Having used my first Mac back in my secondary school days, Apple had been my default choice of computing, it wasn’t because it was a premium brand, in fact it wasn’t at all but being a rather niche brand when the world was starting to populate with Windows machines. I used it because it was easy to use with the now-take-it-for-granted window-based operating system. Over the years, I’ve owned several Macs, Powerbooks (oh my god… I haven’t heard ‘Powerbooks’ for ages!) and now I am using a Macbook Pro, iPhone, iPad and an Apple TV.
So I am devoted? No, I am using them simply because I love using them. Mac these days are just as powerful if not better or faster than its windows equivalents. I used Macs when they were not a Rolls Royce in the computing world and was still powered by PowerPC chips, which was somehow lagging behind Intel for power and speed. I stick with it because of its usability. I will switch using other brands if Apple stops making great products. This is something that I want to talk about.
Apple is being slated for lack of innovation and bad leadership after the death of the iconic and my true idol Steve Jobs. All the business news in recent months had been about the slow sales of iPhone 5, poor Mac sales and management changes. I want to let people know the why I still use Apple products and why I think Apple is still a great company and a better one in the future.
As described, I am not a devoted fan as such and I nearly ditched Apple when I was using my last Powerbook back in 2004. If you know Steve Jobs, you know he’s different and wanted to be different but even he admitted that PowerPC just couldn’t compete with Intel or AMD’s offerings at the time. PowerPC was power hungry, slow and not a multi-task monster that was needed with the latest OSes. All of us Mac users were stuck, so stuck that we were waiting for anything faster to happen in the horizon. Laptop users in particular, like me, were crying for a PowerPC G5 chip but that never happened. We were stuck with the G4 for years!! I was fed up. I was just about to switch to PC when all of the sudden, Apple announced that they were switching to Intel! That was a brave move, not a Steve Jobs-like move, but great for us. We finally had something that can compare directly, performance wise, with the PC lot.
From the design front, there’s little to say. Since Steve’s return to the company, he brought us the revolutionary and colourful iMac, iBook and then the iPod (well, Jon Ive’s done a great design job). These products really propelled the company to a different level. What Steve was so clever though, was to spend enormous amount of effort to build a tight and very very valuable ecosystem!! It all works flawlessly and seamlessly. iTunes is definitely one of the central hub for all these. It linked all your music and video files, ties with iPhoto or Aperture for photos too. Then synced with your iPod, iPhone and iPad. That closed system is envied by many but it had taken Apple and Steve Jobs many years to perfect and build. Not iTunes does rental and sales of music and movies, possibly more in the future. A great place when everything is moving digital download and virtual. People who uses i-products have now accustomed to the ‘central hub’ idea. PC people are more fragmented and it’s always difficult to centralise anything. That have to be done manually, by the user. To majority of public, Apple has done the best job of ‘simplifying’ digital life altogether, that is to almost 99% of people out there. And that is very important to Apple.
When people thought Apple is spending effort in designing great products like the iPhone and iPad but in reality, the greatest product they are producing is in fact iTunes itself. Steve Jobs was the greatest salesman ever lived on the planet and he knew how to market a product. All we use today, iPod, iPhone, iPad and Macs are all the suits and dresses made from the company. They are designed to look good and attract people to ‘use’ and ‘keep using’ them. Because of the closed system, these products will lead users to iTunes eventually. This is the ticket to the Apple’s world, Steve Jobs’ world. Right now Apple has the biggest and the best App Store on the planet (forget about Google and it is nowhere near as good). Apple’s strict rules standardise everything, like screen sizes for all the i-products. This alone makes a software developer’s life so much easier and he/she can concentrate in designing the content of his/her app and to fully utilise everything that the hardware has to offer.
So Jon Ive was the dress designer when Steve Jobs was the fabric maker so to speak. Jobs spent countless hours in making deals with suppliers for iTunes. But the most important thing that Steve did when he was alive and at Apple was that he single handedly presented the world these wonderful products. He did so in a way that general public didn’t have to know what’s behind it. Like he always said “it just works, seamlessly and flawlessly”. I used to love him saying it at his keynote speeches. He also had that stage presence that no other top CEO had either at the time. Now I think people are just copying Jobs. Public never knew what went behind the scene. Ive did a marvelous job in making the product looks good but it was Jobs at the end who ‘created’ the entire experience from people’s touches to the end of the computer server. Jobs always mentioned about digital hub and he always wanted Apple to create one. He did achieve it in the end.
Now, Jobs is gone and Apple has to rely on others to do the job. Can they? Yes, the platform is there but I do think Apple now lacks a showman, a salesman that can do what Steve did. Visionary people are all over Apple, any young minds would have dreamt about the future and how technologies could affect the world. But no one seems to have that charisma and insight to blend art and technologies as well as Steve did. Tim Cooks is a great leader, hence Steve chose him to be his successor. But what Cooks doesn’t possess is what I just mentioned. He knows how to run a company, marvelously, but he doesn’t know how to drive the company’s vision.
So I just want to say that no matter who is in charge of Apple but they need to ensure that they can exploit and continue to develop iTunes, the ecosystem of the i-products. This is the strength of Apple. I love Macs but I do see that PCs are dying slowing and one day they will be replaced with smaller devices. Of course pros will still use PC and I still use my Macbook Pro to produce stuff but in the end. iTunes is Apple’s future. Don’t waste it. I will keep looking for Apple’s great products and until the next Steve Jobs comes around, I will be with Apple yet.
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