Opinion: Apple is becoming synonymous with boring
It used to be the case when Apple launched a new product everyone in the tech industry stood up and took notice. People would gush with praise about the latest designs to come from the hand of Jony Ive and marvel at how cutting-edge they were. But things have really taken a turn for the worse under the tenure of current Apple CEO Tim Cook in this regard. Sure, Apple is rolling in mountains of cash, but this is largely due to the legacy of the genius that was co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs. Other than the Apple Watch, all other major Apple product categories were developed under Jobs’ tenure.
As CEO, Tim Cook has turned out to be nothing more than a safe pair of hands. He has built on Jobs’ legacy in terms of profit and share value, but he is far from the risk taker that made Apple great under Jobs. Cook looks to be focused far more on keeping shareholders content than on delighting customers with new and interesting products. This past week of Apple product launches typified this. There is not one product among them that has me remotely interested in reaching for my wallet and I am a confirmed tech junkie who is always looking for an excuse to part with cash for the latest and greatest.
Monday saw the launch of the allegedly “All-new” Apple iPad Air. New, it may be, but all-new it most certainly is not. While it might be the first iPad branded with the “Air” moniker to feature a 10.5-inch display, it is merely a rehashed 10.5-inch iPad Pro design from mid 2017 with Smart Connector and compatible with that device’s Smart Keyboard and the first-gen Apple Pencil. Sure, it is powered by Apple’s outstanding A12 chip, but it is far from exciting. This was accompanied by the new iPad mini. Again, it gets first-gen Apple Pencil support, better display and A12 chip. But its so-called “beloved design” (read Apple code for rehashed) dates back to 2012. Name one other tech company that could get away with that?
Apple fanboys will scream that this is only because Jony Ive’s designs are so “magical” that they don’t need to be updated. Garbage. It is a combination of hubris, laziness and penny-pinching. By keeping the same design, Apple of course can keep using the same tooling. This saves money. But boy, is it boring as, well, you know. The same goes for the iMac refresh, which brought decent performance bumps, while there was a RAM upgrade for the iMac Pro too. But again, this “beloved” design also dates back to 2012 – I mean, come on! It still looks decent, but excellent 5K display notwithstanding, those bezels are seriously thick now. It is one thing to keep the same chassis, as with the iPad mini, but surely Apple could have increased the display size on both devices? But no, maintaining Apple’s margins are far too important to Tim Cook -- he knows they will sell to the Apple faithful anyway.
The last announcement for the week was for the new AirPods. Once again the same design, now two years old. Not even a new color to speak of (as rumored), although that could still happen down the track. Finally, Apple has introduced the wireless charging case that it mooted way back when the laughably still absent AirPower charging mat was introduced in September 2017. If you want to charge your new AirPods in their wireless charging case, you can do so on the back of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 range, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro or some random third-party Qi-enabled charging mat. Embarrassing.
On top of this, Apple’s lack of updates to its other devices have been pathetic to say the least. The Mac Pro, first introduced in late 2013, has NEVER received a single update to this day. However, it still carries exactly the same price as when it launched. Insane. The Mac mini only got updated in late 2018 after a monumental four-year gap between updates. It's fundamental design also dates back to 2010. Naturally, it too stayed at the same price point over the past four years. On top of this, the non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro and 12-inch MacBook are fitted with dated silicon and continue to be sold by Apple with second-generation butterfly keyboard mechanisms known to be faulty.
I’m sure the late Steve Jobs would have been happy with Apple’s stock price today, but I can’t imagine he’d be thrilled to with much else other than the chip team. Apple no longer has a mortgage on the best-looking or most cutting-edge designs or devices on the market. Apple under Tim Cook looks and feels like it is asleep at the wheel.