Is Apple milking the iPhone too much?

Apple is taking a lot of heat for failing to update the Mac, ditching its AirPort routers, and for not selling its own monitors. Is the company betting too much on the iPhone?

Apple is in a strange situation these days, the company is under siege by some in the media and by some of its own customers. Disappointment is probably the key emotion being felt by many long-time Apple observers and customers.

Here’s a quick overview of why some people are very unhappy with Apple right now:

1. No new Mac mini for three years

2. No new Mac Pro for three years

3. No new iPad Air for three years

4. iPhone design has been the same for three years

5. No 4K in the Apple TV

6. No more monitors made by Apple

7. No more AirPort routers

And I'm not kidding when I say that some people are very unhappy with Apple right now. Take a look at the Apple, Inc and Tech Industry section of the MacRumors forum to see what some Apple users are saying about the company.

Here are just a few of the threads in there that underscore the anger and disappointment of some Apple fans:

Should Tim Cook go?

Anyone else getting really worried about Apple products?

Apple's rise and fall

Tim's fired! You're up, now what?

What's Apple's business strategy?

All the signs say Apple's out of touch

Microsoft seems to be getting more innovative than Apple

It's time for a new CEO

Microsoft innovates while Apple becomes stale

Milking the iPhone at the expense of other products

So what exactly is Apple doing that is irritating so many people? Well one writer at Above Avalon thinks that Apple has decided to milk the iPhone for all its worth (even at the expense of the company's other products), and in doing so hopes to build an unbeatable ecosystem.

Neil Cybart reports for Above Avalon:

It feels like cracks are forming at Apple's edges. The company is straining to push out hardware updates. Supply issues are getting worse. Apple is reportedly moving away from selling beloved products like stand-alone displays and wireless routers. Meanwhile, Microsoft, Amazon, and Snap are gaining buzz with new niche hardware while Apple appears to be hanging back and resting on its laurels.

Something feels off with Apple, and the blame is increasingly pointed at Tim Cook. I suspect these feelings are a result of Cook betting now is the time to milk the iPhone. Apple is doubling down on the iPhone to build one of the world's most formidable tech ecosystems, and few are taking notice.

Apple is confident we are still in the era where it makes sense to milk the iPhone. Consumers are giving even more tasks to their smartphones. This may continue for another two years, or maybe even five years. While Apple may be building a sandcastle around the iPhone today, the company will need to find the next big wave that may topple that very same sandcastle.

More at Above Avalon

What if consumers move past the iPhone?

I found Neil’s article to be quite interesting, and I can understand if Apple’s management wants to bolster the iPhone’s ecosystem. In the short term that probably makes good financial sense. Unfortunately, over the long term it opens the door for Apple’s competitors to bypass it if users begin to move beyond the smartphone and into new categories of devices.

I was at a friend’s house recently, and was surprised to see that he had Amazon’s Alexa product sitting on his kitchen table. He seemed quite taken with it, and the other folks there for brunch were also smitten with it. People kept yelling commands at the device to see how it would respond, and it did pretty well considering all the different voices being used.

I started to wonder why Apple doesn’t offer a product like Alexa, since it seems pretty clear that voice assistants are becoming increasingly popular with some households. Oh sure, Apple has the Apple TV and my friend owns one of those too, but watching TV is not the same thing as what Alexa does.

Here’s a brand new product category that seems to be taking off fairly quickly, and Amazon (and Google) seem to have beaten Apple to the punch yet again. It makes me wonder if focusing on the iPhone so much has caused Apple to drop the ball in other product categories.

Apple’s Siri might not be up to the task when it comes to competing with a product like Alexa. That could be why Apple has not released its own in-home voice assistant. But the company has had years to fix Siri and get it right, at this point maybe it should consider dumping Siri and starting fresh?

The larger point here is that Apple cannot rely on the iPhone alone in the years ahead. It must be very wary about consumers moving on from smartphones and into new product categories. Being so dependent on the iPhone could be a big vulnerability if people move past smartphones too soon.

The Mac still matters in a big way too

I noted above the lack of updates to the Mac Pro and Mac mini. To me this is one of Apple’s biggest mistakes right now. The Mac is still a very important product for Apple and, more importantly, for its customers.

People still need desktop computers and if Apple’s hardware lags behind for years, some customers will dump their Macs and move to Windows or Linux computers. Why would anyone buy a Mac Pro at this point, given that computer’s old hardware? Some people have been waiting forever to buy an updated Mac Pro, and they are getting tired of waiting.

If Apple is going to charge premium prices for its Macs, then it had better make sure they have the latest CPUs and graphics cards. Otherwise there might be a slow but steady drift away from the Mac by people who are sick of waiting for updated hardware.

The iPhone is Apple’s biggest and most important product, but the company still needs the Mac. The longer Apple lets the Mac drift without being updated, the more customers it risks losing to other platforms.

Apple is playing a very dangerous game by milking the iPhone while letting the Mac languish, and it might come back to haunt the company eventually.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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