2012 Has Taken a Bite Out of Apple

December 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

The year Apple lost its cool? Maybe not – but it’s been a tough one. I explain why for MSN UK Social Voices

“While we’re improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.” – Tim Cook, Apple CEO, 28 September 2012

‘Try a competitor’s product, right now ours isn’t very good’, this was something Steve Jobs would never have said. Then again, many argue Tim Cook has just presided over a year Steve Jobs would never have allowed. They are probably right.

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The famous Apple slogan ‘It just works’ exhibited was taking on painful irony.
2012 has been a strange year for Apple, in fact it has been strange since 5 October 2011 – the day Steve Jobs died. Within a week of his passing Apple had announced Siri, the ‘intelligent personal assistant’ which for many proved anything but, and admitted the service was launched in beta. Siri only came out of beta in November this year, 13 months later, and it still feels like a work in progress. The famous Apple slogan ‘It just works’ exhibited was taking on painful irony.

From here things snowballed:

  • The company was seen to cheat customers by releasing the third and fourth generation iPads less than eight months apart
  • The same senior executives behind Siri were behind the failed Apple Maps launch, suggesting problems at an executive level
  • Apple became embroiled in endless lawsuits, most notably with Samsung its key components supplier
  • Its financial results consistently missed analyst expectations in key sectors over four successive quarters- its share price has also dropped dramatically
  • Upon unveiling the iPhone 5 was dubbed ‘boring’; while the iPad mini was attacked for being too expensive and underpowered
  • Apple was pilloried for replacing its age old dock connector with the Lightning connector and charging premium prices for adaptors.

And all the while major rivals are getting their game together: sales of Android handsets in general are spectacular, sales of Samsung’s Galaxy S III have topped sales of the iPhone 4S in particular and Google Maps’ kudos has never been higher. Microsoft has finally got its mobile platform together with Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 offers a radical (if controversial) vision of touchscreen desktop and laptop computing for which Mac OS currently appears to have no answer.

So Apple has lost its cool, right? Well, not exactly.

Certainly Apple has had a tough 12 months, but it has not been the horror year many have painted. On the business side Apple remains not just the biggest technology company, but the biggest publicly traded company in the world. Its financial results may have missed estimates and its share price may have taken a tumble, but it is still turning in record earnings and profits. Meanwhile on product side the iPhone 5 may be conservative, but it can’t be that uncool having shipped over 5 million units in its first weekend – and it is easier to track down Lord Lucan than stock of the iPad mini.

Furthermore Tim Cook is fast becoming a formidable leader. His sincere apology for Apple Maps was interpreted by some as a sign of weakness, but it is also indicative of a more open and more humble Apple which is to be welcomed. That said Cook is by no means a pushover having fired senior vice president and former Jobs’ golden boy Scott Forstall for his leadership role in Siri and Apple Maps.

As for the spectre of Steve Jobs, it was Jobs who gave Forstall this dual role in the first place and Jobs’ overall brilliance must not hide the fact Apple development timelines show both projects were predominantly developed under his command. Antenna Gate, MobileMe, scratching iPod nanos, shattering iPhone glass and skeuomorphism also all happened on Jobs’ watch. Apple remained fashionable throughout.

So while 2012 was not quite the year Apple lost its cool – its sales figures alone demonstrate that – it was the year something more interesting happened: it was the year it became cool to like brands other than Apple… but that’s another topic.


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