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An Apple launch disaster and a new Apple HQ building

Regulars here will know my interest in the phenomenon of Custom Built Headquarters Syndrome.

So now, I can’t help suspecting that maybe what Roger Kimball says, about the disaster that is Apple’s latest version of something called iWork (says Kimball:

I’ve never seen a shoddier release. The fate of particular pieces of word processing and spreadsheet software may not much signify much in the world at large. But among the population of people who use and depend on it, there is grave unhappiness. Apple really messed up on this, and it is interesting if unedifying to ask what it portends about the giant company’s future.

…), and this new Apple HQ building that now has the go-ahead:

AppleHQCircle

… are somehow connected.

It seems that Steve Jobs himself was responsible for setting this particular architectural wheel in motion.

Instapundit reckons Apple only did their shambolic software launch just now to make Obamacare look better, arf arf. But there is a more serious point to be made about this comparison. The difference between the public sector and the private sector is not that the private sector never screws up, as this Apple screw-up illustrates. And it is most certainly not that the public sector never builds itself dysfunctionally lavish buildings. The difference is that as and when the private sector screws up, it suffers. Money is lost. In this case, Apple market share is being lost even as I blog this. Apple will either sort this iWork mess out quick, or watch a lot of people move over to Microsoft.

If a custom built headquarters causes a private sector screw-up, as I surmise may just have happened to Apple, the building may then get sold on to other more capable people, or be partly rented out, to cut costs.

When the government screws up, taxpayers will foot the bill both for the screw-up and for all the money they then throw at it to unscrew the screw-up, and as likely as not the people who presided over the screw-up will end up with even bigger buildings to luxuriate in.

To escape Obamacare, your only hope is kayak.com. I watched the whole of that Saturday Night Live skit last night on Youtube, but now, Youtube refuses to play it to me, what with me not living in the USA. But trust me, it’s very funny. Will the BBC ever show it, I wonder?

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19 comments to An Apple launch disaster and a new Apple HQ building

  • Mr Ed

    Apple are really falling fast, the maps app is almost laughably bad. Every upgrade seems to be less intuitive, less useful and ultimately annoying, to the point where Microsoft might just start to be a consideration for a future purchase,

    Just as the rate of chip power was predicted to double every 18 months, the attractiveness of Apple products seems to halve in the same time frame.

    (Yes, that is subjective but it makes a point).

  • PaulH

    I’m often impressed by how wrong Preston Gralla can be. In this case he, along with many of the people complaining, has missed the fact that no functionality has been lost, because the old versions are still installed on your hard drive. I guess this is a lesson in assuming what one wishes were true for the sake of a good story, rather than relying on troublesome facts.

  • Bruce Hoult

    I’m not sure where these people have been the last few years. Perhaps asleep.

    Apple has already been through exactly the same process in the last several years with at least iMovie and Final Cut Pro. The old version is getting unwieldy to maintain, they make a clean new version for the future, but with fewer features in the initial release. When they install the new version they DO NOT delete the old version .. you can keep on using it if you prefer it.

    After a few revisions the new version does everything the old one did, and more.

    Meantime, the millions of new customers flooding in were perfectly happy with the newer, more modern, versions from the start.

    Apple is in a transition.

    Historically they have had a very small number of highly technically competent users — much more competent than the average Windows user (who either has a system administrator to keep things going, or else “fixes” problems by reinstalling or buying a new computer).

    Now Apple is getting tens — if not hundreds — of millions of new users for whom the iPhone and iPad are their first real computing experience. They have never owned a Mac or Windows or anything else. Some of them will be happy with their iPads forever, but others are looking for a traditional computer to go with their iPhone or iPad.

    Many of the changes in Lion, Mountain Lion, and now Mavericks are there just to make the computer more familiar for people coming from iOS — even if those changes make the computer less useful or usable for people who have been using the Mac for decades.

    It’s the same with the new iWork.

    This is absolutely the right thing for Apple to do, as a business, even if it annoys some of the long time users like myself.

  • Antoine Clarke

    I’m often impressed by how wrong Preston Gralla can be. In this case he, along with many of the people complaining, has missed the fact that no functionality has been lost, because the old versions are still installed on your hard drive. I guess this is a lesson in assuming what one wishes were true for the sake of a good story, rather than relying on troublesome facts.

    Whatever…

    I look forward to everyone who has shares in Apple going the way of Packard (the cars, not the printers).

  • Bruce Hoult

    Maps is a different story, and yet similar.

    Google were starting to demand things from Apple that Apple were not prepared to give. Things involving privacy and ads and Google refusing to allow Apple to have features such as 3D views and turn by turn navigation directions unless Apple gave them what they wanted.

    Apple’s maps app itself is excellent. Really nicely written with excellent features. It is however let down by the geographical database they bought from TomTom, which is not as good as Google’s. It’s a little strange how we never heard a lot of complaints about this data when it was only in TomTom’s in-car navigation systems and phone apps, but there you have it. I guess iPhones are higher profile.

    The simple fact is that simply maintaining and keeping current a world-wide map database costs on the order of a billion dollars a year. Google spends that. Nokia spends that. Apple is spending that. But Apple is starting from well behind.

    The good news is that iOS users now have both Apple’s (gradually improving) Maps app AND Google’s own free Maps app.

    I mostly use Google’s Maps because it supports voice directions on my iPhone 4 (Apple’s needs the 4s for that), and because Google’s app is much better at sensibly guessing the right nearby street or place name from the first few letters.

    It’s good to have the choice, and Apple really did need to create their own maps app to avoid being held hostage, no matter how painful the process has been.

  • Antoine Clarke

    “Some of them will be happy with their iPads forever…”

    HA!

    I will hate my iPad until I can afford half of the £800 I wasted on mine to buy a decent laptop. I wouldn’t sell my iPad to the guy that mugged me at gunpoint 14 years ago. In fact I could only sell it to either of the two people who independently advised me to buy it, without feeling like a fraud.

    No government regulation, bad law, bureaucratic obstruction in my lifetime causes me as much rage as the loss of function between my Toshiba Satellite 2410 and my iPad2. Both cost the same. My earnings from using the former were over 50 times a year more than I will ever make using the iPad.

  • Bruce Hoult

    I can do no better than to repeat my previous paragraph, which apparently you only read ten words of:

    ‘Now Apple is getting tens — if not hundreds — of millions of new users for whom the iPhone and iPad are their first real computing experience. They have never owned a Mac or Windows or anything else. Some of them will be happy with their iPads forever’

    Apparently that’s not you. It’s not me either. But it is millions — in time perhaps billions — of people who couldn’t afford or couldn’t understand traditional computers. They ARE the market now, not you and I.

    BTW, you can get a brand new iPad now for $299 — about £185 — which is a good deal less than the £800 you quote.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    I think Parkinson had a rule about buildings- they only look good when the company is about to die. He didn’t put it that way, but showed that the living, expanding, companies were scenes of chaos at HQ, whilst the others (because they didn’t have new customers to disrupt them) had plenty of time to look orderly and neat.
    How is Apple business?

  • PaulH

    Nick – I suspect that’s generally true, except for those companies where it isn’t. A good example is McLaren Automotive, which has an immaculate HQ (and manufacturing facility), and appears to be doing pretty well. Whether Apple comes under this heading or not is unclear.

  • Pardone

    Samsung is now Apple’s main rival, not Microsoft. Samsung makes more affordable and better phones and tablets.

    As for Microsoft, they have made a technically feeble console which is more expensive than the more powerful Playstation 4.

  • Bruce Hoult

    McLaren Technology Center construction started 1999, opened 2004. Last McLaren Formula 1 constructor’s championship wins 1988-1991, 1998, Driver’s championship wins 1998, 1999, 2008.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not understand high tech stuff – which is why I have no opinion about Bitcoin (ask me about gold or silver and I will discuss the matter – ask me about Bitcoin and I will admit that I just do not understand it).

    But (there was always going to be a “but”) I find the success of Apple odd.

    To me it seems to offer higher priced goods that are no better (indeed in some ways inferior to) their lower priced competitors.

    This does make sense to me.

  • Paul Marks

    I should have typed “this does not make sense to me”.

  • Johnnydub

    Paul, a lot of it is simply people being poncy gits – a iPhone 5s is just the latest bling…

    However the iPad was genuinely revolutionary – it’s a computer for people who never wanted and didn’t know how to run a “traditional” computer. It’s scary – give a three yr old an iPad and if they don’t brain their sibling with it, they’ll happily drive the apps etc. The iPad was cool.

    However the competition has in my opinion not just caught up but surpassed them. I have a Galaxy Note 3 and a simple Android tablet and I much prefer the open nature of Android, e.g. plug it into a PC and the storage appears as a flash drive, you can copy any format of content on and it will work with the right app.

    The biggest issue for me with Apple is that they’ve lost their visionary leadership. While it seems facile to highlight the loss of Steve Jobs, Apple now seems to be following not leading.

    But the poncy factor still mean they are making pots and pots of money. I read somewhere they make 80% of the entire profitability of the mobile phone manufacturing industry.

  • Andrew Duffin

    “a lot of it is simply people being poncy gits ”

    Thanks Johnny, it was about time somebody said that.

  • PaulH

    Bruce – Everything you say about McLaren is true, but I was careful to say McLaren Automotive, i.e. the road car production arm. They’ve become very successful since opening their fancy new HQ, demonstrating that while an apparently extravagant new building is often a sign of decline, it’s not always the case.

    Johnnydub – Bling is undoubtedly a factor. And Android has done an outstanding job of catching up, in my opinion – I last properly used version 2.x on an old phone, which was woefully bad, but what I’ve seen of the latest versions is very impressive. And while there are some ways round it, and the iTunes ecosystem has its own charms (I’m a fan of iTunes Match, for example), if Apple’s restrictions don’t suit you it can be most irritating.

    Where we differ, though is on the idea that the loss of Jobs means they’ve lost ‘visionary leadership’. Apple has always copied, from its earliest days, and continues to do that now. The difference between them and other companies is their focus on doing things right. Witness their implementation of fingerprint recognition compared to the HTC phone that was just released with it. Apple’s version is seamless, the HTC is a poorly implemented novelty item used to make a feature list longer. I’m sure Samsung will be out with one soon as well, and it will be a little better than the HTC version, and a lot worse than the Apple version. It’s that attention to detail that has been the hallmark of Apple for years. They didn’t invent the gui, or the personal music player, or the smartphone, or the notebook, or the tablet; they just did each of these better than anyone before them, and often not just a little better but the fabled 10x better. That level of polish is worth a lot to many people, which is why (along with the bling factor), they make so much money.

  • Thanks , it was about time somebody said that.

    There have been so many somebodies that have been saying that over the years of Apple’s existence, it has become something of a background noise. Which is not to say that they have not been correct, to a degree.

    What Johnny said, with a reservation: some people actually prefer the closed and predetermined nature of the Apple products. I am not one of them, but I perfectly understand where they are coming from.

  • nemesis

    On the basis of Parkinson’s other law – can I now look forward to the collapse of the Euro?
    http://raedwald.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/ecb-to-follow-parkinsons-law.html

  • Bruce Hoult

    As I said on October 28:

    >Apple has already been through exactly the same process in the last several years
    > with at least iMovie and Final Cut Pro. The old version is getting unwieldy to
    > maintain, they make a clean new version for the future, but with fewer features in
    > the initial release. When they install the new version they DO NOT delete the old
    > version .. you can keep on using it if you prefer it.
    >
    >After a few revisions the new version does everything the old one did, and more.
    >
    >Meantime, the millions of new customers flooding in were perfectly happy with the
    > newer, more modern, versions from the start.

    It was just as I said:

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT6049