Remember what happened to OS/2 - not enough applications, updates too late, scarce industry support. And all the marketing dollars IBM threw at it couldn't help.
I don't think it's exactly "pampering" 3rd part developers when they feel ripped off, like in the cases of Watson, Konfabulator and Netflix Fanatic. There's some counter-arguments, but I guarantee that those developers have soured on the idea of developing for OS X in the future.
13. Exploit every Wintel user's secret fear that some day they're going to be thrown into a black screen with a blinking C-prompt. Advertise the fact that Mac users never have to rewrite autoexec.bat or sys.ini files
That doesn't exactly go along with the Unix/NeXT/Darwin strategy. On the plus side, virtually all the people who go into Terminal are there because they want to be, not because their computer broke. Also, remember that this was 1997 when Windows 95 still felt like it was running on top of DOS.
59. Invest heavily in Newton technology, which is one area where Microsoft can't touch you. Build voice recognition and better gesture recognition into Newton, making a new environment for desktop, laptop, and palmtop Macs. Newton can also be the basis of a new generation of embedded systems, from cash registers to kiosks.
Yeah, that happened. Of course, hope springs eternal.
72. Try the industry-standard serial port plug. RS-422 should be a last resort.
Apple has gotten in the habit of dictating industry standards instead of following them. The iMac brought USB to the masses, the iBook brought WiFi to the masses, and, uh, the G5 may bring Bluetooth to the masses (but don't count on it).
87. Price the CPUs to sell. Offer novice users the ability to enter the Mac market at a competitive price point and move up the power curve as their level of sophistication increases. The initial price keeps new buyers away.
A lot of people associate Apple with high prices, which I think helps Apple to a degree by making them a premium brand. The reason for the high prices is that, unlike PC makers like Dell and Gateway, they don't have to worry that if they overprice their computers you'll go buy the parts and build it yourself. I think the evidence for this is in the portable arena, Apple's notebooks are quite competitive with Windows notebooks. This isn't because Apple lowered their portable prices, but because the Windows laptops don't have to compete with home-built systems so they can raise their prices.
93. Develop a way to program that requires no scripting or coding.
Admittedly I never used it, but wasn't that HyperCard?
That's pretty much all I'm willing to write on the subject. This isn't a complete list of anything, so feel free to take this, wikify it or build on it or tear it down with counter arguments. Matt's not the only one with a hippie license.
Excerpt: Matt Haughey pointed to this blog piece, I got 101 problems but Apple ain't one. Me? I got 101 problems, and Apple is all of them....
Read the rest...
Trackback from: Backup Brain at November 24, 2004 05:58 PM
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