Quora Question: Is Apple Going Downhill?

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Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple media event in Cupertino, California, October 27. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

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Answer from Glyn Williams:

Apple is doomed! This is an immensely popular narrative. Especially for websites. It is the tech equivalent of "The Beatles are bigger than Jesus." The narrative is used because people who are enthusiastic about Apple angrily click looking to see what is being served up next. And people who are enthusiastic in their hatred of Apple click to see what dirt has been dished.

Apple is bigger than it has ever been. So from a purely fiscal and influence perspective, Apple is not going downhill. But if you use a lot of Apple products, you can't help but notice that the company is not perfect. There are little imperfections in the software. This app has a bit of an odd edge case. This syncing system breaks from time to time. This web service is not quite as good as another web service.

All of this imperfection can be assembled to present a case that Apple is coming apart at the seams. This seems unfair, because despite the mythology, the company has never been perfect. Hindsight often erases the bad, and we perceive the present inaccurately.

Not only is Apple not perfect, neither is any other company. Tech stuff is hard and this hardness results in breakage. This happens all the time.

For any technology company there is is two massive forces they have to deal with.

  1. There is the need to rapidly progress. To show new stuff, make new things happen, innovate and generally perform digital miracles.
  2. There is the need to make stuff work. Be reliable, be useful, be safe and secure.

And anyone who understands technology, realizes that 1 is the enemy of 2.

So if Apple moves too quickly, and over-reaches its technical abilities, there is a ton of breakage and lots of unhappiness. This is the first cause of the "Apple is doomed" exclamation.

But if Apple moves too slowly, and reduces the rate of progress in order to make everything perfect, this creates massive dissatisfaction with everyone saying the company is dead, can't innovate. And this is the second cause of the "Apple is doomed" narrative.

The only way to avoid these claims, is to move fast and never fail. Which is impossible—or as we used to say—is asking for the moon on a stick.

A more nuanced and intelligent criticism of Apple is about strategy and direction. The smarter Apple watchers challenge decisions made within the company. For example, those decisions which seem to favor consumer and mobile customers, over (say) professional and creative customers.

They argue: "Why is Apple investing resources in the iPad, while neglecting Mac customers."

Others argue: "Why is Apple making products thinner, when they should just put in a bigger battery and make them last longer."

And another is "Why don't Apple slow down the rate of development, and double down on reliability?"

I read hundreds of opinions about how the company should invest it's efforts. Most of them are earnest. Many come from people who care. Although very few come from people who have ever run a large corporation.

Someone at Apple has to make those decisions, and I suspect, the humans who do, might occasionally get them wrong.

But let us be clear, these issues are about how the Apple vehicle is being steered. They are discussions about which lane to go in. No one really thinks the vehicle is crashing.

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Quora Question: Is Apple Going Downhill? | Opinion