5 Things Apple Should Do That Steve Jobs Wouldn’t

Even after Tim Cook took the reigns in August, there was no doubt that Apple remained Steve Jobs’ company. Every iProduct and Mac that rolls off the assembly line reflects Jobs’ vision of technology that’s elegant, functional, and simple. Inside the Apple campus, the corporate culture is imminently Jobsian and will likely remain so for years to come. The new leadership is hardly new as Cook, Scott Forstall, and Phil Schiller are Jobs proteges who have been with the company for at least 14 years.

Considering the company’s amazing success, no one can blame Cook for saying he’ll “honor [Jobs'] memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.” And the company site is right to post that “his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

But while the loss of its founder, brightest mind, and spiritual leader will be difficult to overcome, the Cupertino company also has an opportunity to make some small but important changes. Just as Disney has experienced its greatest success doing things old Walt would never have approved, Apple can grow from this experience by doing five things Steve wouldn’t dream of:

1. Stop the secrecy.

The NSA, the Illuminati, and the Gossip Girl writers combined have nothing on Apple when it comes to Omertá. Under Jobs, Apple’s lips were so tight that it often had nothing to say. While other companies let their product managers hobnob with the press and talk about their thought process and plans for the future, Apple prefers to remain mute or refer to a set of brief talking points. Employees live in fear of the so-called Worldwide Loyalty Team that investigates leaks with an iron hand.

However, partners and enterprise customers prefer some kind of road map so they can make their own plans regarding large deployments. As other companies have proven, this level of secrecy and paranoia is not necessary to succeed. Microsoft is able to gather valuable feedback about its Windows releases by blogging about their development and sharing public betas, while Intel builds excitement by demoing upcoming processors months or years in advance.

2. Appeal to real geeks.

Steve Jobs was many things: a successful entrepreneur, an amazing salesman, and a visionary. But he was not a geek.

Jobs once famously said that a computer is the most remarkable tool humankind has built, a bicycle for our minds. Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple has totally focused on the ride, not the gears on the bike. That may play well in Peoria, but not in the halls of geekdom where we like to take things apart, see how they work, and then put them back together again in a slightly different configuration.

If Apple wants to win over hardcore geeks, it needs to show more flexibility, explain how things work, and let us customize their products a bit more. I don’t expect Cupertino to allow third-party companies to build Macs, but making it easier to upgrade your Mac desktop or “heaven forbid” root your phone/tablet would go a long way. HTC’s unlocked bootloader program should serve as an example.

3. Embrace other platforms.

To the faithful, this may sound like heresy, but Apple would be a lot more successful if it let Windows or even Android users gain access to more of its services. Today, you can run iTunes, Safari, and QuickTime under Windows, but if you want to program an app for iOS, you need to drink all the Koolaid and program on a Mac.

There’s absolutely no reason other than its own foolish pride for Apple not to make its SDK available for Windows, build cross-platform versions of iMovie/Garage Band, or provide a version of iTunes for Android. Apple could use the extra business, and it may convert a lot of people to its platforms in the process.

4. Enter the search/web apps game.

“We have no plans to go into the search business. We don’t care about it—other people do it well,” Jobs told Walt Mossberg at last year’s All Things D conference. However, Apple’s two biggest competitors both offer search engines and powerful web-based applications. Meanwhile, iCloud appears to be little more than a convenient sync service that keeps your documents and media files the same on every device, but it doesn’t let you work in the cloud like Google Docs or Windows Live. 

The industry’s biggest players believe that the future will eventually belong to web apps, and search is still the original killer app. I wouldn’t expect Apple to compete with Google and Bing, but it would benefit from acquiring or developing a search engine it can use as a default for its platform and as a front-end to the other web apps it desperately needs to develop. Apple could differentiate its offering by integrating it with Siri and making it feel like a personal assistant.

Providing powerful web-based software will soon be table stakes for anyone that wants to run an ecosystem. If Apple develops cloud applications with the same enthusiasm it uses to innovate in hardware, the company will position itself well for the next era of computing.

5. Be a kinder, gentler company.

From following journalists to the bathroom to allegedly colluding with the police to search people’s houses for lost products, purportedly allowing its suppliers to dump hazardous waste, and giving very little to charity, Apple’s reputation isn’t as shiny and clean as you might think.

Tim Cook has already boosted the corporate image by instituting a matching gift program for employees. It’s time to mend some fences. Invite Gizmodo back to your press events. Show international observers that all your suppliers are following labor and environmental standards. Sponsor some new educational or artistic programs. And, for Jobs’ sake, let us poor journalists pee in peace.

Bottom Line

There are many things I would never expect Apple to do, much as I’d like it to. There’s no way the company would go open source, stop screening apps with an iron hand, or start licensing its operating systems to other hardware vendors. Flash is also probably off the table forever. But with the tweaks I suggested, this incredibly successful company can take its business to even greater heights.
AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. i told u so.com Says:

    also even if its not needed completly, allow adobe flash to run on IOS products. Its not only a great tool to have on your mobile devices, it also fills that hole when it comes to the lack of options it has when compared to its competitors.

  2. Milind Shah Says:

    Avram, your take on this is weird. You’re solving a problem that doesn’t exist, as if Jobs’ death is the opportunity to make Apple a PC manufacterer. Apple has rode on these traits to exceptional success and making changes like these only caters to a market that Apple does not care for and in turn has never shown it any appreciation. One of Apple’s successes is that it caters to Peoria because the folks there don’t care how it works, just that it does and that it does it well. That’s a niche that other technology companies never fully understood and that’s why Apple has been a success as a business.

  3. niyam bhushan Says:

    i disagree with the following points.

    ‘secrecy’. It is important for a company that drives its core value from innovation, especially in a world filled with competitors bankrupt of ideas.
    also, a lot of stuff that seems like ‘secrecy’ from apple, is often a huge tease to create a media and public frenzy around a product or a service.

    ‘appeal to geeks’. Apple is highly respected by geeks, and its products are endorsed and bought by geeks first. plus, apple is the number one destination for geeks applying for a job. but to concurrently appeal to non-geeks, ‘the rest of us’, that is the brilliance and genius of apple.

    regards
    niyam

  4. Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director Says:

    Apple has been successful doing it their way, but the question really is: do tactics like not sharing roadmap with customers really help Apple or were they just Steve Jobs’ way of doing things?

  5. Will Pisani Says:

    Apple doesn’t need more business; they have more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury! Apple should continue to do what it’s doing now.

  6. JJ Says:

    Can’t say that I agree with any of your points. I would however welcome flash on iOS devices for a start.

  7. james Says:

    Apple is also very successful… Why would they be stupid?

  8. David Says:

    John Sculley? Is that you?

    Apple is now by many measures the most successful company in the world. You are welcome to your opinion, but to me, it appears to be very misinformed, very very bad advice. As an example go download xCode and look at the gears on the bike…

  9. Paul Says:

    This makes no sense. All of these things are what contributed to making Apple the biggest company in the world. Apple taking full control over user experience is why it constantly rates number 1 in customer satisfaction.

  10. Don perry Says:

    After reading this article, my friend, I couldn’t agree with you LESS.

    Are you dumb? Seriously?

    Apple has always been like Apple and their current business model and rules are WORKING for them.

    The only time apple should consider one of these recommendation is when the need arises. Right now there is no need.

    I know it sucks that we cant delve into the core of apple products and make our changes but i’m guessing that 90% of the market are NOT geeks. And that 90% is who apple is after.

    The moment they start doing any of these is when Apple becomes just another company.

  11. Zachary Klein Says:

    Whew… it’s good Apple has perceptive bloggers to get advice from, otherwise that company is going straight down the drain. I mean, it took like twelve freaking’ *hours* to sell out on the iPhone 4S! Talk about a flop of epic proportions! Definitely time for Apple to change everything that’s defined them for the past decade; after the performance of the last few years, it’s clear that this company needs to undergo some fundamental transformation.

    (Sorry for the sarcasm, I just couldn’t resist.)

  12. Stephen Says:

    I agree with Milind Shah, totally.

  13. Crucial Says:

    Avram, no offence but are you, by any chance, reckless when posting this? It doesn’t sound professional at all. Instead, it sounded more like a personal grudge towards Apple. What are you trying to make out on??

  14. mirekk Says:

    Well, this company may have as well never existed for all I care :P

  15. Draycool Says:

    stick to writing crappy articles on crappy products…not giving the worlds greatest company strategic advice that makes no sense to their over the top successful business model..clearly you know nothing about the company and thank god Apple leadership isn’t dumb enough for this stuff to actually cross their minds..

  16. DJ Says:

    A good list, but Steve Jobs was never a ‘geek’, he was a nerd; a wanna be geek who stole many ideas and tried to put his name on them.
    Above all he was a businessman, he hired smart intelligent people then neutered them and forced them to work under his regime.

    Apple has always been like a sextant; they point the direction of the new innovation then eventually everybody else changes course and Apple is ignored until their next course change. Though with the loss of their primary navigator and the new navigator using old charts the future of apple is probably akin to RIM; a future has been.

  17. DJ Says:

    I will also mention that Apple is one of the most successful Chinese companies in the world, at least that is where there profits are going.

  18. George Mubezi Says:

    Steve Jobs business model is the best,I guess ur from google.inasane advice,why not try it your self

  19. Chuck Says:

    What a terrible article. Apple is a computer company. They manufacture computers. They are currently the second most valuable company in the United States, right behind Exxon. They’re doing a lot right. Diversifying into the search engine market would be a foolish move. People aren’t going to abandon Google for “iSearch” (I’d love to have a chat with the designer that made that mockup, by the way). They’re good at what they do. They’re diversifying within their boundaries, by creating products that have a specific function that are still computers at the core. From the original Mac to the Apple TV, I believe they’re doing an exceptional job (however, that is my personal opinion).

    I do believe that Apple needs to loosen up with the restrictions on the iPhone and allow jailbreaking, but look what Android’s openness got them. They cannot control the marketplaces and have malware all over the place. Apple, however, has a nice little ecosystem of Apps that are harmless. Once you head into Cydia, the game changes.

    And lastly, what kind of geek do you think you are? If you knew anything about OS X, you would know that it’s very customizable. You can literally change the entire operating system if you’re smart enough, or watch countless youtube videos, read forums, etc. Apple is never going to tell people how to modify their polished operating system, just so users can compromise reliability. Everything comes with a price.

    As a footnote, I want to be sure that you understand I’m attacking your poorly written article. I certainly have my gripes with Apple and some of the decisions they make, but some of your comments are just inane.

  20. Richard Adams Says:

    I’m afraid I too have an issue with every statement in this article. The title of geek’s geek seems misplaced..

  21. Richard Says:

    This article might as well say ” apple, become a PC”. Consumers love secrecy. It’s the media which despises it.

  22. IChris Says:

    What a douche bag article! This guy writing this article is obviously a disgruntled geek PC user who knows nothing about why Apple is and will continue to be the most successful in its arena and the best in every area of its market. To add the B.S. this guys wants Apple to add would ruin Apple and make it crappy like PC’s! PC’s suck! Apple is perfection! Geeks who don’t like Apple suck! Everything Apple baby! Apple makes everything especially PC’s obsolete! Who the heck would ever use a PC??? If only geeks use PC then the word geek now means stupid! I mean get over it you Apple hating geeks PC’s lost in every way to Apple and nobody cares what PC lovers think especially Apple and that is why they are successful because they don’t listen to stupid PC lovers. Everything they do is opposite from PC and that is why they are excellent in every way. Trust me once you go MAC and you’ll never go back to PC! Geeks are just pissed Steve Jobs wasn’t a geek like Gates and he made something to put Microsoft and all PC crap to shame!

  23. Jules Says:

    Seriously what a stupid article.

    1. Stop the secrecy: What, so that pc companies can copy Apple’s ideas faster?

    2. Appeal to real geeks: By geeks, do you mean broke geeks who have to buy overclockable AMD hardware and use pirated Windows 7 systems? yes you get what you pay for.

    3. Embrace other platforms: You have it backwards.

    4. Enter the search / web apps game: that’s retarded.

    5. Be a kinder, gentler company: by making all of our lives better with ipods, ipads, the imac, mouse desktop interface co-developed with Xerox that microsoft stole, iphone? yeah that really was rought what they did with all of the awesome stuff.

    Bottom Line: You suck.

  24. Marc Says:

    FAIL!!!

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