There's no two ways about it. When it comes to our collective decades-long love affair with Apple, the bloom is off the rose and the water in the vase is beginning to smell. To illustrate the point, here's a smattering of the bad press Apple received in 2017:
- Apple Is Not America's Favorite Tech Company
- Watch a 10-Year-Old's Face Unlock His Mom's iPhone X
- Apple Losing Out as Consumers Reject The New MacBook Pro
- Disappointing New iPhones Reveal Scared and Greedy Apple
- Apple's 'disappointing' iPhone X could mean customers will keep clinging to older phones
- Apple sued after it admits to slowing down older iPhones
What gives? Where's the love gone? I think we've fallen out of love with Apple because:
1. We miss Steve Jobs... really bad.
Our love for Apple was always tied to the rags-to-riches, prodigal son saga of its co-founder Steve Jobs. Much of the delight we felt for Apple's product was seeing them through Jobs's proud, defiant eyes. Today's Apple announcements feel like a rock concert without the famous front-man. Apple without Steve Jobs is like Queen without Freddie Mercury. Cook and his crew play the old, familiar tunes but it's just not the same.
2. Same old, same old.
Companies with visionary founders often lose their edge after the founder's death. Disney, for example, declined for a generation while its Walt-picked executives set strategy using a "What would Walt do?" touchstone. Similarly, Apple seems to be implementing a 2011 snapshot of Steve Jobs's vision rather than doing what Jobs would probably do if he were alive today: take the company in a completely new direction.
3. No longer an underdog.
Americans (and everyone else, I suspect) loves to root for the underdog. For decades that was Apple, the scrappy computer firm that even the combined might of Microsoft and IBM couldn't crush. Today, however, Apple enjoys the highest market cap of any publicly-traded stock and far from an underdog, acts like an overlord, like when it throttled down the CPU speeds on older iPhones. Nobody roots for an overlord.
4. The Cupertino spaceship.
Speaking of overlords, they always lust for a monumental palace to emphasize their superiority to us mere mortals. The Sun Kings of France had Versailles, the Ceausescu's of Romania had the Parliamentary Palace, the Kims of Korea have the Pyongyang, and the moguls of Apple now have the monstrosity known as Apple Park. It even has a visitor center where the hoi-polloi (that's you and me) can marvel at Apple's brilliance. Not exactly "lovable" stuff.
5. Sucky software.
While Apple's hardware products and packaging are as cleanly well-designed as ever, its software... not so much. Apple's own apps are nothing to write home about and recent releases of iOS and OS X have bug-laden. While OS X feels sleek compared to the gawky Windows 10, OS X is beginning to feel sclerotic, suffering from both feature creep and a design that dates from way back in the 20th century.
One of the things we always loved about Apple was the simplicity and ease of use of the Macintosh. Indeed, many of us fell in love with the iPad for much the same reason. Even so, it's neither simple nor easy to purchase, carry, learn and use two separate devices. If the iPad supported a mouse, there'd be little need for MacBooks. Rather than kill their cash cow, Apple continues to force feed its milk to us.
7. Social irresponsibility.
Apple has $268.9 billion in cash and marketable securities, more than $250b of which it's holding outside the U.S. As the result of the Donor Relief Act of 2017 (aka the Trump tax cuts), Apple can now bring that money back into the U.S. at a 15.5% rather than 35% tax rate. Rather than investing in manufacturing plants and jobs in the U.S., though, the company is planning a huge stock buyback. While the 1% is no doubt celebrating, for the rest of us it's Thanks for Nothing, Tim.