Gruber & I disagree about a few issues about Apple

My comments (made on Leo LaPorte’s Twit) about Apple, Eddy Cue and the fragile state of iCloud services have struck a nerve, with most disagreeing with me and only a few actually agreeing with the general sensibility of the comments. One of the co-panelists Philip Elmer-Dewitt disagreed vehemently with what I was saying, though he was in agreement about Planet of the Apps as a distraction.

This is coming from the so-called celebrity influx into the company, whether it is through the Beats acquisition or Eddy Cue. I mean, look at Eddy Cue. The guy was hanging out at the playoffs when iCloud was burning. For six hours. You know, he wouldn’t have survived a day if Steve was around. I’m sorry, that’s what gets me worked up about this company. They have all these wrong priorities. They want to do entertainment content? Buy damn Netflix and move on from there. Do it properly if you want to do it. Don’t try to do this stupid penny-ante stuff which adds no value to the company. Absolutely none.

Today John Gruber (a dear friend and a fellow Yankees fan) and I find ourselves on opposite sides of the spectrum and he disagrees with me as well. He picked up on my argument that Eddy Cue would have struggled to last under Steve Jobs. Here is what John said:

I’ll just point out that Eddy Cue started at Apple in 1989, and reported directly to Jobs while creating and running the iTunes Store, App Store, and iLife suite. You’re free to argue that Cue is doing a shitty job, but “he wouldn’t have survived a day if Steve was around” doesn’t hold water.

And the whole thing about Cue attending a Golden State Warriors game — game one of the NBA Finals — during an iCloud outage is nonsense. If Cue had skipped the game, the iCloud outage would not have been fixed a minute sooner. Not one minute.

I think Gruber is missing the point — attending a game when a division you are responsible for is down for six hours is a clear lack of empathy for the customers, and also is a sign that standards are falling of what used to be an Apple Standard for building products of delight. Sure, things might have taken as much time to fix the iCloud, but the message you would have sent out to rest of the Apple team would have been different.

In the wake of Antenna Gate, I distinctly remember reading about the then Apple executive responsible for hardware, Mark Papermaster leaving the company. “From what I’ve heard, its clear he was sacked,” John wrote on his blog. The continuous iCloud and Apple Services challenges are on the same plane as far as I am concerned, as they impact millions of users.

If Apple is indeed serious about services and its services business, it needs to own up to the fact that it’s iCloud can’t go down for six hours. This isn’t 1999! And the company’s executive team needs to show with actions and not just words, and that means leader of its services oriented products must prioritize uptime over Steph Curry!

Sometimes the game isn’t just a game!


On another note, Gruber disagrees with my argument that Apple should buy Netflix and writes:

… he’s off his rocker on this one. I’m as skeptical as anyone about this Planet of the Apps show and why Apple is producing it. But I highly doubt it’s a distraction for anyone at Apple. It’s not even shooting in the Bay Area; it’s shooting in L.A.

Buying Netflix, on the other hand, would be a huge distraction. I’m not saying it could never happen or would certainly be a bad idea, but Apple’s services are built to take advantage of its hardware. Netflix is the opposite — it’s a service designed to be available on any device with a screen. With iTunes, Apple already has a library of movies and TV shows. If Apple wants to produce original content, they could start their own production company for a tiny fraction of Netflix’s $42 billion market cap. A fraction. To me, this reads as Om being bored with Apple, and wanting them to just do something.

Actually it not me being bored with Apple, but pointing out what Apple observers constantly miss — Internet services and infrastructure are its Achilles heel. They are in tough competition with services provided by Internet native giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook. Even Microsoft has decided that desktop is their past. Ask around the cloud-circles, and even the most generous souls give Apple’s infrastructure and its growing army a “B” at best. Whether it is Siri or Music or even the always syncing desktops, Apple’s infrastructure has to work flawlessly – and not go off for hours at length.

A letter from Om

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