Three Guys and a Podcast: Apple News & Analysis
Macworld/iWorld 2014 came and went this past month. No one noticed. No one remembered. Perhaps sadly, no one cared.
Official attendance figures for the 2014 show have yet to be released, but estimates are for flat or a continued decline in attendance. IDG World Expo estimated that 25,000 attendees visited the three day all-things-Apple event in 2013. However, that pails in comparison to 2007 when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone where show attendance was 45,572. Since Apple’s departure in 2009, Macworld/iWorld has seen a massive decline in attendance with companies constantly shrinking their booth size, and major players, such as Microsoft, no longer attending. Macworld/iWorld may not be long for this world.
Apple’s stock price currently hovers in the low $520’s, a far cry from the days of AAPL closing just over $700. Where Apple’s stock price may be headed is up for huge debate, and if you want to believe AAPL is moving to $800, then believe this. If you want to believe Apple is in a free-fall, go here. There seems to be an abundance of Kool-Aid for everyone of any persuasion. Underneath all of the pop culture of stock predictions lies a fundamental question: Did investors ever believe in Apple, or was it only Steve Jobs that they saw someone worth investing in?
Steve Jobs led Apple out of its dark past to make Apple the largest financially solvent tech company in the world. Investors were quick to take note and eagerly followed along. AAPL rose from $10 a share in 2004 to over $350 per share by the time of Jobs death in March, 2011, rising to over $420 a share (which included two stock splits). Apple’s stock price continued to march happily north, peaking at $702.10 on September 19, 2012, nearly a year after Tim Cook had begun to act as full-time Apple CEO. Nothing had seemed to change between Jobs or Cook, just more product market share and financial success. But it wasn’t long after Apple’s dramatic rise to just over $700 that Wall Street began to sour on Apple.
This year will mark Apple's third World Wide Developers Conference where Tim Cook holds the title of CEO. Apple has been under his leadership a bit longer than that, but we have yet to see anything “wow” appear during Cook’s tenure. Sure, there have been updated versions of iPhones, iPads and Macs as well as OS X and iOS — but those were all expected and were updates have been to existing product categories. What we have yet to see is Apple enter a new market with Tim in control of Apple.
If Apple is going to remain true to its nature, then we need to see Apple expand into a new product category, and soon. If Apple’s new strategy is instead to play it safe and not enter into new markets, then Apple’s magic has died, along side its founder. Apple’s brand has historically been about bringing to market “magical” products that no one thought would ever exist in their lifetime.
Will Apple hold a special event within the next few weeks? When Apple produced a special event is something Apple once made an absolute science. In the past, CES would come and go, and then Apple would swoop in the following week with their own special event, sucking the media attention completely away from the varied vaporware revealed in Las Vegas.
Over the past three years, Apple has shifted to holding more events in March, June or the fall timeframe, largely ignoring CES — as if irrelevant to the industry, and certainly to Apple. Apple may be on target with ignoring CES, as it is often nothing more than a lot of hype and spec. sheets, with little for anyone to tangibly buy into for the new year.
Widely consider a joke, the question of, “Who has been a more successful Apple employee: Tim Cook or Steve Ballmer?” Funny as it sounds, it rings true in some circles, and the comparison and contrast between the two men is worth thinking about.
Both Cook and Ballmer became the successors to high tech empires that were at the top of their game. While Bill Gates did not pass away, he did step aside from the day to day operations and stayed on the board or directors (he also is the company’s largest stock holder). This left Steve Ballmer in charge of a company at its peak — a company that could do no wrong. At the time of Steve Ballmer's ascension to becoming Microsoft CEO, the company had done nothing more than amass a track record of success and mammoth growth.
CEO of Apple, Inc. — Tim Cook — is his own man. He is no Steve Jobs (who is?) and has certainly done many things differently than Jobs would have. This isn't to say that Cook’s direction is poor, and Jobs was perfect. Stated another way, Apple is no longer running on Jobs’ legacy thoughts and leadership. The ship is truly Tim Cook’s to maneuver.
Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital 2013 conference stage last Spring answering a host of questions from Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, while fielding additional questions from the audience. Beyond Kara's witty charm and Walt's deadpan approach, nothing shocking came to light. Staying true to form, Cook delivered vague answers, falling back to the idea that people like surprises, but there is one product Cook and crew appear to be taking much more seriously. Apple TV.
It is now fall, 2013, and Apple has likely sold over 15 million Apple TV's since its inception, while roughly half of those units were sold in the last year alone. Notably, Tim Cook never mentioned at the All Things Digital conference, nor has mentioned, Apple TV as a hobby since 2012. In fact, over the past five public appearances by Cook, he has avoided calling Apple TV a hobby, or a product that Apple is very interested in and will simply continue to pull the string and see where it leads. That previous talk track is now gone, replaced with a message that Apple is selling up to 2 million Apple TV's per quarter, and that TV is an area of incredible interest.
Yesterday it became quite clear: Apple has no chance of surviving since Steve Jobs’ departure. With Tim Cook as CEO, Apple moves rudderless, in any number of directions, certainly not on time, and no one cares.
That's right, Ive's and company, not Cook and company. Don't get me wrong, Apple is Tim Cook's ship, but he isn't the showman or the man that makes the hardware and software design magic happen. Cook is the man behind the curtain controlling the gears, but Jony Ive and Craig Federighi are the hardware and software gurus that Apple's magic possible.
Tim Cook is a comfortable CEO. He isn't scared to let others take the limelight, presenting and promoting products for Apple. Cook simply isn't concerned with making Apple about himself, he's concerned with making Apple great. Some may argue Apple is great, but that's not how they look at it internally, not even close. Whomever and whatever it takes to keep Apple on the cutting edge and successful, that is what Cook will manage and promote. Over time, as Apple's success continues it will only further reflect on Tim Cook's CEO competence and capabilities. Clearly, Cooks' management style and media persona is different than Steve Jobs, but seriously, how could it anything but different? What is beginning to truly show through is Tim Cook is comfortable being his own man, doing things his way, and that Apple is on the cusp of being a run away success under his leadership style.
Steve Ballmer has done a good job at Microsoft, and Tim Cook, if measured in the same way, should be fired. This is according to Ed Bott, the award winning writer of ZDNET. During the infamous online technology show, TWIT (This Week in Tech), Ed stated “Steve’s done a pretty good job. There aren’t too many CEO's in the tech industry today that are capable of continuing to make a profit. I mean, by that same logic Tim Cook should have been fired three months ago.”