For The Guardian, Juliette Garside writes Five ways Apple has lost its bite, but it’s more like five ways Apple journalism has lost its bite, namely: unfounded speculation, lack of insight, intentionally downplaying achievements, removing context, and rewriting Apple’s own history to suit.
Right from the off, the article sets out its agenda:
The breathtaking expansion of the world’s most successful technology company has skidded to a halt.
Had this been a fact, fair enough, but:
Tonight Apple is expected to post its worst financial results for a decade, with profits falling for the first time since 2003, and revenues flat on last year.
This article was written before Apple issued its financials. Also, “worst financial results” is a loaded statement without context. Worst in what manner? Certainly not revenue. And although profits are down on the previous year, they’re way higher than any previous Apple year. The context here is therefore “profits down compared to the same quarter last year,” which Garside failed to state, but then she didn’t even have the figures to hand when filing this piece.
It’s less than two years since Tim Cook took over from Steve Jobs, but Apple’s creative juices appear to have dried up.
Again, there’s no context here, and this also rewrites Apple’s history. The inference here is Apple having not disrupted a new industry recently, in the manner the company did with tablets and smartphones. Tech hacks seem to have a version of Apple in their heads that does something new and amazing at the very least once a quarter. In reality, Apple since its earliest days has only very slowly unveiled new products, and has slowly iterated on its successful (and sometimes less successful) lines.
Go right back to the Apple II and move forward from there. Since the late 1970s, how many truly revolutionary products has Apple released? You could argue the original Mac, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, certainly. How many more? If you can double that list, you’re still talking an average of something new and amazing every three or four years.
For two decades the soft-spoken Alabaman has been very much part of the firm’s success, but Wall Street is now rife with (albeit not very credible) rumours that the search for his replacement has begun.
Cook’s tenure has had its positives: appalling working conditions at Apple’s Chinese factories have been tackled and a readiness to apologise for mistakes has helped the company appear less arrogant.
But the things that made Apple great – the innovation, the ability to make software and hardware that “just work”, and the faultless industrial design that created some of the best-looking consumer electronics ever made – appear to be slipping away.
Intentionally downplaying achievements.
Garside next moves on to the internet’s favourite thing: the numbered list. It’s a pity this wasn’t on Business Insider, whereupon it could have excitingly been presented across five separate slowly loading pages, for no reason at all. The numbered list in this case is the five ways Apple’s lost its bite, because presumably moaning about Cook wasn’t one of them. Here, Garside does have some decent points, but they’re too often buried under unfounded speculation, lack of insight, intentionally downplaying achievements, removing context, and rewriting Apple’s own history to suit.
1. Never making a television or getting Apple TV right
I’m still to hear a single credible argument why Apple should make its own television. Perhaps such a unit could be a success, but it strikes me as an extraordinarily difficult ask. People rarely upgrade televisions, and having a plug-in component that could be upgraded (as many have suggested) doesn’t seem very Apple. Also, the so-called second screen is rapidly becoming the first, and Apple already has a commanding lead in that field. So a low-cost conduit—the Apple TV—backed up by some decent content (iTunes, Apple TV ‘apps’ and iOS apps with AirPlay) seems a better bet.
Garside does get a nugget right, in that Apple needs to do more regarding content, but the assertion
Apple must work harder than it did shaking up a bloated and complacent music industry
suggests there’s something to work with, and it’s pretty clear the television and film industry is doing everything it can to repeatedly shoot itself in the foot and argue the customer guided the bullet by their evil psychic piracy powers.
2. iCloud being beset by syncing issues and instability
I’ve no complaints here. Although Garside moans about the expense of iCloud compared to its rivals and ignores the potential it offers in terms of integration, she’s spot on regarding its technical issues. Had the entire article been like this, I wouldn’t be writing mine. Still, in terms of arguing why Apple has lost its bite, iCloud isn’t a great example. It’s arguable in terms of web services Apple never really had any bite at all—it’s always been a gummy toothless wannabe trying and failing to grab hold.
3. Apple Maps being pretty rubbish, and not optional
Boom! And we’re back to good points buried under rubbish. Apple Maps was indeed sub-par, and Apple should have done better. Garside also says something I’ve long wondered not only about Apple but about big technology companies in general:
The faults were so glaring […] that one wonders how well the chief executive studied his own product before approving its release.
But Maps is now actually a fairly good app for certain tasks (turn-by-turn in the car, say), and the circumstances of why Apple dropped Google’s data have never (and will never) be revealed, but it’s pretty clear that prior to Apple’s own Maps app, the Google-backed one was woefully behind the equivalent on other platforms. Somewhat ironically, the mess of Apple Maps resulted in Apple’s mobile platform ending up extremely strong from a mapping standpoint, with the release of Google’s own app and others.
Again, though, is this a case of Apple losing its bite? It’s not like Apple hasn’t offered other high-profile disappointments in terms of software. Just recently, Siri and Final Cut X come to mind. Also, like Maps, they offer good foundations on which to build, but Apple’s never been that great at retaining interest in the long term over many of its software products. Look at the OS X versions of what were once the iLife and iWork apps…
4. Hiring a retail chief who didn’t realise Apple stores are showrooms
A first proper hit, and we’re only at the fourth of five reasons why Apple’s lost its bite. The hire of Browett was truly baffling to Brits who’d seen his previous work, although amusingly lost on any Americans who’d not visited a PC World and initially lapped up the PR rather than took notice of the screams of anguish from across the pond.
It’s perhaps too early to say Apple’s truly lost its bite when it comes to recruitment of major players, but this was at the very least a mis-step and so deserves to be on the list.
5. The iPhone 5 only really having a slightly bigger screen
And we crash back down to earth, with the wonderful:
It may be one of the fastest phones in the world, loading video and spinning through web pages at record speeds, but reviewers complain that the screen is too small
In reality, tech geek reviewers moan that every new iOS device isn’t an Android device, rather than weighing up whether or not it’s relevant for the target market. Even if Apple were to release an iPhone with a massive screen, reviewers would whine it’s not as big as the latest Samsung, which by that point would probably cover most of Wales.
Others have caught up too, with Nokia and Samsung making cheaper machines that work just as well.
Vague statements offering no insight are the best! It’d be like writing “The Guardian’s technology columns aren’t worth reading because others write far better content,” but that would just be mean, and so I sure hope no-one does that.
So really the numbers are all wrong. The Guardian’s piece is more like “One way Apple’s lost its bite and a bunch of unfounded speculation and link-bait,” and my piece is more like: *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*.
Give it a year and there will be no facts at all in anything written about Apple. And I’ll need a new desk.
Further reading: Just How Did Apple “Journalism” Get This Bad? by the brilliant and wise Ian Betteridge.