“They’ve chopped off the edges of the bell curve—and big chunks of their key users with them.”
The must-read Apple rant of the week is Chuq Von Rospach’s Apple’s 2016 in review. The veteran of a dozen Silicon Valley firms—including 17 years at Apple—Von Rospach has written a critique of Apple’s annus horribilis so sharp and on-the-mark that even die-hard Apple apologists are recommending it.
Von Rospach gets high marks for his analysis of the Mac Pro disaster and the abandoned AirPort line. But for me the heart of his critique is captured by this anecdote:
Back when I was running most of Apple’s e-mail systems for the marketing teams, I went to them and suggested that we should consider dumping the text-only part of the emails we were building, because only about 4% of users used them and it added a significant amount of work to the process of creation and testing each e-mail.
Their response? That it was a small group of people, but a strategic one, since it was highly biased towards developers and power users. So the two-part emails stayed — and they were right. It made no sense from a business standpoint to continue to develop these emails as both HTML [and] text, but it made significant strategic sense. It was an investment in keeping this key user base happy with Apple.
Apple, from all indications I’ve seen over the last year and with the configurations they’ve shipped with these new laptops, has forgotten this, and the product configurations seem designed by what will fit the biggest part of the user base with the fewest configuration options. They’ve chopped off the edges of the bell curve—and big chunks of their key users with them.
Is this Tim Cook’s fault? Von Rospach doesn’t think so. Is Apple broken? Not even close. But he does worry that Apple isn’t seeing the “unmitigated disaster” (ex John Gruber) of the Mac Pro situation for what it is because it’s looking at the company’s sales numbers and they look fine.
If you just look at the numbers, things are okay. But what Apple’s always been good at is looking beyond the numbers to the things they don’t say—and I worry they’ve lost that.
As I say, a must-read.
More Von Rospach photos here.