Why is Apple’s Mac line flawed?

The Mac has taken a backseat and the reason for that is the existing corporate structure of Apple. If we look back, in the late 90s, Steve Jobs killed a lot of product lines to realign the focus of the falling company.

By Abhay Ram   |   Published: 26th Jun 2017   3:22 pm Updated: 26th Jun 2017   3:23 pm
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Earlier this year, Apple called together a group of journalists to talk about the long neglected “Pro” community of Mac users. What came out of that? The company’s reassurance that they still care about the Mac.

Well hey, look, the iPhone is the major revenue turner of all the category of products the company makes. According to the latest revenue sheets, the Mac accounts for just above 11%, a staggering low number compared to that of the iPhone, 62.9%.

So it makes sense for the company to focus more on the iPhone rather than the Mac. For instance, during the development of seventh version of iOS, Apple had to take some engineers off the Mac development team and put them on the iOS team to deliver a new look for the iOS in a short period.

Clearly, the Mac has taken a backseat and the reason for that is the existing corporate structure of Apple. If we look back, in the late 90s, Steve Jobs killed a lot of product lines to realign the focus of the falling company. The focus shifted back to Mac and it was the major sole product the company sold until the iPod came along.

Over the years, after the release of the iPod, Apple entered the phone business, tablet business, and smartwatch business. The point to note here is that, during all these years, the company never created divisional groups for different products rather followed a functional grouping system. Executives are not assigned to a group which looks over the development of a specific product like the iPhone rather they are assigned to the software team or the hardware team. For example, the head of design, Jony Ive, is responsible for looking over all product lines, the SVP of Software, Craig Federighi looks over macOS, and iOS.

Apple is still a startup at heart. According to an article by Bloomberg, published in 2016, there is no dedicated Mac operating system team anymore which tries to look over their own best interests, and also that most of the engineers are iOS first. With the company getting into more and more industries such as smartwatch, home speaker, AR, it’s tough for the company to retain their focus on the Mac.

The result being, no strict yearly Mac hardware updates and over the past few years, Mac hardware releases have been very haphazard.

So, Apple reassured their commitment towards the Mac and did that solve the problem? Not really. The plan is still very unclear. Apple cared to only mention that they’re planning to release a “Pro” modular machine next year.

However, we did see some great updates to the Mac lineup this year at the WWDC. The company updated the whole iMac range, introduced a new space grey iMac Pro which looks awesome in my opinion, updated the MacBook Pros, a tiny speed bump to the MacBook Air and that’s it.

No word on the Mac Mini which runs on two year old hardware, and seriously, a tiny clock speed bump to the MacBook Air is ridiculous. The Air is still a standard laptop for the price, you get an okayish display but also an old design which wastes a lot of space. Even if the MacBook Air is still a good laptop, it’s not healthy for Apple to sell products with old technologies.

Apple is being at disadvantage by not dividing and conquering the product lines but actually the company also enjoys some advantages by not dividing. For example, the company was one of the first to bridge the communication gap between devices of different form factors with what the company calls “Continuity”.

Continuity essentially is a feature which syncs files, and work state, meaning the user can be editing a document on the iMac and then shift to the iPhone and continue editing the same document right where he/she left off. It also allows a user to receive a phone call on the Mac, copy text from a Mac to the iPhone and much more.

So what should the company do to not neglect the Mac for another year? By not creating divisional organizations, Apple has been able to harness energies in ways which other companies couldn’t. But if the company wants to keep Mac, iPhone, iPad users happy and also work on new form factors, then the company should consider changing things a bit at the corporate structural level.