Apple is suddenly, somewhat unexpectedly, in the middle of its most exciting period of activity since it launched the original iPhone seven years ago.
Tim Cook has taken over the company and is changing it in ways both small and big that will alter how the world thinks of Apple. For the most part, we think the changes are pretty good.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening:
- Apple opened up iOS, the software that powers iPhones and iPads, giving developers a few more hooks into the system. As Matt Drance put it, “Apple knocked nearly every item off the community’s list of wishes and complaints” about iOS. Apple was also a little more relaxed about NDAs for developers, allowing them to talk about things they learned at WWDC, the big developer conference.
- Apple is going to release two bigger iPhones. For years now, people have wanted a big screen iPhone from Apple. This year it’s going to deliver a 4.7-inch phone and a 5.5-inch phone. The current phone is 4-inches, which is tiny compared to most Android phones.
- Apple is looking for a new, more friendly, more approachable PR person to lead communications. This is one of those things that people in the media are more interested in since they deal with PR. However, PR does more than deal with annoying reporters, it guides the story around Apple for the public. It will be fascinating to see how the story of Apple evolves. Since Steve Jobs’ death, Apple has lost its grip on the story, and people started to think Apple was less innovative than Google, which is a bit silly, really.
- Apple is shaking up its marketing department, bringing more people in house to run advertising. Apple has been trashed over the years as nothing more than a “marketing company” that sold cool to customers. This too, is silly since the products are great. But, there’s no denying that its advertising and marketing was excellent. That advertising inspired a generation of companies who are all doing excellent work. Apple’s work by comparison started to go sideways. Can Apple regain its marketing mojo by bringing its ad team in-house?
- Apple retail is going to get a big make over. Angela Ahrendts was brought in from Burberry to shake things up.
- Apple has been on an acquisition spree. On earnings, Cook said the company bought 24 companies in the last 18 months. And it feels like every other day we’re hearing about a new little pick up. It’s an un-Apple-like move, but it can’t hurt to bring in fresh new talent with good ideas.
- It bought Beats for $US3.2 billion. The cool kids in Silicon Valley snort at the deal. (A typical response we saw on Twitter Tuesday: Google buys a satellite company, Facebook buys Oculus, the leading Virtual Reality company, and Apple buys a bad headphones company?) But, whatever, this is something completely different. It’s a low cost, low risk deal, and Apple can easily expand the distribution and quality of Beats headphones. Not to mention, it infuses the company with some creative, think different types of people that don’t live in the insular world of tech.
- Apple is going to release the iWatch, its first post-Steve Jobs product in October. Whether it’s a smash hit, or a flop, this is exciting. We’re getting the first new hardware product from Apple in four years.
- “Later this year, we’ve got the best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple “ That’s a quote from Eddy Cue, who runs Apple’s Internet services. Personally, I think it’s crazy to do hype like that, but Cue and the rest of Apple’s executive team seem confident in what they’re doing.
We are firmly in the post-Steve Jobs era, and Apple is doing a lot of stuff that Jobs would not have liked. Whether that’s for the best won’t be known for a few years, but as of right now, these changes look good and necessary.
Because Jobs was such a powerful, brilliant executive, his flaws tend to be swept over. But he had flaws. For instance, he was opposed to putting iTunes on Windows-based computers. However, that was the right call as it led to widespread adoption of the iPod, which kickstarted Apple’s comeback. Jobs was opposed to an App Store because he wanted total control over the iPhone’s software. The App Store was the right call.
After Jobs died, I spoke with a former Apple executive, and one thing he said has stuck with me. Basically, Jobs created bottlenecks at Apple because every major decision flowed through him. With Jobs gone, and power more diffuse, it seems like Apple is able to do more within its product categories.
Cook has taken over the company, and as of right now, it looks like he’s managed to balance Jobs’ obsession with secrecy and control with just enough openness to make the iPhone and iPad better products.
Things are changing at Apple, and it’s going to be exciting to see what happens as a result.
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