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Friday, 09 March 2012 11:40

Apple has lost the plot

Written by Nick Farrell



Loss of Jobs is probably terminal


Although I hate to say it, Apple is really screwed without Steve Jobs. Since he passed on to the great Apple Store in the sky his outfit really has been struggling to come up with anything really new. This week it was the iPad 3, er no it wasn't it was the iPad HD, I mean the new iPad.  

It was more expensive and had the sort of high res screen which should have been in the iPad 2. Not bad, but really not worth the difference in price between that and the old one. It might attract those who have not bought an iPad before but early reviews suggest that those who own an iPad 2 can't be bothered buying a new one.

The new iPad’s problem is that its 4G phone technology will not work anywhere other than in a small part of the known world.  So really all anyone will be buying it for is to watch HD content on their laps on a small screen.  I have played with an iPad and it is not the best thing to watch anything on.  It is too heavy to hold upright and it needs a stand to watch video unless you want a cricked neck. True it is handy for long flights, and it is not a bad e-reader, although I prefer e-ink versions, but not worth splashing out large amounts of dosh for.  To make matters worse the iPad HD is thicker to cope with its extra graphics potential.

Does this sound familiar? It should, this is exactly what I said about the iPhone 4S. Like the new iPad it was identical to its predecessor. True it fixed many of the flaws that the iPhone 4 had but it looked the same.  It also had a slightly better chip, not that anyone would have noticed.  All the iPhone 4S which was different was the voice activated search gadget Siri.  If you were trying to use the phone outside the US you would find that Siri did not work because Apple could not be bothered installing local maps and businesses. [And if you happen to speak English with a thick accent it doesn’t work, not to mention a few billion people don't speak English at all. Ed] It also had some annoying neo-conservative quirks which prevented it from telling people where abortion clinics were, but did list pro-life groups.

What Apple expected was that its fanboys would queue for these practically identical products a year after they shipped the originals. In the old days they might have done. Jobs somehow managed to convince them whatever turd with an Apple logo on was a cure for cancer.  He was also able to obscure some of Apple's more dodgy manufacturing procedures and back room deals. For ages we have been writing about conditions in Apple plants in China where staff are so miserable about making Jobs' toys of joy that they have been exiting the company via the roof.  There were few comments from the mainstream press and the reporting that happened was mostly comments from Apple saying that everything was wonderful there really.

However after Jobs' death, the New York Times, which had been acting as his unpaid press office, suddenly starts running anti-Foxconn stories.  Suddenly it seems that a crisis blew out of nowhere and Apple was forced to investigate. The Times would have known about Foxconn before Jobs' death but did not seem ready to crusade against it until he passed on. The same is true of other mainstream media, major cable news networks and even comics such as Jon Stewart picked up the issue in front of a gasping live audience, which clearly wasn’t following Fudzilla. This week another one of Jobs' less savory deals was brought to light by the Department of Justice.  It seems that Jobs organised the publishing companies to jack the prices up on ebooks.  He knew that this would put users out, but he did not care because it earned him and his new chums in the publishing industry more dosh. Again he got away with this because as far as the press and the DoJ was concerned he was untouchable.

This get out of jail free card has not been extended to his successor, Tim Cook. Cook is doing a good job, he even does his best to mimic Jobs' presentation style, the problem is that he is the guy who is seeing all Apple's chickens come home to roost and he has not been the one who has seen much in the way of new innovation. So far Apple is depending on the hype wagon that Jobs started, but there are signs that is not going to be enough in the future.  When fanboys start saying “you know my iPhone 4 or iPad 2 is OK” you know something is going wrong.

There will be those who will point to the fact that Apple's financials are still going through the roof. I can't really see, short of Apple finding new markets for its expensive toys, how those profits are sustainable. Share prices are always betting that the company is going to make more profits in the future, but at the moment Cook appears to be treading water as far as gadgets are concerned.

He desperately needs a new iPad or iPhone or something that really is a “game changer” to save Apple in the long term.  If he keeps serving up the same products and telling people they are “game changers” pretty soon they will stop believing him.  My prediction is that unless something happens to Apple in the next year, the shine is going to go from the shiny toys maker and it is going to be rapidly outclassed by its much cheaper Android rivals. In fact, Apple’s only trump card for the time being is Google’s constant cock-ups with Android updates and fragmentation, and let’s not forget that Windows 8 is also on the way.

Looking at Jobs I don't think he would really mind.  Someone who was as narcissistic and unpleasant would smugly feel happy that the company could not really do without him.  

Nick Farrell

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