The Wall Street Journal is not trolling us, is it? Columnist Christopher Mims penned an essay titled, "Why Apple Should Kill Off the Mac" (it is behind a paywall), and goes on to enumerate various reasons. But it ignores the elephant--or El Capitan--in the room: Apple will never again let another company decide its destiny.
Mims' thesis is that Apple is stretched so thinly, it cannot design new Macs and produce an operating system for them while maintaining its focus on making the best products in the world. The iPhone, iPad, and Watch suffer because Macs still exist. Giving up investing "one-of-a-kind feats of engineering like the Mac Pro" would free the company to go all-in on the future of mobile and wearables. (Disclosure: I know Chris a little and think he's generally a smart fellow.)
This seems like yet another variant on the "Apple is doomed" gong that has sounded so often that the Macalope has to pick and choose what it writes about. Once upon a time, I thought that mythical beast would run out of material. I don't know why I ever believed that.
But Mims' essay is more subtle and worth taking more seriously, because he believes Apple is being held back by putting resources into "being king of a last-century technology." Macs account for less than 10 percent of Apple's revenue in the current quarter and an unknown but significant percentage of profit, likely punching above its revenue percentage because of continued high margins.
You won't find a greater advocate than your correspondent that Apple's fit and finish needs work on the software side. On my personal blog, I posted a lengthy list of Yosemite and iOS 8 bugs and implementation issues in January under the title, "The Software and Services Apple Needs to Fix." It received almost 200,000 views and more than 400 comments on what I thought would be just me complaining about bad quality assurance before they let releases out the door. It resonated.
But I fear that Mims is playing devil's advocate, and pushing away details like Apple's fundamental view of itself, its software engineering process, and its hardware development. Let's forget the fact that any other company would kill for the revenue, growth, margins, and profits that the Macintosh line counts for on its own.
Hardware spit and polish, software spit
Apple does not have a hardware manufacturing problem. The Watch was "delayed," in that it clearly shipped later than Apple had originally intended, and had signaled through intentional leaks. But when it finally did ship, it emerged as a thing of relative perfection compared to other Apple products and especially to most other wearables.
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