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A blast from the past. Wired tells Apple what it should do in June, 1997

The first three:

1. Admit it. You’re out of the hardware game. Outsource your hardware production, or scrap it entirely, to compete more directly with Microsoft without the liability of manufacturing boxes.

2. License the Apple name/technology to appliance manufacturers and build GUIs for every possible device – from washing machines to telephones to WebTV. Have them all use the same communications protocol. Result: you monopolize the market for smart devices/homes.

3. Start pampering independent software vendors. Your future depends on strong, user-friendly software. ISVs are losing confidence and crossing over to the Dark Side to take advantage of Wintel’s market share. Remember what happened to OS/2 – not enough applications, updates too late, scarce industry support. And all the marketing dollars IBM threw at it couldn’t help.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.06/apple.html

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59 Comments

  • Ha – I remember reading that back in the day and desperately hoping that Apple would find its way again. Funny how things turn out :-)

  • What goes up, can and likely will go down….again.

  • So much for Wired's predictive capabilities.

  • Apple Re-Invented themselves many times over…
    Adapt, overcome, simplify  :D

  • Wired is still an excellent publication.  They don't always get their predictions right, but thats ok too.

  • i love wired

  • ola boa noite a todos

  • This sounds a lot like what was done with Android… ?

  • lol

  • Doing something is generally better than doing nothing.. like most of the traditional pc vendors have.

  • The question is, what is needed for Apple to continue thriving in the next decade…certainly not what they're doing. My list:

    - Release the Apple TV, or at least, release an SDK for developing apps for the apple TV.
    - Fix/improve/update all your current products…a lot of new (broken) technology has been released over the past 24 months…things that aren't working properly or not following the "just works" label.
    - Stop introducing new formats for iPhone, iPods & iPads and create product confusion…remember the first thing Steve did when he came back…eliminated and focused. Please don't release an iWatch (remember Newton). Don't fall into the HP trap. 
    - Surprise us, introduce "one more thing" for the current products…an innovation so great, so well done it will make us believe in the "think different" moniker Apple introduced back in 1997. How about a Mac OS 11…with a new approach to the entire desktop experience?

    Google is beating you at this game you use to own!

  • Steve Jobs had a different plan; the doer versus the writers. Who won?

  • Wired's problem was that they assumed Apple would stay a computer company and should stay a computer company, and they figured (like most other folks) that Microsoft could leverage its monopoly into any other domain it wanted. After all, Microsoft leveraged their way into web browsers. Their browsers were never good, but that didn't matter because it came with the OS so "everyone" had it already. (Mac OS X started out with Internet Explorer 5, too.)

    Also, that was back when Power Computing was demonstrating that Apple couldn't win the commodity computer game. And there were about 20 different Performas, so you had no idea what to get.

    Steve figured out that they needed to get back to their holistic, computer-as-a-system roots and away from the collection-of-parts model. From there it was a lot easier to move into the consumer domain, which is greatly predisposed toward holistic designs. (Most people buy a stereo with all the stuff they need in one box; few bother with putting together a pile of components with even more cables.)

  • +Emmanuel Henri Interesting points…

    1. This one comes up a lot. But there's a bit of a gap between where the Apple TV is now and challenging, say, the XBox. I'm betting they're going to take things in a different direction than expected, then open it up for apps.

    2. You say a lot of broken tech has shipped, but aside from Apple Maps, I'm blanking. What else are you speaking of?

    3. New formats, like music formats? H.264? Or you mean product lines? They've only got, what, nine in the iOS category? And that's counting the "last year's version in a cheap form" iPhone and iPad.
    3a. How is a watch at risk of being the Newton? And what do you mean by "HP trap"? Carly Fiorina's "let's be like Compaq" strategy? I'm lost here.

    4. Good luck with that. Whatever they release, Samsung will copy it and claim it as innovation. They just did that to passbook a couple weeks ago.

    • Chrish

      2. The podcast app! Much buggier than Apple maps and the worst UI.

  • 4. Become a toy company

  • I find it amazing how many of those points became Apple strategy over the next few years

  • What apple really needs is more variety. But unfortunately, the last thing Apple needs is more variety.

    What I mean is, with Google and Microsoft, you can be running their programs on pretty much everything from a full scale server to a toaster with a screen. This gives people variety in their hardware and usage. With Apple, they make good (if slightly overpriced) hardware, and amazing software, but they don't allow any sort of mixing and matching with other companies. The pros? Their hardware and software have a sort of melding you can't get anywhere else. The cons? Not enough innovation. Yes, I said it. In this case, it's not just the innovation of Apple VS. The innovation of Microsoft and Google, it's the innovation of apple's hardware team VS. Almost the entire innovation of the likes of Samsung, Dell, HP, Acer, Sony, and many others, AND the innovation of Apple's software team VS. the likes of Microsoft and Google.

    The odds are stacked against Apple; they are simply outnumbered.

    I also say variety is the worst for apple, this is true because since apple does not outsource, the variety is simply because of all the re-releases of iThings in different forms with slightly different features. The only variety you really get is black or white.

    … Since when do I write this much for a comment?

  • +Mike Morelli Microsoft Surface Pro: $899.  Apple iPad: $399.  Saw the Microsoft thing in half, sell half to a friend, you both pay $50 more than for an iPad.  The iPad works and has lots of apps, the Microsoft would not. Apple's deal seems better if you do not want to spend a lot of dough.

  • Tech writers are frequently wrong. I'm not sure if they take into consideration marketing when they predict successes and failures, or solely look at technical aspects.

  • +Joe Mays Apparently, some reporters/comentators are superb at ignoring technical failures and successes, and take into account only marketing.

  • Apple should become a legal firm only !! Patents, etc.. :)

  • Funnier in retrospect than it seemed at the time.  Gil was at the helm,  and bold strategy was not apparent.  Everyone was giving advice on how to right the ship.

  • +Emmanuel Henri Apple TV has been out for almost half a decade and costs just $99. If you wanted it, you should already have it. Here is the home page for product.
    http://www.apple.com/appletv/

    Apple's various computing devices run the same OS ("iOS"), same CPU family ("ARM"), and the apps use the same format; all are sold in the App Store and tons of them are binary compatible — buy an app once, run it on multiple iOS devices you own (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch).  No confusion.

  • This definitely says something about the way media looked at the industry during that time as well.

  • At the time, Wired and other publications were out with their lists on how to fix Apple.  Funny how things don't change.  Even now that Apple's not broken, they keep making those lists! 

    Nearly every publication and pundit thought Apple should become a software company. I always said that would go horribly wrong and commoditize what makes Apple's products great. Guess I beat the pundits on that one. Funny thing is, today all the pundits say Apple needs to do this-and-that, yet still Apple won't.  I wonder why we even bother reading this drivel?

  • Journalism is not about the selection of opinions, it is about the selection of issues you can have an opinion about.

    It's called agenda setting… Google it.

  • +Mike Morelli I'm not sure I understand you comment. My Mac runs a variety of 3rd party software and contains many core applications based on industry standards or open source software. Microsoft's software is standard only to Microsoft. Outlook, for instance, although quite popular, is based on proprietary formatting. The Mail app on Mac utilizes the Mbox standard, so I can move my mailboxes to other applications. Internet Explorer is a proprietary Microsoft web browser, while Safari is based on WebKit, which is also the underpinnings of Google's Chrome.

    iOS uses many of these same standards.

    I hear this standards argument all the time, but how are Microsoft's technology "standards" when they are the only company using them?

  • Well, 1 out of 3 at least.

  • And then Steve Jobs was back and in 1998 apple was alive and kicking again.

  • Apple advice of 2013: go take a hike.

  • +Neil Abraham Who does anyway? :)

  • All that wired predicted here is what Google is doing now. Perhaps wired just called it too soon? Perhaps Apple's focus kept them and the Apple brand strong so that consumers would stay loyal.

  • Prognostications should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Otherwise, one might end up like John Dvorak, continuing to defend his prediction that Apple retail stores would fail.

  • Exactly +John Roberson it does sound like Android Everywhere and what Samsung is doing (minus the hardware towel toss)

  • Actually, a lot of those suggestions weren't bad at all. Like moving to Intel-based hardware. Anyone who survived the PowerMac era can see which of them played out and understand why.

  • +Michael Matthews The advice wasn't to move to Intel-based hardware, it was to outsource or abandon hardware. And honestly, Mac OS 7 and 8 had no realistic chance of being ported to the x86 architecture; you really had to change out the OS first.

  • +Michael Matthews The advice wasn't to move to Intel-based hardware, it was to outsource or abandon hardware. And honestly, Mac OS 7 and 8 had no realistic chance of being ported to the x86 architecture; you really had to change out the OS first.

  • 5 months later…Intergraph Computer Systems files suit vs. Intel, thus initiating the demise of Wintel based workstations in a market lost by Apple – allowing them back in the profitable video post production market providing necessary cash for a few years until the iPod came along. Also known as "how the wintel industry ate their young" :-)

  • They certainly heard point 2, as evidenced by the iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV, not to mention the iTunes Store.

  • I'm tired of waiting for the IPhone in M.L and XL sizes

  • Stop waiting for Iphones…
      it sends the wrong message.

  • +Roger Hall There is a video on YouTube of a much younger looking Steve Jobs describing at roughtly the same time this Wired issue came out what his vision for what Apple should do.  The video reveals him saying the future was was mobile computing where you could take your computer anywhere, home, different desks in different offices, and your computer data would be stored on servers you could access from anywhere.  His vision which came to be just as he pictured, got nowhere near as much press as this purportedly great "advice" from a group of competitors to their more inspired rival.

    Jobs basically spelled out what he wanted to do circa 2005-2012 up front, circa late 1990s.  Months after Apple's stock began a decade and a half not quite but mostly continuous rise, Apple's competitor's started giving Apple 'advice' on what it 'should' do that was obviously disingenuous, based on reasoning that was clearly flawed. Who should you listen to — the guy who plans the future which is good and works as promised, and creates it … or the guys who are partly liquidating their companies and still not facing their core problems as big but solvable challenges?

    And yet the "tech" media widely printed the less correct prescriptions+predictions.  The whole thing seems to be nothing more than creating public pressure on Apple to do the exact opposite of what it should do to be profitable, gain market share, and outcompete the people who were the source of the info who led Apple's competition.

    Manipulate news media to manipulate the public to manipulate the greatest competitor.  Look what happened.

    Very thing that was Windows advantage caused it to fall behind as the lion's share of PC profits goes to Microsoft who advanced its OS less quickly+successfully than Apple.  Linux also did very well technically and captured a ton of the server computing market share.  Microsoft's execs, PR guys, marketing guys told the press that Linux would only devour Unix market share, not Windows.  Linux gorged itself on Windows server market share.  Too bad for those who listened to the wrong folks.

    You can look at a timeline and see what year Apple added key advances to improve performance+breadth of capabilities to year Microsoft added those same features; clearly, the Dell's and all got short shrift on up to date OS technology, and they didn't have their own proprietary alternative to flog Microsoft with until Android came out.  So the supposed advantage of "all using" MS-Windows quickly also became an "all depending upon" bottleneck that held back PC's advancement.

    The commoditization cut sales prices and profits, while increasing overall PC volume.  But Windows OEMs, the IBM PC clone makers, were not free to really innovate drastically on system software because that would "balkanize" Windows.

    So Windows lagged on hardware independent 3D accelerator sped text display, maintaining safe parity between secure architecture and implementation-quality vs. security attacks and combating the overarching evolution of a highly brittle/abundant 'organism' in an environment increasingly attuned to predation for it (despite the influx of dollars the OS maker accumulated, they underspent/under-responded on tech going on PR offensives).  Windows Mobile collapsed due to even greater relative lack of drastic improvements (illustrating the effect nicely).

    Linux squeezed Windows Mobile/Phone via Android, Windows Server via Linux internet/web/database servers/service, and now powerful/affordable Chromebooks that can run in a consumer mode or if desired in developer mode.  If Google can prevent Chrome from being successfully attacked by malware specifically attacking its form of native plugins in web browser then they win a major war in reality that Microsoft only one in the PR sense of things.  Winning reality>PR in high-stakes competition where not just wins but losses involve tangible assets.

    Apple is the max master crafter of tools blending proprietary/public tech in totally self-conceived/created products.

    Google is a max master crafter of tools blending proprietary/public tech in almost totally self-conceived products with products created by 2-part engineering teams working asynchronously in competitors+collaborator environment; basically doing what Microsoft's approach has long been, totally stripping it of its uniqueness as far as that goes.  Google Chromebooks drastically undercut the price of Microsoft's Windows notebooks, and cost as little as 1/4 as much as the Microsoft-brand notebook, Microsoft Surface Pro that runs normal Windows 8.

    Microsoft lost its intrinsic superlativeness.  Now, the battle comes down to practical things like:  apps, solutions, exploit costs&prevalence, vulnerability track record portending future exploit costs&prevalence, etc.  Apple and now Google's Android(s) as well have taken over mobile computing.

    Over the course of 1997-2013, the peaks and valleys that emerged in the PC/Mac/iPhone/iPad/Android/Chromebook computing world, along with the rivers of life-giving revenue and rivers of toxic pollution have flowed between them, really are a function of the technology-makers, not where PR guys get people to stand in this environment.

    Ultimately, where the most people stood was not the most pleasant place for them.  For example, having more people use Windows did not result in comparable effect on shoring up its design in the form of removing reasonably quickly really dangerous parts and just full tilt redoing really badly done parts.

    The converse is that Apple iPod/iPhone never got hacked the way Windows did, and certainly had more market share for a good while before Android came up to speed.  Android had a fundamentally different, weaker, low-labor/low-effort/low-responsibilty approach to screening apps in its app store; guess what was successfully targeted and resulted in lots of Android compromises?  Apple had already pointed out to Google, hackers/crooks, press, consumers, and programmers that they took every means of attacking the product users seriously.

    The Wired issue and articles of the time was simply over-publishing of ideas from guys making products that were about to experience a lot of failures around the world, for how a competitor that was on track to eclipse them in many areas could do worse — but calling it better.  It was pretty obvious; consider the "source", duh!

    Notice Apple doesn't bother telling Dell what to do.  An LBO? Dell forgot to mention where his company was heading. Hopefully, other companies will learn from this.

  • ^^^ *whew!*

  • Probably the first time I've read the term 'wintel' in about three years.

  • +Bryan Maloney How come 'WAMD' never caught on as an acronym?

  • +Paul Salzman Your mac might run windows software and Windows itself, but you cant run mac on anything but mac. (unless its hackintosh, but lets not get into that)

  • +John Collins … The surface pro should NEVER be compared to an iPad. Surface Pro is a laptop with a tablet shape. An iPad is a tablet period. Now the Surface RT is completely comparable to an iPad. And if you don't like the pro, you could just go get a much cheaper option from another company with the same capabilities and OS. With Apple, you can't.

  • +Paul Salzman Hey, i hate how much of a monopoly M$ has too. And I'm not really saying they were standard. I'm just saying you can shove Windows OR Android onto anything, but with OS X and iOS, you can't. While Windows might be closed source, I can still build a Windows machine at home.

  • +John Collins If you wanna compare the Surface Pro to something, compare it to the Macbook Air. That's a fair comparison.

  • Things were looking real bleak at that time. I was even ready to defect

  • Vau

  • Telco Terrorism?

  • share +Guy Kawasaki thx of course, but above all thx to the commenters, great minds writing fantasticly inspiring thoughts.
    The quick dive intro smart strategies Apple actually applied or should have is for me dramatically brainfeeding, +Paul Salzman +John Collins +Emmanuel Henri , so one word : THX. Please dont stop too early.
    Plus the quo kickstarter link from +rashantha de silva as well did indeed inspire me as well. Thx to You too rashanta.

  • +Jefferson Martin re: "Otherwise, one might end up like John Dvorak, continuing to defend his prediction that Apple retail stores would fail."

    He has employment for life, then!

  • +Guy Kawasaki also printers, do you miss working for Apple?  Do you still program in Objective-C?

  • +Gibran Castillo When he went to Stanford U., got his MBA, then worked at Apple and fostered 3rd party Mac app developers in mid-1980s, Apple developers were using Classcal, Pascal, 68000 assembly language, C to do development because Objective-C was not even invented until 1983.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objective-C

    If Guy wrote/writes an Objective-C program, I am going to pivot sharply to the West and salute.

    I think you may be confusing Guy Kawasaki, who fostered the culture of GUI app programming for the purpose of distributing to others with Tim Berners-Lee.  TBL got one of Steve Job's NeXT cubes and the early version of that company's UI/programming prototyper/framework & Objective-C compiler and invented the web and then created the world's first web browser on the NeXT cube, programmed in Objective-C.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeXTSTEP#Influence

    By the time Apple Computer bought NeXT and its software developer tools for writing GUI applications and its object-oriented UNIX-based OS in 1996, Guy had long since moved on and had success stories at a lot of other companies/endeavors.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeXT#1996:_After_NeXT

  • +John Collins go it!

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