Success is what the investment world is all about. If a company stock is hitting record highs, it doesn’t much matter how it got there. Of course there are all those nit-picking analysts that are paid to worry about something. But it’s delivering the bottom line that allows CEO’s to keep their jobs along with their inflated compensation.
Creation and innovation are given a fair amount of lip service but how much do they really matter? These terms often get used interchangeability with success.
With innovation, what we are talking about is a company’s unrelenting drive to find new and better products and services that thrill the senses and improve our lives.
The late Steven Jobs was a perfect example. His critics call him just a great salesman. True, but that is true because he created innovative new products that made it possible to spin his personal hyperbole.
Jobs unspoken legacy is the Apple ecosystem that holds customers to the company’s, here to fore, technologically superior products. Those days are coming to an end. Deeply rooted values of innovation are giving way to an occasional face-lift. This is the same mistake Microsoft made 20 years ago.
Signs of Success Are Everywhere
Apple stock is hitting record highs after the company released surprisingly favorable results for revenues and earnings. The symptoms of their success underscore our point. The source of revenue surprise was a bump in sales of the iPad, a product introduced more than 7 years ago. Until recently, sales had been drifting lower but that seems to have changed. New models have been developed in response to the innovative Microsoft Surface Pro.
This development would have been unthinkable had Jobs still been at the helm. But the far worse foible is the neglect with their voice-activated assistant Siri and the early applications with Artificial Intelligence.
The eyes of tech aficionados roll when Siri is compared with Amazons Alexa ($129) and Eco ($180) or even Google’s Home ($129). In June, Tim Cook announced Apple’s response, HomePod. Critics have declared it somewhere between Eco and GoogleHome, calling it neither fish nor foul. That is hardly the accolade that Steven Jobs would have aimed for.
If that were not enough, the Apple HomePod won’t be available until December (just in time to be too late for Christmas 2017 selling). For those willing to wait to the last minute, the asking price will be $349.
Nor would an innovative Apple Corp welcomed the New York Times headline that appeared in July: How Microsoft has become the surprise innovator in PC’s by Farhad Manjoo. The article notes how Microsoft wrote off over $900 million in unwanted Surface tablets in 2012. In spite of this, they kept on innovating.
That was a write off that got a Bronx cheer from Wall Street but in the end, it was only a billion dollars and Microsoft had many more billions in the bank. Surface was never expected to be the iPad killer; it was a fly on the giants back. That attitude allowed designers to be risk takers. Now Apple is chasing the innovator and Surface Pro is the design leader. Steven Jobs would not be a happy camper.
The Bananas Aren’t Green Anymore
One of the many keys to Apples legendary success is the creation of a brilliant ecosystem that attracts and joyfully permits willing participants to pay premium prices for it unique and innovative products. The eco system is still strong but weakening. Competitors are sensing this. Now even Facebook is developing a “video chat device” designed for use in the home using Artificial Intelligence.
Slowly Apple is loosing its distinctiveness and someday it could find itself in the same position of Microsoft and Windows. That of course would still be better than Kodak or Xerox. It is time to get to the drive for innovation. Apple needs a visionary. Someone please save the ecosystem.