Where’s Apple heading?

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I have to confess that I was wrong. When I read about the final acquisition of Beats by Apple I was as confused as everyone else. But my theory was, wrongly, that Apple is currently a little headless and has no real plan about where the road is leading for them. I wanted to write a lengthy post on this topic, referencing to a piece on Mashable etc. The usual stuff.

But WWDC 2014, or, more precisely, the initial presentation of iOS8 and Yosemite, has proven me wrong. Apple knows where they are going. With iOS8 they lay the foundation for an even bigger app-conomy by making it much easier to develop apps for iOS and allowing those apps to integrate deeper into iOS than ever before without giving up on their core-values.

From this point of view WWDC was nothing else than spectacular, even though most main stream media didn’t seem to notice this.

What did Apple mean in the 2013 WWDC opening statement with the sentence: “We start to confuse convenience with joy, abundance with choice.”?

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This is the part of the introduction into the story Apple wants to tell in this video. The video says:

“If everyone is busy making everything, how can anyone perfect anything? We start to confuse convenience with joy, abundance with choice.

After these opening words they start to describe their approach to designing things.

So what does the sentence mean? It basically refers to Apples competition, like Samsung, Google, Microsoft etc, which are all building computers, laptops and mobile devices and means that the most recent developments in the hardware-space had nothing to do with actually serving the customer, but instead were happening for their own sake.

Apple questions the thesis that convenience leads to joy and that abundance leads to choice. 

An example: maybe you have heard of the term “facebook fatique”. This means that people stop spending time on facebook, because it gets boring and whatnot. But the real explanation is that facebook led to such an acceleration of personal lifes and to such a big volume of information people had to digest, that they simply can’t take it any more.

Facebook made this acceleration possible by making it convenient to share stuff: personal pictures from holidays and partys, status updates and location information about where you are and what you do with whom.

People loved to use all that in the first place, but then started realizing that it doesn’t make them feel better to share all this stuff. It made them feel worse: on the one hand they were posting stuff, hoping for attention in the form of likes, on the other hand they were receiving a never ending bombardement of shared stuff from other people which led to the assumption of their own life being more boring than it really was.

That’s why facebooks ecosystem with facebook Home, facebook apps and the website doesn’t lead to joy even though it’s convenient to use (also see my P.P.S. for another convenience example).

Another example: google for “buy laptop online”. You will find thousands and thousands of different devices with even more different configurations. It’s impossible to find a laptop without researching yourself to death. Just yesterday I was talking with a friend about buying computers. Ten years ago you knew that NVidia hat an MX-series for graphic cards (which were all crappy) and a second series, which was more expensive but also better.

Not too much choice, but much easier to understand and decide for a model. So what do you do today? Go to amazon, search for laptop, order by ratings and buy the best one.

That’s why abundance doesn’t lead to choice, it leads to unhappy ever-comparing customers.

What does that have to do with Mac Pros, Macbooks, iPads and iPhones? Well,everything. The markets for all four device categories are growing every year. More and more different devices are thrown onto the market. And the only promises every manufacturer gives is that his devices makes activity x a little more convenient than all the other devices.

Apple has been said to be less innovative in the last years. It was said that they are just following trends instead of creating them. With this sentence and the video Apple has now fully and officially committed themselves to being just like that. They don’t want to be the ones putting new technologies into their devices blindly (remember NFC and how everybody wanted that in the iPhone?). They don’t want to blindly screw up iOS just to make the haters shut up.

Apple wants to step back, regard the bigger picture and then extract the best stuff from their competition, perfect it and then put it into their devices. They don’t want to produce the newest stuff just for the sake of producing the newest stuff.

They want to produce the best devices.

P.S.: that’s why we probably won’t see a low-cost iPhone with plastic casing, or an iPhone with 5.x” screen or whatever.

P.P.S.: I just wanted to add another example for the convenience-part. I read on a tech-blog that Twitters Vine is built to create an addiction to the service for their users, thus increasing the lock-in effect into the Twitter-ecosystem.

Let’s assume that’s true: do you realize what Twitters mindset is towards their own users? It is strongly anti user-centric. The companies interest come first and their products are tailored to force their users into using these products by making them addicted.

So they build a convenient product, but not to make the user happy (convenience !=> joy), but to make him addicted.

We saw the same with companies like Zynga and their games Farmville or Mafiawars. From my own experience I can say: it makes you addicted, but not happier when further progressing in the game.

And we also know how that ended for Zynga: massive layoffs (18% of the employees in June 2013), an underperforming stock-price and the inability to create new, viral and qualitative games.

Companies which don’t put their users first and build the products for them, will fail in the middle- to long-term because they don’t create products which users actually value.