The Flock: Another tech podcast


The Delicious Apple Doom Sandwich

30 November 2018

Apple hasn’t exactly had the best month in its history. In accordance with holiday tradition, let the bells of Apple-doom spirit ring.

Navneet Alang, writing for The Week, says that “Apple is finally paying for its hubris.”

But. Guys. Slow down. Alang wants us all to know that we’re on the same side! He likes iPhones too.

Color me surprised. Just a few months ago, Apple announced its new phones, iPhone XR, along with the XS and XS Max — and I thought they had hit it out of the park.

Having established a relationship with his readers up front, Alang takes them by the hand and presses on to present the cold, hard, sad facts.

It seems I was mistaken. Though it’s still too early to tell how bad things are…

Maybe Alang should stop here instead of writing a full piece based on the assumption of disaster? Just a thought.

… a pall now hovers over Apple as reports of cut production targets and weaker sales have sent the stock plummeting 25 percent.

Reports. Not just any reports — supply chain reports, the most reliable kind! What Alang is saying is that although it’s too early to know for sure, supply chain rumors are enough for analysts to pronounce Apple doomed.

If I am a bit surprised, one imagines the execs at Apple are only more so.

It’s funny this should come up, because Apple’s VP of product marketing, Greg Joswiak, said in an interview that the iPhone XR — the alleged victim of tepid demand — has been the bestselling iPhone every day since its launch.

Even if you think Joswiak’s comment doesn’t provide comparison between sales of the iPhone XR and of older iPhones like the iPhone 8, know that supplier forecasts aren’t a holistic view of iPhone demand anyway. Here’s Ian Betteridge’s to-the-point debunking of the rumors:

Basically, if your story claims that Apple is cutting production of iPhones based on a single supplier’s cut in production, you don’t have the story you think you do. Time and again, we’ve seen stories like that, time and again, they’ve been wrong.

And here’s Alang again.

It is not that Apple has put out bad products. By all accounts its new iPhones are the best yet, and indeed, I and many other tech journalists still believe that the iPhone is the best phone you can buy.

Good strategy: reinforce the bond with the reader. The bad news has to come in small doses. It’s also best taken with water.

“Don’t worry. I like Apple’s products too. It’s just that no one else does, okay?”

That was the pat on the shoulder. Next comes the more difficult part: making up some criteria for Apple’s former glory.

What made Apple successful were three things: First, it perfected new categories of devices, such as with the smartphone. Second, it was willing to cannibalize its own products, as when the iPhone swallowed the iPod. And finally, it had as its mantra to skate to where the puck was going, not where it was.

Okay, for argument’s sake, let us humor Alang and say these three things are essential to Apple’s survival. Sure.

On all three counts, Apple now appears to be failing.

Oh no. We fell for it.

New categories like smartwatches and hybrid computers are still without mainstream appeal.

The Apple Watch has defined and conquered its product category, and the iPad outsells every notebook lineup, but sure.

The company has become complacent in its reliance on the iPhone…

Which explains growing revenue from services. Also, why does it matter if Apple lets the iPhone bring in mountains of cash?

If Alang really cared about Apple’s willingness to cannibalize itself, he’d consider that Apple is perfectly okay with promoting the iPad Pro as a viable computer for many people. Regardless of whether you agree with that vision, Apple is not afraid to lose some Mac sales for what it sees as the future of computing. Alang’s tunnel vision does not make him correct.

And finally, there is little sense that Apple is inventing the future of tech, having ceded innovation to Amazon, Google, and even Microsoft.

Claims! You can make them, but don’t worry about substantiating them! Just say things, and they can’t be disproven!

Apple is clearly investing in augmented reality devices and autonomous cars. If those don’t sound like “the future of tech” to Alang, Uluroo doesn’t see why “voice assistant-enabled microwave” should.

The “Apple doesn’t innovate” drum has been beaten a few zillion times too many. One might say it’s a bit of a dead horse by now. Please, everyone, stop beating the dead horse.

… in the mid- to long-term, the once unflappable company…

It’s much easier to emphasize the low points in Apple’s career when you pretend everything prior was smooth sailing.

… appears to be on the precipice of either a big change or irrelevance.

Alang doesn’t have a clue what he thinks will happen to Apple and instead throws out vague terms like “big change” and “irrelevance.” How he thinks a company with such a massive cash pile will become irrelevant because of some supply chain rumors is left as a mystery to his readers.

Funnily enough, this isn’t the first time Alang has predicted Apple’s imminent irrelevance. Back on 9 January 2017 — almost two years ago — he mourned “The sad end of the Apple era.” (Thanks to Jonny for mentioning this.)

After the publishing of that article, the crickets chirped and then carried on with their lives for the next twenty-two months. Apple was fine. Now, it seems, the crickets have returned to chirp again.

Alang has been blowing this trumpet for years. The reason he doesn’t want to say anything more than “irrelevance” is that he doesn’t want to put all his eggs in this basket. In another two years, he can just say, “Well, I didn’t mean that when I referred to ‘irrelevance’!” But for now, he’s just very strongly implying that Apple is doomed.

Uluroo has no idea how long Apple’s stock will take to recover. But Alang’s point is not that Apple’s in worse shape than it was before. His point is that Apple is set to become irrelevant. That it’s paying for its hubris. That it’s going out of business? The conclusion is unclear by design.

It got to this point because of arrogance.

“Those three key things I brought up earlier? Innovation and all that? Don’t worry about those. It was arrogance that made Apple successful.”

Uluroo just wrote, like, eight paragraphs in response to a point that you’re contradicting! What was that for?

(Okay, it wasn’t really eight paragraphs, what with the sarcastic asides and all.)

(Please don’t tell Uluroo’s editor.)

Let’s recap: supply chain rumors are now sufficient evidence of low iPhone demand. Good thing! It’s about time we got the chance to complain about Apple’s constant price hike strategy. And the timing couldn’t be better, because, uh, something bad [cue ominous music] is about to happen to the company! We will laugh with vindicated pleasure as Apple plummets to a vague and undefined fate.

Oh, wait, no! We won’t laugh. Apple was great. We empathize with its fans. It was fun while it lasted.

Uluroo isn’t saying the road ahead for Apple is filled with sunshine, unicorns, cotton candy, joy, kittens, marshmallows, and rainbows. But what’s clear is that Alang doesn’t care about proving his points true. Supply chain reports? They’re old news and have never been helpful. Apple’s overarching strategy? Only a problem if you can prove profits are down. And harbingers of doom? Those are just meteors. Sure, they’ll do some damage when they land, but there’s no need to be superstitious.

Alang’s article is equal parts murky rumors, tangent about Apple’s product pricing, and unfounded prediction of doom. None of those parts is supported by hard evidence and/or logic. This is a sandwich: a hunk of meaty complaints held between two slices of conjecture bread. It's not even toasted.