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Greg’s Bite: Apple’s evolution

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By Greg Mills

There has been a lot of speculation in the press regarding the direction Apple will go under new leadership. New CEO Tim Cook, while presenting a firm hand on the day to day operations of Apple must rely upon the product instincts of his management team. The late Steve Jobs had the genius to see markets that begged to be fixed and had the gaul to revolutionize entire industries. Despite being a micromanager, Jobs’ attention span was too short to follow up on minute details like Cook does. Apple needs Mr. Cook, but it also needs to boldly go where thinking different will lead Apple.

That it takes a team to replace Steve Jobs isn’t a problem or even a liability; it will be a strength. The decision to encompass a new industry or market is a decision that has to be made crisply and timely to keep Apple relevant and growing. Apple has made some mistakes in the past; mistakes are survivable if not so major they take the company down due to the economic scale of the error.

More ominous than an overt mistake in doing something wrong is the nagging conclusion in retrospect that an opportunity was missed that could have been the next big thing. Synergy is doing those things that you know best. Apple’s strong suit is creating an experience for users that transcends mere hardware. As the cell phone manufacturers can attest, anyone in the industry can reverse engineer Apple hardware but creating the software that makes Apple products magic is much harder to recreate.

The patent protection on what Apple has created is turning out to be critical in holding back the copy cats who would steal the innovation away from Apple. Steve Jobs declared war on Android and time will tell if that legal assault prevails.

I have advocated that Apple simply buy Sprint and fix it. The history of cellular phones and Apple go back to the Motorola iPod/phone that embarrassed Steve Jobs and convince him that the entire concept of cell phones needed to be rethought. The Apple iPhone founded the mobile revolution and set the stage for iPad. Apple has thrived on the notion of controlling the entire experience. Apple, make that Steve Jobs, forced AT&T to offer an iPhone package to consumers that included unlimited data. The notion that a cell phone manufacturer could call the shots on the plan that a carrier offered was revolutionary.

Apple has shown a tendency to grow vertically in everything they do. I submit that the market has opened up an opportunity that Apple ought not to ignore. Apple ought to takeover Sprint and create an Apple mobile experience that includes the carrier and its customer service. The fortunes of Sprint have declined to the point the profit alone on the cell phones Apple has sold Sprint for the next four years is enough to simply buy them out.

Fire everyone at Sprint and see if Tony Fadell, for example, might be willing come back to Apple and make Sprint into “Apple Mobile.” I am of the opinion the market would go wild and validate that the problem at Sprint is crappy management. If simply being able to sell iPhone has begun to revive Sprint, imagine having Apple fix it. While the other carriers would cry foul, I doubt regulators would block the deal. I suspect Sprint stock would double in a week’s time and fully pay off Apple’s investment.

That is Greg’s Bite.

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