Apple CEO Tim Cook has totally revamped the company and introduced a new business model that is very different from the one brought forth by his predecessor, Steve Jobs.
The brilliance of Jobs was when he introduced a product, it wasn't always the first of its kind — but it was always better. As a result, he could and did command a premium and customers were willing to pay handsomely for the product's superiority. And we also knew that Apple would be first to drive improvements that would be superior to the competition, which would have real difficulty keeping up.
The iPod is a great example. It was not the first personal portable music library system, but its introduction obliterated Sony's market-leading Walkman and changed the playing field overnight.
The iPod continued to improve and Apple stayed well in front of the competition, ultimately leading the charge and incorporating iPod functionality into the iPhone.
The iPhone, meanwhile, was not the first mobile phone but was clearly the best with continued improvements that kept it ahead of rivals' offerings.
Cook has abandoned that business model. Apple under Jobs was a product-driven company with excellent marketing. Apple under Cook has become a marketing-driven company with mediocre products. Following are a few examples to prove my point.
The iPhone X touts facial recognition for password protection along with dust- and water-resistance. Sorry, but Samsung was shipping these features more than two years ago in its high-end phones. Apple's commercials would have you believe it invented the technology.
The Apple Watch is hardly something that has delivered the revolutionary change the iPod and iPhone did at their launch.
Apple's streaming music service works well, but it too was late to the game without any real improvement over what is available from Spotify, Pandora or other services.
The latest me-too product, Apple's HomePod, will prove to be the most glaring example of a marketing-driven strategy producing expensive products that are in this case so late and so far removed from the glow that Jobs brought that it will show this new strategy to be what it is.
At $350, the HomePod is overpriced, considering you can get Amazon's far-superior artificial intelligence bundled in a quality Sonos speaker for $199. Amazon, and for that matter Google, are so far ahead in this space it's hard to imagine the advertising and positioning Apple will roll out will actually be enough to convince the faithful to buy an inferior product at a premium.
Apple's Siri, which will drive the HomePod, is just not as good as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. And while I'm sure the Apple speaker will have excellent sound, Sonos is known to be a leader and it's hard to imagine Apple, which is taking its first run at quality sound, will best it.
I'm not arguing that Apple can't be successful as a marketing-driven company. There are a lot of very successful companies that are marketing-driven. All I'm saying is Apple is no longer driven by product development that has people clamoring for its devices and willing to pay plenty for them. It's driven by bringing quality but not superior products to the game, marketing them like crazy and convincing customers the products are better than they are.
The question is how long can Apple ride the brand that Jobs built and demand premium pricing when better or comparable products are available from the competition for less.
BACKTALK: Make something happen. Robert Faletra is Executive Chairman of The Channel Company. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.