NYTimes Op Ed: Apple has lost its way

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“Steve Jobs wanted to put a ding in the universe. Today, Apple wants to ding your pocketbook.” — Farhad Manjoo


From “The Incredibly Shrinking Apple” in Thursday’s New York Times.

From start to finish, Apple’s [It’s Show Time] affair was a brushed-aluminum homage to sameness — a parade of services that start-ups and big rivals had done earlier, polished with an Apple-y sheen of design and marketing… None of these efforts look terrible. Some, like the news service, might be handy. Yet they are all so trifling and derivative… As I watched Apple’s event, I felt the future shrink a little.

In an ordinary time, such an ordinary corporate vision might be fine. But these aren’t ordinary times, and Apple is no ordinary company. Here is a corporation with the resources of an empire, the mass devotion of a religion and the operational capacity of a war machine…

Yet, all around Apple, the digital world is burning up. Indirectly, Apple’s devices are implicated in the rise of misinformation and distraction, the erosion of privacy and the breakdown of democracy. None of these grand problems is Apple’s fault, but given its centrality to the business, Apple has the capacity and wherewithal to mitigate them. But instead of rising to the moment by pushing a fundamentally new and safer vision of the future, Apple is shrinking from it…

More than restricting the present, Apple could deploy its billions to build a better digital future. In particular, I wonder why Apple isn’t working feverishly to create new privacy-minded versions of social-media services the world needs…

Here are some other big ideas: Apple could embark on a long-term project to create a privacy-minded search engine to rival Google’s. It could build an ad-free Instagram (its founders just left Facebook in frustration). It could create a YouTube that isn’t a haven for neo-Nazis.

Some (or many) of these may be dumb ideas — ideas that would ruin Apple, or at the very least kneecap its short-run profits. But they are at least big ideas; they match in scope and daring what Apple was created to do. Let other companies handle streaming entertainment. To paraphrase a wise man: Does Mr. Cook want to sell prestige TV for the rest of his life, or does he want to change the world?

My take: Or Apple could stick to its knitting.