On Friday, April 10th, Apple Watch pre-ordering was launched, and by-appointment-only demos were available for would-be buyers in order to get some personal time with Apple’s first wearable device. Another Apple product, largely overshadowed by Apple Watch, was also launched. Or was it?
The all-new MacBook was to be available for purchase – not just pre-order – on April 10th. Friday morning, I gathered in line at Portland, Oregon's downtown Apple store. Upon entering it appeared that roughly a 1/3rd of the people in line were waiting to get their hands on the new MacBook. Unfortunately those hoping to make a purchase and walk away with the new laptop were sorely disappointed, because there were no MacBooks in stock to buy from Apple. Two customers I spoke with had flown in from Utah, and another had taken the day off to drive several hours in order to purchase the MacBook. Needless to say, customers were not happy about the news — No MacBooks available in store for purchase.
If you hadn’t noticed, Apple is on what can only be described as a never-ending tear of success, and their enemies seem incapable or inept at stopping them. But this does not mean other tech players aren’t trying to wear their big-boy pants — they just continue to come up short at competing effectively. Perhaps the worst offender is Microsoft. Under former CEO Steve Ballmer, the Redmond software giant became very good at making lofty promises, delivering failures, demonstrating vaporware or throwing an occasional chair. Today’s Microsoft, run by Satya Nadella, is now a softer, gentler software vendor, but has yet to be any more effective at defeating the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and soon to arrive and dominate the wearable market, Apple Watch.
Nadella showed initial promise by downplaying the consumer electronics market, turning his focus on enterprise solutions. Old habits die hard. Microsoft is once again is pulling out their Fisher Price "My First Marketing Playbook" in another attempt at capturing the consumers eye with Surface 3. Will a cheaper Surface, whose best feature is the 5 seconds of switching between a poor tablet and so-so ultrabook, backed with a massive advertising budget, be enough to derail Apple’s best laid plans?
Since last Fall, all the attention of those who carefully follow what Apple does have been focused on Apple Watch, iPhone, Apple Pay and most recently a stunning new MacBook. From all the predictions from way back in 2010 until now (including some here at T-GAAP), Apple TV has made little progress from its hobby status.
Apple CEO Tim Cook conducted an interview a few weeks ago at the Goldman Sachs technology conference. Cook discussed Apple's product line, grid-free power initiatives and the forthcoming Apple Watch (once asked about it). I've listened to Tim Cook interviewed and watched him give presentations dozens of times, just as I had Steve Jobs. There is one thing about each man that becomes abundantly clear. Steve Jobs was a pure genius visionary, while Tim Cook is cunningly smart.
Jobs birthed Apple, was fired, and was then rehired to save it. He did more than just save the company, he drove it to record success. Jobs could simply see things others could not, and he taught his fellow executives to remove the glass ceiling and dogma surrounding large businesses. Jobs had pet projects, such as the ill-fated Cube, and wildly successful iPhone and iPad. Who knows what he had up his sleeve for Television.
Apple versus Tesla. Tesla versus Apple. A new battle is brewing with claims of Tesla Motors gaining the upper hand on Apple Incorporated, in poaching employees. Last year it was rumored that Apple would be investing heavily in Tesla's upcoming Lithium Ion battery facility in Nevada for a share of the spoils. Evidently the tide has turned and Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Apple CEO Tim Cook can't stand each other... Here's an idea. Why doesn't Tim Cook just reach into his petty cash drawer, buy Tesla and end all of this nonsense.
A bit tongue and cheek for sure, but there is actual validity to Apple purchasing Tesla. Apple suffering brain-drain to Tesla can't continue. In fact, it can't continue to any entity so long they are unable to replenish that talent with greater boy geniuses. Microsoft has suffered over a decade of talent loss to Apple, Google and Amazon, with disastrous results. Steve Jobs understood the value of top talent, while Steve Ballmer clearly did not. Tim Cook's latest actions to buy back its former employees from Tesla showcases that Apple clearly understands the value of top talent, but Apple could do much more than just play tit for tat.
A good CEO knows that if their company rests on its success, impending doom will soon be at their doorstep. IBM became distracted and complacent. Microsoft believed it was invincible with over 90% market share. Thank goodness Tim Cook and Apple think differently.
Cook knows that despite all the success and glory with the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and the resurgence of the Mac, if Apple stands still history shows that Apple’s fate is certain — decline. While IBM and Microsoft are still with us today, they are not the companies they were at the peak of their success. The question is how Apple will maintain its success into the next decade.
If Apple were an ocean liner and Tim Cook her captain, there is little doubt that the USS Apple would be parsing the open waters at “full steam ahead”. While Steve Jobs turned Apple around, was very good at gathering top talent and then focusing that talent on a few key ideas — bringing excitement to the world with new gadgets and gizmos we all had to have, Tim Cook has brought stability to Apple.
Microsoft seemed very pleased with itself yesterday, as their Surface franchise managed over $1 billion in global sales for the December quarter. While Microsoft is trumpeting the sales figure, based on an average selling price of $1,000, Microsoft may not have actually sold 1 million Surface devices.
This is Microsoft, a company that has never let reality get in their way. Yesterday they were giddy like school girls about their fledgling 2-in-1 sales increase. Surface revenues rose from $908 million during the September quarter to $1.1 billion in the December quarter. Analysts expected sales of Surface would grow during the largest consumer quarter of the year, but with Microsoft’s massive advertising campaign, the software giant still cannot figure out how to sell over a million of their devices during the largest consumer hardware sales season of the year.
If history provides any guidance, we are less than six months away from WWDC 2015 — hard to believe, but true. With a few exceptions, Apple typically holds this massive developers conference in the month of June. Since Tim Cook has been guiding the ship, the “SS Apple”, Special Events, WWDC or any type of Apple announcements, have been on a strict schedule — WWDC in June, Special Event in September and a Special Event in October.
Can you hear it? That is Apple’s stealthy, yet highly effective marketing arm about to blow the media’s doors off with Apple Watch hype. This will not be some Microsoftian campaign, where massive kiosks are displayed in Times Square in an effort to create some sort of false enthusiasm. Nor will Apple’s promotion include renting Radio City Music Hall, containing several dance routines and a skit about a single Mom (thanks for searing that into my brain Samsung). Once the holiday season is over, with Christmas iPhones having been unwrapped and the New Years parties complete, Apple will start a quiet, yet savvy campaign for launching its market disruptive Apple Watch.