From Jeremy Horowitz’ “Apple’s $999 Pro Stand is just the latest sign of its identity crisis” posted Friday:
The complex reality is that Apple has been selling a mix of high- and low-priced products for years, historically with a greater mix of high-priced ones, but appeared to be on a trajectory to democratizing its hardware until Steve Jobs’ untimely death in 2011. Since then, however, the company has tried to simultaneously expand its footprint and satisfy Wall Street, creating an identity crisis that seems to plague every new product announcement. Is a new iPad or Mac going to be priced so that students and school districts can afford it, or is Apple going to need to give away hardware to disadvantaged schools to demonstrate that it still cares about education?
In my view, the main issue is that Apple — now run by a core team of executives who make millions of dollars each year — has become insensitive to the fact that its products are commonly purchased by people who view $159 AirPods as luxuries. Based on comments in the last two quarterly conference calls, these executives apparently learned only recently that they needed to offer multi-year financing plans and device trade-in programs to help customers buy even $749 phones, say nothing of $999 models. My take is that the people complaining about $999 Pro Stands aren’t primarily the (very narrow) target audience for $4,999 Pro Displays, but the millions of customers who could never afford them, and find the very idea of selling such things ridiculous.
It wouldn’t hurt to invite a few actual (but tight-lipped) customers to sit in on keynote prep, either, to provide notes ahead of the formal announcements. If Apple’s executives are too far removed from consumer sentiment to realize that a $999 phone might cause gasps in China, or a $999 stand might generate groans in America, there are plenty of people out there who would be more than happy to set them straight before they make another unnecessarily embarrassing mistake.
My take: Steve Jobs in his day kept just as close an eye on profit margins as Tim Cook, but I’m not sure Cook & Co. share Jobs’ confidence that if Apple stuck to its knitting, the stock price would take care of itself.