Apple has always stood for premium quality – but is there now just too much choice?
Trouble at the top
Apple is wading through some uncharacteristic waters right now.
Where the company has always prided themselves on the longevity of top-tier management, they find themselves, suddenly, with many top execs asking for the final pay cheque, and the gold watch.
Apart from the obvious chink that will leave in Apple’s human resources armour, it also weakens some choices and decisions that we can see being made.
No one, and certainly not me, can accuse CEO, Tim Cook, of not knowing how to make the company money – lots of it. But, does he need a strong right-hand man to step up, and say enough is enough – time to cut back Tim?
A clean sweep
Before stepping up to the top spot in 2011, after the passing of Steve Jobs, Cooks was the companies chief operating officer, and was responsible for all the company’s worldwide sales and operations.
As if that weren’t enough, he was also part of the Apple Macintosh division, which played a key role in the continued development of strategic reseller and supplier relationships.
He’d cut his teeth with stints at both Compaq and IBM, and once under the Apple roof, quickly became Jobs most trusted lieutenant. Jobs admired the foresight that Cook had, in establishing supply chain partnerships in China that would prove massively prosperous for the company, over the years.
In essence, Steve Jobs was the vision and the energy, where Cook was the engine, that made sure the company was lean, profitable, and most importantly, had inventory.
Cook had been readied to take the lead, and in those months after Steve passed away, Cook didn’t falter. The company stayed strong, and laid the foundations of what it has become – a company worth more than $2.3 trillion.
Interestingly, though, it looks as if he is now possibly falling foul of the very problems that Jobs brought him to the firm to sort. In the 90s, Jobs knew that the range of products was too bloated, and confusing. People were turning away, confused and bewildered with the sheer array of products on offer.
Cook took that in hand, and using his operations’ knowledge, effectively slimmed down the lineup. But, are we now seeing a return to those old, confused ways? Is he responsible for recreating an issue he solved more than 20 years ago?
Now you see it
The iPhone lineup is as good-a place to start as any to highlight what I’m on about.
Currently, you can choose from a SE, 12, 13, 14, and 14 Pro. And of course, when you pull back the curtains on each of those, there are various storage options, screen sizes, and colours available.
But hold on, if you are now trying to convince a friend to switch to the Cupertino companies offerings, would their first question not possibly be – “so what’s the difference between the 13 & 14 then? They look the same, and have the same chip, and a very similar camera, right?”
And, sadly, they’d have a point, too.
What’s in a name
And where I think things get truly confusing is the nomenclature – the naming, and branding is all over the shop.
Apple has always been recognised, and prided themselves, for clean, on-point branding and marketing. It’s the brand we all want to aspire to – right?
But now, we have the frankly baffling choices of Mini, SE, Pro, Studio, Ultra, and Max to decide between. All well and good, if the model names held the same values across devices…but, that’s not the case.
With an iPhone, the Pro range is the best you can get. Yet, if you move over to their audio gear, suddenly, there, AirPods Pro, give way to AirPods Max being the cream of the crop.
OK, may be that just a flook right – surely with the Macs we know where we are at, right? Err – no! The Mac Pro is no longer the king there either, with the Mac Studio out gunning it right now.
The biggest selling line of Macs for Apple has always been their laptops – the MacBooks, so let’s look at those.
With the MacBooks, we have a high-end version and a low-entry model.
Technically speaking, the specs of that lower-end MacBook Pro are not as good as a MacBook Air. At least you get MagSafe and an improved webcam on the Air. So, that means we have a de-natured Pro – the Pro brand has been confused and weakened.
But the hugely popular Watch range must be easier to understand, you’d think, right?
Well, there, we find no Pro range at all, but rather an Ultra. And, for good measure, that Ultra uses the same processor as Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Watch Series 7, and Apple Watch Series 8. And, that processor is now over two years old – and that’s what makes it to the Ultra?
As for iPads – hell, I write about Apple for a living, and even I don’t get that range – the Mini, iPad, Air and Pro. I guess at lest there, the Pro is top of the stack. But, this range is the perfect example of too much choice, with not enough clear differences between them.
As I wrote earlier, who on earth am I to criticise Tim Cook. I probably couldn’t live for an hour in his corporate shoes.
But, if I could offer the most humble of suggestions, it would be this…
Create some brand unity. Pro should mean Pro – full stop. Or, if it’s time for a re-brand, make your best the Ultra. We would all then know a Watch Ultra, a Mac Ultra, an iPad Ultra, or iPhone Ultra was the zenith – as good as it gets.
Apple needs to get back to being that premium brand, rather than having a product available at every price-point. Quality, not quantity, is the way forward.
In my opinion, everything just needs to be cranked back in a notch or three. Of course, this ‘something for everyone’ policy, keeps the tills busy, and in turn, the shareholders, and board too.
Look, the loyal Apple customers, will always be loyal, but any company has to keep an eye to the future, and win over new customers. And right now, the range is simply becoming too confusing and messy.
Do we really need five iPhones to choose from? Less is more. Give us fewer products, but with better, more clearly defined differences (iPad – that is all I will say to cement that point). And while you are at it, simplify those names as well.
You’ve done it once before, Tim, time to revisit the past.
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