Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
9/19/2013
04:07 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
Commentary
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Apple CEO Cook: We Don't Do Junk

Apple is more than a hardware company. But it still needs to raise the quality of its software and services.

Apple, insists CEO Tim Cook, "isn't in the junk business."

Junk probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Apple products. The current crop of Apple ads presents the company's product as the antithesis of junk, as works of passion and art.

But what business is Apple really in? It has traditionally been a hardware company that relied on software as a barrier to competition and a vehicle for customer satisfaction. It's much more than that these days. Its software has become a platform for partners, for commerce.

It was always thus for software developers who created applications for Macintosh computers. But there's more to it now than applications in a niche market.

[ Learn more about iOS 7. View Apple iOS 7: Visual Tour. ]

Thanks to Apple's iTunes App Store, Apple's platform supports developers, publishers, musicians and video makers. Its platform has mass market appeal. In the company's fiscal 2012, iTunes, Software and Services generated $12.8 billion in revenue, more than half the revenue generated by Mac sales. The iPhone and iPad during this period accounted for almost $110 billion in revenue, so Apple clearly remains a hardware company but the software side is growing rapidly. iTunes, Software and Services grew 25% in the company's third fiscal quarter of 2013.

The software and services segment represents Apple's fastest growing business in the past year. And while the company's latest software release, iOS 7, most definitely isn't junk, its software isn't always as polished as its hardware, as Apple's poorly received iOS 6 Maps app demonstrated.

Other examples include the performance issues that plagued iCloud last year, lack of enthusiasm for its iAds service and its Ping social network, the bungled initial release of Final Cut Pro X and the lynchpin of its software ecosystem, the widely derided iTunes application.

Back in late 2005, while the iPhone was being developed, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak complained about his former company's focus on hardware and its lack of attention to software. "I get the worst, worst software almost always from Apple," he said in an interview with the Stanford Cardinal Inquirer. "I get third-party stuff and it's almost always just better, cleaner and more understandable."

Perhaps Wozniak has revised his opinion since then -- he hasn't responded to query -- but others have said as much.

In any event, it seems great software comes from small companies, which would explain why Apple and its competitors often order out for innovation, acquiring startups and turning their ideas into mass market applications.

Apple of course changed a lot since 2005, and its enormous financial success tends to render such criticism, almost eight years on, moot. But it's an issue that Apple needs to address. Apple isn't in the junk business but its software remains uneven. Even high-profile projects like Siri are a mixed bag, at turns brilliant and infuriating.

Cook made his remark in a BusinessWeek profile of three top Apple executives, the other two being Jonathan Ive, the company's head of design, and Craig Federighi, who oversees the company's software. He was drawing a distinction between what he sees as the two parts of the bifurcated mobile market: customers who want a quality product and customers want an inexpensive product.

Apple competes for the former, Cook says, and isn't particularly concerned about the latter. Let them eat Android, in other words. Until recently, Apple's software inconsistency paled beside the mess that was Android. But Android stopped stumbling around, got help and now competes on a more or less even playing field -- the very same playing field that Apple is on, as much as Cook would have us believe otherwise.

Federighi's presence in the interview represents a reason to believe Apple is looking to software to do more than just support its hardware. Federighi took on the responsibilities of Scott Forstall, Apple's former head of iOS software, ousted last year after the Maps debacle. But Federighi purview extends beyond iOS. He's the senior VP of software engineering at Apple. Between Federighi and Eddy Cue, senior VP of Internet software and services, Apple has the management to make its software to the same exacting standards as its hardware.

The problem is software is hard. Quality control issues are clearer in hardware. Bugs can be insidious.

iOS 7 shows what Apple can do when the company devotes as much attention to the design of its software and services as it does to its hardware.

No doubt there's still work to be done, but at least software can be improved over time. The question is how much time Apple can afford with Google, Microsoft, Samsung and the rest of the technology industry nipping at its heels.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
SaqibR822
50%
50%
SaqibR822,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/29/2013 | 4:48:31 AM
re: Apple CEO Cook: We Don't Do Junk
Here is an open letter to Mr. Cook, I have been trying to get across:

To Tim Cook, CEO, Apple, Inc.

Dear Tim,

I have been a long term customer of apple with many of its products, and have also bought apple products for all my family members.

I did that, because apple brand stood up for quality and customer care. It seems that its all changing and you are no longer in the business of making your customers happy. It's bad, really bad.

I'll explain: I was traveling through Asia recently when my iPhone 4s gave up on WiFi connectivity. Quick google search revealed that I was not alone and thousands of other customers are facing exact same issue. I just returned back to Seattle and took my phone in to Bellevue Apple store. There I was told that Apple is aware of this issue, engineers are researching on it, but since my phone is out of warranty only option is to buy a new phone. There is a speculation that this bug occurred after a certain upgrade from Apple, as the upgrade shorted out something out in the phone. There are thousands of people running into this issue.

I was also made to feel like criminal and guilty when the store rep also named Tim started to tell me that how if they helped me out, it would be unfair to other customers that they have not helped out. My friend's kid who was standing next to me requested we leave the store and not be insulted by the store rep.

This is not a personnel issue. The issue is that even after knowing thousands of customer facing the issue that's ruining the experience and brand, and rendering god knows how many devices out there useless, Apple has decided to turn a blind eye on this issue, and perhaps have trained your sales reps to turn on customers who come in the store and try to get help on this issue, and make them feel terrible about not upgrading. I have been in business for long time, and this attitude smells of a company that's loosing its footing, and now resorting to whatever technique you can use, throw the rule book on customer's face, and get more money from customers even when you know several thousands devices that's have simultaneously gone bad due to your own mistake.

I have loved Apple, and this is every sad change to see. It has been a great American company, that people have loved emotionally. It is this emotional love that got you off the hook relatively easily during your Senate hearing. Do not ignore this, but this emotion of love will easily turn into emotion of hate and anger if you don't take care of your customers.

Senate might let you off easily but your customers wont. They will be upset, and angry and sad, for you not taking responsibility on this issue and issues like this, but this anger will get them to think of other options. I have gone through many upgrade on my Apple devices for many year, and I did that, because I felt right and felt like giving Apple my money because I preceived what I was getting was well worth it. It didn't feel like that today. It felt like i was being robbed and insulted at an Apple point, and if I didn't upgrade it is my own damn fault that my phone is not working. I have walked into Apple store and have bought accessories and devices because the reps recommended. Today, it didn't feel like a recommendation.

For first time today, I returned home and started to check out my options for other devices. I believe in voting with my dollars. And I am upset and Apple is not getting my dollars. What's happened to you guys? Why are you refusing responsibility on faulty devices? I learned from forums that the way thousands of customers fixing this issue, is being putting their phones into freezer over night. I tried and it does work. But question is for you: do you want Apple phones to go on ice!

I have taken this time to write you this email, because I care about Apple brand and I want to give you an opportunity to make it right. Not just for me, but for thousands that have been affected. Replace these devices and when time is right, people will upgrade. Unless this was your plan to get people to upgrade? I doubt it, but some doubt is now there. I never had these sort of feelings about Apple before but now I am joining the thousands that are having those feelings.

Apple won not just because of superior engineering, but because that won the feelings of their customers. How far you this you will go with these new business practices.

Please forgive the straight forward approach. But I want you to pay attention as your company slips inch by inch.

You have two choices now: ignore my message, prove the point that our new found feelings about Apple are right, and its time to give Android or Microsoft a chance, or you can take action, fix the problem for us and prove that Apple is number 1 company of choice for most discriminating and demanding customers.

Most sincerely,

iPhone customer fucked by upgrading to OS 7.
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/24/2013 | 4:26:59 PM
re: Apple CEO Cook: We Don't Do Junk
Why haven't they already, I wonder. I mean if MS is able to sink money into all those retail locations, Google certainly can. That genius bar is a huge customer loyalty builder.
Thomas Claburn
50%
50%
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/24/2013 | 4:09:10 AM
re: Apple CEO Cook: We Don't Do Junk
I wouldn't be surprised if Google opens a Google Store next year.
Shane M. O'Neill
50%
50%
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
9/20/2013 | 4:01:16 PM
re: Apple CEO Cook: We Don't Do Junk
Android fragmentation is a problem, and Cook knocks it aggressively in the BusinessWeek piece. He's also right to boast a bit about the movement to the Apple consolidated hardware/software model (Google buys Motorola, Microsoft buys Nokia). But it gets tiring when he portrays Android as a rinky dink OS running only on crappy cheap phones. On the high-end, Samsung Galaxy and Moto Droid phones are superb and challenge the iPhone in every way. He has to stand his ground but he is underestimating Android. Still it was nice to see him throw a few punches. Reminded me of Jobs, just more polite.
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/20/2013 | 3:40:38 PM
re: Apple CEO Cook: We Don't Do Junk
This is the crux of Cook's current problem: "But Android stopped stumbling around, got help
and now competes on a more or less even playing field -- the very same
playing field that Apple is on, as much as Cook would have us believe
otherwise." The day Google rolls our genius bars, he really has to worry.
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Building A Mobile Business Mindset
Among 688 respondents, 46% have deployed mobile apps, with an additional 24% planning to in the next year. Soon all apps will look like mobile apps – and it's past time for those with no plans to get cracking.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 24, 2014
Start improving branch office support by tapping public and private cloud resources to boost performance, increase worker productivity, and cut costs.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.