Steve Jobs’ death in October of 2011 was a crushing blow to computing, music, media, marketing, communication, and most saliently to style and aesthetic. Apple Computer has forever been associated with the roots of the counterculture forced into the rigidity of the tech world. The name itself conveys the “insanely great” (Steve Jobs’ favorite accolade to describe Apple) company which leads the industry today. Apple, suggesting the organic, the dirty; and computer, with sleek, jazzy, and quick, connotations which are embodied in the brand today, unite to summate the ethos of a company which is now declining. Apple maintains the reputation of a brazen technology company with an inventive spirit, but this spirit is dying. The reign of Tim Cook has sent Apple in the wrong direction.
In 1997, when Steve Jobs revitalized the company after his ousting in the late 80s, he told Apple they needed to completely rework their product strategy and turn their market share plans on their head. Jobs indicated that there need only be four products designed by Apple. A consumer desktop and laptop, and a professional desktop and laptop. The simplicity of this strategy allowed the company to create products with sex, color, quality, and unprecedented hype in an industry dominated by grey boxes. The iMac was the start of Apple’s position as a company of creativity. They went on to create the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and slowly widened their product base.
Following Jobs’ death, the simplicity and minimalism of the product line, which so perfectly echoes the form of their products, began to dissipate. Jobs believed in making products the best they could be: the most alluring, the most accessible, the absolutely faultless version with the materials and contemporary technology. He famously delayed the launch of the iMac, the iPod, and the Apple stores by ruthlessly assaulting the designs with his infamous pursuit of perfection. In tandem with Jony Ive, Jobs was able to forge the iconic logo into the lifestyle of creativity, counterculture, and precision, richness, and quality. Today, the products have mostly lost their clever and elegant, yet inviting, nature which made them so successful. The MacBook Pro maintains its brushed metallic luster, and the curving and sensual iPad has held up well. The iPod is obsolete, save for a few loyal joggers. The Apple Watch is simple, and attractive, but unimaginative from a team that constructed a translucently neon computer and marketed it to soccer moms, successfully. The iPhone is where the real issues lie. The iPhone is now a soulless slab of rounded and lousy frame. It feels frail and utterly boring. It is the mirror of its android cousins, the only difference being the still more polished and inventive software. Apple has failed to hold the iPhone to the radical standard it once held as they have lost market share to competitors.
Tim Cook and Apple need to take a hard look at what is important for the company, and what the consumer, as Jobs famously said, doesn’t know it wants yet. Why are there MacBook Airs, MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and different screen sizes for all of the above? Why are there so many iPhones, on sale at once? The product line must simplify. Attention to detail must resume. Products must excite; must be imaginative, subversive even. The anchoring Apple Store, in all its minimalist and whitewashed, Ive-inspired beauty, is a gauge of the issue at hand. Cluttered, confusing, and filled with old and new products alike, the stores look less like bauhaus temples of taste and more like blanc Best Buys. Consumers want the inspiring Apple back, they want innovative products, and most of all they want something they are proud to hold.