Apple bites man!

Everyone reads "man bites dog!", though, because it's anything but commonplace, but dull, and no matter how ridiculous, it demands attention. When those attention-getting headlines don't naturally present themselves, of course, some publications are more than happy to simply manipulate or manufacture them.

That's something I've been struggling to put into terms when it comes to Apple coverage lately -- that after being put as high on a pedestal as possible for a modern company, the only thing of interest remaining to an attention-seeking media and greedy money maker community is watching them fall. Even if that fall is completely made up.

On the journalism side, this is causing Apple to lose mindshare and consumer confidence, like when the Wall Street Journal spins iPad gains in enterprise into an anti-Apple, pro-Android headline or when the New Yorker conflates the doomed-without-Jobs and closed-Apple-will-lose memes. Real world buying decisions are made by mainstream people who read those stories, after all.

On the investment side, it's causing individuals to lose money, like when the Wall Street Journal publishes dubious claims of low iPhone demand, or one man's tweets are taken more seriously than Apple's financials. Individual investors are influenced or harmed by the decisions of major market players.

On Tech.pinions, Ben Bajarin says that, post-Steve Jobs, the "reality distortion field" has moved outside Apple, and I think he's on to something.

Apple used to enjoy immense benefits from the media's and the Street's good will, when headlines proclaiming their success and a soaring stock price were what major outlets and money managers determined could get them the most attention or the highest returns.

This is the equal and opposite reaction. Following unprecedented quarter after quarter, year after year success, trumpeting Apple grew stale boring. It stopped selling papers (or getting clicks), and generating quick investment opportunities. We stopped reading and cashing out. The "dog bites man" positive stories simply become too commonplace and too dull, so now we're getting the "man bites dog" negative ones. Or in this case, "Apple bites man".

You can see several recent examples in this week's Macalope joint at Macworld, Jim Dalrymple's blunt-force reaction to Investor Place on The Loop, and John Gruber's Daring Fireball response to Time Magazine (and the above linked response to the New Yorker). Just two of several, which he sees as a trend.

Sadly, it's closer to an inevitability.

Apple, as frustrating, controlling, and otherwise flawed as they are -- as every company is -- at the end of the day truly just wants to make great products, as evidenced by the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. That singular drive and focus has had the side-effect of making them one of the most successful companies of our time.

And that's just not that interesting any more.

From media to money makers to readers to investors, we -- the same collective we -- have gotten tired of enjoying that success and the fruits of it, and now our interest lies in watching Apple fall, even if that fall needs to be manipulated or flat out manufactured.

That, in the act of assaulting Apple we'll become collateral damage, as the attention and spotlight will shift to companies that lack the care or competence to make products anywhere in Apple's league, isn't even a consideration. That we'll once again trumpet the victory of beige boxes, only this time ones we hold in our hands, isn't even a afterthought. If it's not new, at least it will be different.

It's doubtful things will flip again any time soon. This is the sentiment of the day. Of course, when "Apple is doomed" itself gets dull, the media and the markets will decide it's time to reverse course again. Everyone loves a redemption story, right?

The good news is, even if the current headline grabs and market manipulations hurts Apple, I'm not worried about their future. As long as they keep making great products, the ups and downs will come and go, but they and we will be just fine, thank you.

It's only if that ever changes, if Apple themselves start to panic and switch to a reactionary strategy that results in blurred focus and bad products, if they switch to "Apple bites man", that I'll start to worry. And the noise of Wall Street or its journals be damned, there's no sign of that happening any time soon.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I agree with the article for the most part but as I read it I felt it had a hint of poor Apple for having to deal with negative media and manipulated information which I felt was making it seem as if Apple is the only one being singled out and is the only one to have experienced it. I like your ending statements in regard to them continuing to do what they do since I also don't see them going anywhere due to their products and services so that was a redeeming point to the article. I don't know if it was just me reading too much into what was written that I felt it was "whiny"(can't think of a better way to word it at the moment) but your bottom line was what summed it up for me and ended it on a good note.
  • Apple has benefited from year after year of optimistic press. Sometimes deserved, sometimes (many times) over zealous and too much optimism! Truth is, Apple went to the top and has to do the difficult job of staying there, which no one ever does for too long. Their products are no longer pushing the envelope because they can't risk too much when your constituents are three current generations. Like everything, what goes up, must come down.
  • Agreed, things have to reach an equilibrium even if it involves a dip downward. Product-wise, Apple needs to do something truly revolutionary in the mobile space, otherwise the negative sentiment will continue.
  • Man Bites Dog - also the name of a very good Belgian satire.
  • Very well said. Their is a desire to build up then tear down, then build up again. Underlying that seems to be the need for headlines and ad revenue. On the other hand, I do think there still remains a question in the media of the post Jobs era. I think this is a big question Apple will continually need to answer through product releases in the years ahead. Can they keep making great products without Steve's unique and gifted vision.
  • Great article Renee. I also agree most of the current anti-apple trend is for the most part made up. As newton said each action has an equal and opposite re-action may be starting to fissile up post Steve Jobs. I doubt we would be seeing this level of pessimism if he were still a around and healthy so it is unfortunate that cancer sadly cut his career short. I'm not quite convinced that Tim Cook is the man to weather this storm for them but I guess time will tell. (On a side note I also think it was a mistake on Apples part to throw Scott Forstall under the bus for a mostly overblown Maps misstep given how pretty much 80 % of IOS and by extension at least 50% of Android OS came from him. It's not good when you don't have loyalty to your own people)
  • Great post, Renee. Apple knows. Wall Street blows.
  • Re: "However, everyone reads "man bites dog!" because it's anything but commonplace..." Actually, web-based media doesn't even care if you read "man bites dog." All they care about are page visits and time-on-site and other metrics. Re: "On the journalism side..." Much what you read on the web, even on sites owned by old media (like the New York Yorker and Time Magazine) is not "journalism" any more. Because traditional journalism is impartial, carefully balanced, diligently fact-checked, and unbiased. Which is all terribly boring to your average TL;DR read-it-later-if-I-have-time web surfer. It's not "man bites dog" vs. "dog bites man" any more. It's "traditional journalism" vs. "polemical spin." Guess which one generates better web traffic metrics.
  • Do you think we are getting an iPad 5 next month?
  • No.
  • Thanks for explaining what is wrong with the world. It just may be the public is just sick of the way Apple does business and more people are just realizing it. Poor Apple, they just want to make great products and really don't care somuch about the prprofits.
    Sometimes people and certain writers have something called tunnel vision and tend to look only in one direction.
    Maybe people are sick of the same old song and dance and very slow innovation. Maybe just maybe there is a better product out there. Maybe people are sick of Apple spending there money on litigation instead of innovation.
    Maybe Renee should quit beating on that same dead drum of his and poor Apple will just do fine. I think a writer for any website or publication should keep his or her mind open and not write with that certain tunnel vision syndrome. Renee criticizes anything that is Android and maybe he should start looking for things to criticize at home, Apple.
    Poor, Poor Apple.
  • The markets arent fanboys, and they don't care about Android fragmentation or whether apps are smoother on iOS or whether Android ideas from iOS and Apple was first. I don't know what you know about investing, but there are Growth stocks and Value stocks. You are seeing the market correct itself from pricing Apple from being able to grow profits exponentially as they have in the past, to being a value stock that will have moderate growth but steady delivery of profit with challenges to keep growing at the same level as in the past. This is the result of Apple failing to blunt the growth of Android by following rather than leading. This is why you shouldn't buy stocks in a company you are emotionally attached to - you will overvalue your purchase and lose in the markets by not being able to sell high because you think the market is wrong. Apple was immensely overvalued and in the perception of the market is losing its cool factor and isn't producing any ground shaking innovation - its iterating and losing market share to Samsung and with the US smartphone market maturing and Android able to compete in both price and feature set in China it is questioning whether it's going to grow profits at the same level as in the past and whether it can return that growth to shareholders. I think it may have been oversold and until Apple can either show how it plans to innovate in a new category where it will be able to dominate or it can return larger portions of cash to shareholders, you are going to see the stock languish or fall even further. Innovation is coming out of Google, and it is becoming the new Apple in the eyes of the market. They are making money on Android and iOS and are poised to deliver high quality products not just in Smartphones and tablets but in Computers (Chrome OS), Google Glass, and in its ubiquitous services that are on every device. It may make a majority of its profit through search, but by innovating in so many areas it has a better opportunity for growth. Hope you sold high - because unless Apple can start innovating again, it will never again see the valuation it did before.
  • "They are making money on Android... Not correct. You only have to go to to read the analysis there and realize it is Samsung that is making money off of Android, not Google. 70% of all profits from Android handsets is going to Samsung, and make no mistake Google is not happy about it.
  • Really??? Google makes money from Android and iOS. Weather or not it makes asmuch as another company is irrelevant. Google still makes cash. It's amazing how concerned so many people are regarding companies that make millions that will never be in your pocket. Unless you've personally invested in these companies...who cares?
  • This line of thinking is exactly why Apple is touching all time lows and Google is going straight up. It doesn't matter if Apple and Samsung get the Lions Share of profits in hardware sales. Google makes money regardless of who makes the hardware, because it's on all hardware with its services. Therefore, it has built a moat around its profitability, because while it may be easy to switch from Samsung to HTC or Sony or even to Apple, those people will still be using YouTube, Google Search, Gmail, Chrome, and Maps. So if one hardware maker slips and releases a dud, Google is still providing its services on whatever takes its place. Google bought Mototola to guard itself against the removal of its services from either Samsung or iOS, and can dabble in hardware with the Nexus series, but it's ecosystem and services are omnipresent (except for Windows Phone) and so it is much easier for them to monetize.
  • So far what has google innovated - Glass, driverless cars? these are ideas and wouldn't be disruptive when when come on to the market. So far google has more failed on their list than Apple. Btw the android UI is stolen from Apple.
  • Innovation means failing 100 times and succeeding once. Put simply, Google is developing in a variety of fields and Apple is iterating. Even if not all of Google's efforts succeeds, when one does it will be a market disruptive innovation. If you truly believe that a driverless car or wearable technology that blends the interaction of the Internet with your environment as has never been done before isn't disruptive and innovative, yet somehow a new iDevice that is slightly faster is, then you are too brand loyal for anything I can say to convince you otherwise, so I won't even try. Also, Glass and Driverless Cars aren't ideas, they are both products that have been tested and work. Driverless cars have logged tens of thousands of miles already and Glass will be on the market by the end of the year. There are multiple examples of innovation in Google's services, you are just deliberately choosing not to see them. Btw, no one cares what your opinion is on the Android UI, and even if true it has now largely surpassed iOS both in function and form. I'm not saying Apple is poised for 0 growth or that they are bereft of innovation - but the stock is taking, and will continue to tank, because they can no longer grow as fast in both smartphones and tablets as competition has caught up to them in both form and feature set, the market in the US has matured, and their penchant for secrecy does not give investors any reassurance that they are, in fact, innovating. That is why they are now a value stock that will pay a modest dividend with modest growth, while Google is priced for growth.
  • It is actually very simple. Apple's products are expensive, very expensive, and while there is a trend, a status symbol associated with these products, everything is fine and dandy. But trends change...
  • The same tech pundits who propped up Apple when they are riding high are the same who are defending it no matter what while Apple sinks down. It really doesn't matter what the pundits and press say as it is up to Cook to increase shareholder value in the company. Year 1, he did an awesome job. Year 2, is not looking so good as Cook has dug himself into a massive hole. It will be interesting when the tech pundits start to turn on Cook (my guess is Year 3).
  • It's more like Apple is used to manipulating the media to boosts their stock value when the news or announcement was simply an update to their existing products. Every evolutionary design should not be touted as the second coming which is what Apple has enjoyed for years. Now they are having to deal with their once enamored supporters calling them out. Is it fair, is it legit, or is it a reckoning they didn't expect. I think for too long Apple was held in too high of a regard and its more of a balancing act for them. They no longer have Steve to manipulate the media and get his way so its time face the world changes and all. I don't see them failing I just don't see them creating the next game changing device, or ah ha moment so many are used to. Time will tell and with $135+ Billion in cash on hand their are not going to disappear tomorrow and they certainly have more than enough time and money to show impress. They just cant get away with what they used to.
  • You are a comic book geek. Remember in "The Fall of the Kingpin," when the Whale tries to send Fisk out to get his laundry, and says "there is a whole lotta guys you screwed on your way up" that were waiting in line to kick him on the way down? That's the motivation you miss. Apple may be interested in making great products - but they are only intersted in making great products *their way*. And they have succeeded. But, from developers chafing at App Store policies, to carriers wanting control back, to accessory makers left in the lurch by the Lightning switch, each Apple's "my way or the highway" decision has bred some amount of resentment in people kicked to the side. They are not exactly jealous, but they are frustrated that their concerns were dismissed as insignificant. These people *eagerly* await a diminishing of Apple's and *gleefully* crow about it. It is not an equal and opposite reaction to Apple's success, for them, it is a reaction to the methods Apple used while gaining that success.
  • what a post! thanks for the read.
  • Apple for years have manipulated the North American media to their advantage. I guess they are losing that capacity now. Nokia stayed at the top for 15 years. Then they became defensive, stopped innovating and lounged on fat and lazy. That put the end to that -- a crash -- and now they are the msot innovative mobile tech company as if it was 90s again. I see the Nokia scenario playing out here, though without the 15 year dominance. Apple will fall quicker, if the present is of any indication. And that will be good for everyone, because it will bring innovation and quality back to the company. iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini are not product launches from a company that wants to remain a leader for --- anything. Except, perhaps, the highest prices.
  • Can you explain your rationale behind proclaiming Nokia the most innovative mobile tech company? That's a lofty claim, and I just don't see it.
  • Apple for years have manipulated the North American media to their advantage. I guess they are losing that capacity now. Nokia stayed at the top for 15 years. Then they became defensive, stopped innovating and lounged on fat and lazy. That put the end to that -- a crash -- and now they are the msot innovative mobile tech company as if it was 90s again. I see the Nokia scenario palying out here, though without the 15 year dominance. Apple will fall quicker, if the present if of any indication. And that will be good for everyone, because it will bring innovation and quality back to the company. iPhone 5, iOS 6, iPad mini are not product launches from a company that wants to remain a leader for --- anything. Except, perhaps, the highest prices.
  • Just curious what all this new innovation is that's supposedly coming from the non-Apple space. Increasing display size on phones (and decreasing them on tablets) is innovation? Spec whoring with 1080p displays (trying to out-retina Apple) is innovation? And as far as price, the two Google products getting all the buzz right now (Chromebook Pixel, Glass) are expensive.
  • Just open your eyes and the truth will be there right in front of you.
  • To name a few: Chrome OS (Pixel), Glass, Fiber, Google Now, driverless cars, white space wifi. Innovation isn't going to come in smartphone or tablet hardware, it is going to come in services or in an unestablished market. Iterating on hardware in the smartphone market is not going to drive growth, it is increasingly going to be more about growing market share by cannibalizing sales and lower margins. Since a majority of Apple profit is driven by the iPhone, this is what is driving declines in the stock. The US market has matured and they are losing the chance of growth in China because domestic OEMs are using Android.
  • Hmm, now where have I seen this exact same phenomenon occur? Let me think for a second. Oh yeah, this little company called Microsoft. Maybe you've read or heard about it? Years of praise in the press and on Wall Street, followed by years of criticism in the press and on Wall Street. Or I could be talking about IBM. Or HP, or McDonald's, etc. So yeah, it's happened to a few heavyweights before poor little Apple. Just relax.
  • IMO, it's just Apple not having a handle on their marketing the way they did under Jobs. Apple still took shots even with Jobs but they could handle them better. I don't just mean commercials even though they need help as well. But more so they're losing their grip. We've seen retailers discount ipads this past holiday season. This hardly happened before. We've seen the same message repeated by Cook at events, pressers afterwards and even in the quarterly reports. But back to the message being sent through events and commercials. There is none. The Apple under Jobs defined smartphones and tablets. Apple (Jobs) basically told the media how to think. They've stopped defining anything. Instead of influencing the media into anything, there's no message. It's like feeding the media beast. Left unfed, media is digging for scraps, creating whatever story it wants. To recover, they need to redefine things at this year's media events.
  • At least Apple's commercials show everyone what their devices can DO. The Surface commercials are little more than some director's resume ad and some hip hop flash mob dancer choreography. Every big company gets bashed sooner or later, but it's doubtful that Apple will stop making money and stop selling products in large quantities any time soon.
  • Perhaps, but you don't justify Apple's dip in marketing by pointing to a company that has never been great at it. Plus, the Surface is still more of a hobby to MS. It's like the Apple tv for Apple. I'm not even sure if Apple even markets it..
  • Rene ... Dont you think that iPad Mini and the inevitable Low Cost iPhone is part of "reactionary strategy"? I am an Apple fanboy but the fact of the matter is Apple has been lagging behind especially in terms of software, iOS is playing catch up to other operating systems for over Two Years. Just show me single novel feature offered by iOS right now .... there is none.
    The worst part is while Samsung Agressively targets Apple and highlights their products as "COOL", Apple is not willing to spend a single penny to counter that. Just look at iPhone 5 ads they are just garbage
  • One should always remember that a pedestal is what they kick out from under you after they put the noose around your neck.
  • Look back to what was being said about Apple in the 80's & 90's before its big take off with the iPod. No matter what it did or came out with there was a loud dark continuous chorus saying that it's all over for them and it was only a matter of time before they sunk out of sight or were absorbed by some bigger better fish. What you see depends on how close or far back you look from. Too close and the gradual natural cyclic movements up and down look exaggeratedly intense. Too far away and the cycles aren't detectable. Apple's fortunes won't be "decided" for many years to come. Getting worked up about a short-term trend (1-2 years trend I'd say is short-term) is like having your face too close to the window and just fogs the glass and leaves you smelling your own breath. It is unlikely that interest in high quality design and ideas will disappear in our lifetimes short of a global meltdown where just getting the basics becomes paramount. Apple or some Apple-like company will always be around to satisfy our desired interest in better quality vs more quantity. Enough people have enough of the basics that an interest in better quality naturally shows up. There's no need to take a bite out of anyone :D The Great and Powerful Oz has SPOKEN! Come back tomorrow! ;)
  • The problem for Apple is that the majority of its profit comes from the iPhone and there is no sign of a disruptive product like the iPod in sight. For Apple to grow again, it needs to innovate in a new category. They can no longer rely on the iPhone to drive growth.
  • See BlackBerry. Sort of. Too high up for too long without any major changes and the media attacks. BlackBerry did get stagnant, no doubt, but iOS hasn't really changed all that much in the eye of the common user.