VentureBeat: Apple’s rich execs have lost Steve Jobs’ common touch

From Jeremy Horowitz’ “Apple’s $999 Pro Stand is just the latest sign of its identity crisis” posted Friday:

The complex reality is that Apple has been selling a mix of high- and low-priced products for years, historically with a greater mix of high-priced ones, but appeared to be on a trajectory to democratizing its hardware until Steve Jobs’ untimely death in 2011. Since then, however, the company has tried to simultaneously expand its footprint and satisfy Wall Street, creating an identity crisis that seems to plague every new product announcement. Is a new iPad or Mac going to be priced so that students and school districts can afford it, or is Apple going to need to give away hardware to disadvantaged schools to demonstrate that it still cares about education?

In my view, the main issue is that Apple — now run by a core team of executives who make millions of dollars each year — has become insensitive to the fact that its products are commonly purchased by people who view $159 AirPods as luxuries. Based on comments in the last two quarterly conference calls, these executives apparently learned only recently that they needed to offer multi-year financing plans and device trade-in programs to help customers buy even $749 phones, say nothing of $999 models. My take is that the people complaining about $999 Pro Stands aren’t primarily the (very narrow) target audience for $4,999 Pro Displays, but the millions of customers who could never afford them, and find the very idea of selling such things ridiculous.

It wouldn’t hurt to invite a few actual (but tight-lipped) customers to sit in on keynote prep, either, to provide notes ahead of the formal announcements. If Apple’s executives are too far removed from consumer sentiment to realize that a $999 phone might cause gasps in China, or a $999 stand might generate groans in America, there are plenty of people out there who would be more than happy to set them straight before they make another unnecessarily embarrassing mistake.

My take: Steve Jobs in his day kept just as close an eye on profit margins as Tim Cook, but I’m not sure Cook & Co. share Jobs’ confidence that if Apple stuck to its knitting, the stock price would take care of itself.

11 Comments

  1. Steven Noyes said:

    One thought: Mac G4 Cube.

    Personally, I don’t know what it takes to make that stand but I question the sanity of people comparing it to injection molded plastic . The monitor is drool worthy and the price, even with the stand, is in line with what I paid for the 30” Cinema Display in the early 2000’s.

    2
    June 9, 2019
  2. David Emery said:

    Kirk McElhearn nailed this story: https://www.kirkville.com/apples-pro-branding-confusion/ The problem is not with a machine designed for a small market (and priced accordingly.) The problem is with the confused branding behind the prefix ‘Pro’.

    The triad of Mini, iMac and Mac Pro does make sense if it’s framed appropriately, identifying the target audience for each.

    That being said, I’d like to see an affordable Apple display in the $1k range. (But given the choice between a lower cost Apple display, and a next generation of Apple networking hardware, I’d definitely choose the latter. Apple’s abandoing the router market gives me the same heartburn as PED gets from dropping MagSafe 🙂 )

    1
    June 9, 2019
  3. Robert Paul Leitao said:

    In 1987 I purchased for work a Macintosh SE and an Image Writer dot matrix printer. The cost, including tax, was in the range of $3,300. That was 32 years ago. Today I could purchase an iMac, an iPad and an iPhone combined for the same $3,300 in non-inflation-adjusted dollars.

    Last year when I bought a new car I chose to forego the $1,000+ optional navigation system because the car came with Apple CarPlay as standard equipment. Even if I choose not to engage CarPlay for navigation, I have turn-by-turn navigation by using Siri with augmented hands-free navigation instructions over my AirPods or Apple Watch.

    For $15 per month my entire family has access to Apple Music. This is a big cost saver over what family members spent on purchasing music each year and the content can be streamed on any and all of our Apple devices. Thanks to the Apple TV, I’ve saved over $6,000 net over the past five years by cutting the cable cord and subscribing to specific services for entertainment content.

    Apple News+ at $10 a month allows all family members to have access to news and magazine content from an array of sources that wasn’t possible a few months ago at anywhere near the low monthly cost. The new gaming service at the same low monthly cost as News+ will save the cost of console systems and there will no longer be a need for in-app purchases or the purchase of games for disparate systems. Games can be played across all our Apple devices.

    The new Mac Pro is gorgeous. But I don’t need one. I don’t need the new Mac Pro anymore than I need to purchase a high-performance luxury 7-passenger SUV to get myself to and from work. My car provides adequate performance and seats four. I do plan to buy a new iMac this year. For about the cost of the Mac Plus I purchased 32 years ago, I could custom configure a high-performance 27” iMac and I’ll get by just fine. If I needed the power and performance of the new Mac Pro it’s good to know it’s available. The new Mac Pro isn’t intended for the consumer market but some consumers will buy one. Judging by the number of high performance luxury cars I see on the road each day, there’s no crime in buying what you want even if it’s more than what you need.

    I don’t know why the author of the article took this slant. As a consumer I’m savings thousands of dollars measured over years investing in Apple products and services.

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    June 9, 2019
  4. Gregg Thurman said:

    VentureBeat is a hack magazine in search of a man biting a dog.

    If Apple made the stand available for $100 the overall cost of the base Mac Pro, XDR Display and stand drops from about $12,000 to about $11,000. That would certainly “democratize” Apple’s products. Not. The demographic that requires an $11,000 WORK STATION AND DISPLAY did not, and will not suddenly expand to tens of millions with a $900 price reduction. I’ll wager (you pick the amount) right now that NONE of the stand price complainers would/will buy a $5,000 display no matter the cost of the stand. They simple don’t have a need for what it can do, and if they did they’d buy the XDR because it is so much LESS EXPENSIVE than competing products.

    The XDR Display’s articulated arm is an engineering marvel and well worth the price for what it does.

    What all the blathering nabobs of negativity are ((intentionally?) neglecting to point out is that for $150 you can buy a connection plate that enables connection to you stand of choice.

    Then there is the example of the $159 AirPods. ???? Apple has yet to satisfy demand for them. I’m starting to see them everywhere. Where’s the angst from the consumer? There isn’t any, just as there won’t be any from actual BUYERS of the Mac Pro XDR Display combo.

    Besides, Apple execs makes millions per year because THEY’VE BEEN MAKING THE RIGHT DECISIONS FOR YEARS, unlike the Apple execs (paid millions) that almost bankrupted the Company in the early ‘90s.

    Like I said above VentureBeat, not just this article, is a hack in search of a man biting a dog.

    5
    June 9, 2019
  5. Fred Stein said:

    First,. good points Robert Paul.

    Other points missed by Jeremy.

    Apple recently lowered their entry level iPad to $329. While there are many tablets and chrome books that are much cheaper, most iPads stay in service well over 3 years, or less than $10 month.

    For both iPad and iPhone, the 2nd hand market addresses the more price sensitive buyers. Apple has joined by selling refurbed devices. Far more importantly, Apple supports older models much longer. The proves that Apple does NOT neglect their budget constrained users.

    Jeremy’s focus on the Mac Pro, defeats his own argument. If any target customer was neglected it was the true pro user. For Pro users, the best ergonomics, the highest performance, the most pixels, and expandability are worth the extra money. No wonder this group cheered. It was WWDC.

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    June 9, 2019
  6. Gregg Thurman said:

    If the entire media industry published legitimate news/product reviews there’d only be two publications in existence. VentureBeat would not be one of them.

    1
    June 9, 2019
  7. Jerry W Doyle said:

    Does Jeremy Horowitz understand that the Mac Pro, the Pro Display XDR with its Pro monitor stand is NOT a consumer-grade product? Only a chosen few are the target demographic recipients for this mind blowing amount of horsepower.

    The machine with its display and that stand were eye-popping. If only I could be young again possessing the requisite skills and having the good fortune of working for some company using this hardware challenging my abilities of what this potent machine could provide me! Just the thought of that gives me heart palpitations.

    This is not even a product targeted for many in attendance at the WWDC keynote. Some video, graphics or photo professionals pay upwards to tens of thousands of dollars ($43,000) for reference monitors; and, as John denoted, “.… still not meet the feature set.”

    That Pro Stand is a work of precision. As one commenter already noted, it truly is a marvel of ingenuity that balances the monitor perfectly, tastefully designed, extremely functional, offering a multiplicity of uses from its tilt, height and rotational adjustment for either portrait or landscape presentation. It is an amazing piece of technology. I have not run my hands over it or admired personally its quality of build and precision. Something tells me though, it has the infamous Apple’s build quality standards offering the perfect complement for a $5,000 display investment.

    0
    June 9, 2019
  8. George Ewonus said:

    Does anyone remember the original Apple Laserwriter? US$6,995 (equivalent to $16,295 in 2018).

    1
    June 10, 2019
    • David Emery said:

      Built like a tank, too! I know lots of LaserWriters that lasted 6, 7 even 10 years of office use. You can’t find a printer that has that kind of reliability any more!

      0
      June 11, 2019

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