Have you seen Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s new commercial? There’s something noteworthy missing. See if you can figure it out.
Unlike the ads we’ve seen in recent years, which have generally shown off the iPhone, iPad, or Mac, or compared Apple’s products with those of its competitors, the iPhone-maker now seems to have shifted into a full-on meta-brand. It’s no longer selling products, just emotions. And while the sight of young people kissing in Paris may make some viewers feel warm and fuzzy inside, the subtext is leaking out behind the facade: “We’re out of ideas. The pipeline has run dry. We don’t have any new products so we’re going to try to make you fall in love with the old ones again.”
You could argue, of course, that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is returning to the spirit of its “Think Different” campaign of yesteryear, when Albert Einstein, John Lennon, and Winston Churchill graced billboards with the Apple mantra. But that was when we could reasonably believe that Apple did think different, when it had the products to back up that bold assertion.
The Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) of today is anything but.After all, this is a company that’s been in full-on harvest mode since Tim Cook took over. In his nearly two years at the helm, only one significant new product has come out. And that product — the iPad Mini — is simply a scaled-down version of the iPad, a size that Steve Jobs famously knocked. Jobs considered the 7-inch screen to be a no-man’s land between smartphones and full-sized tablets like the iPad.
Under Cook’s stewardship, the company has also been profoundly un-Jobs-like in its focus on the financial side of the business. Since taking the top post, Cook has implemented a dividend and share buyback program, which Jobs refused to do. He also signed a $17 billion debt agreement to keep profits parked offshore away from the IRS, and gave a spirited defense of the company when asked by Congress to explain Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s tax-minimizing strategy. Apple aficionados only wish they would see that kind of passion for the product side of the business like they saw from its founder.
Even the company’s new ideas are old ideas. At WWDC last week, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) announced the long-rumored iTunes Radio, but this product is little more than a clone of Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P), Spotify, iHeartRadio, and the dozens of other music-sharing services already on the market. Pandora is immensely popular, with over 200 million listeners and more than 5 million likes on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), and has been at the Internet radio game for over 10 years, yet it is still not profitable. How, exactly, does Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) carve out a significant space in this market, and drive enough profit from it to be meaningful to its bottom line?