This is the first year Apple will operate without its co-founder and leader Steve Jobs. To move forward without him, what does the company need to do in the new year? While I’ve never fancied myself a prognosticator, I do have a few suggestions on what the Cupertino, Calif. company needs to do.
Some have to do with changing the way Apple works and does business; others require some hard decisions on Apple’s product lines. Either way, 2012 will give us the first glimpse whether or not Apple can move on from its past and iconic leader.
1. Tim Cook asserts his leadership. While Cook has pretty much handled Apple’s day-to-day operations since Jobs’ first medical leave in 2009, he was not able to truly act as Apple’s CEO till after the cofounder’s resignation in August.
The year 2012 needs to be the year that Cook makes Apple his own. While Jobs has been dead for almost three months now, the company still lives in his shadow. The best thing Cook could do is make his mark in 2012: it would do a lot to alleviate concerns that the company cannot survive without Jobs.
2. Pick its legal battles with Android wisely. Android and Apple seem to be locked in an ever increasingly ridiculous patent battle. While some of these are arguably legitimate — involving functionality concerns — a lot of these are not. My favorite so far is Apple’s suit against Samsung over cases (yeah, really). It’s not very often where I agree with my colleague Joe Wilcox, but this is definitely one of those occassions. Stop wasting time on such meaningless litigation.
3. Expand iPhone distribution. With AT&T’s deal to acquire T-Mobile now dead, Apple needs to bring the device to the carrier. There is anecdotal evidence that the iPhone 4S (and the 4, too) can support it. It also should work hard to strike more deals with regional carriers like it did with C Spire Wireless. Apple may never be able to jump ahead of Android in smartphones, but it can certainly continue to tread water. Distribution is key here.
4. Adopt LTE sooner rather than later. Apple has good reasons for waiting on 4G LTE: only one carrier in the United States (Verizon) has a robust 4G network, and LTE phones are only now starting to get a grip on the battery life issues that plagued most devices before them. Either way, LTE is set to have a big year and Apple will soon be behind the 8-ball.
Apple should push to have the iPhone 5 out much quicker than the end of the year, and during the summer if at all possible.
5. Make a decision on iPod. What to do with Apple’s once signature line? The iPod seems to be aging rapidly now, and sales are continuing to fall. It seems close to the time that Apple needs to decide how much longer it wants to commit to the market here, given its business now revolves around the iPhone and iPad. All in all, it looks likely that the iPod lineup shrinks in 2012.
6. Go big. The iPhone 5 cannot maintain the current form factor. Today’s mobile phone users demand larger screens — it’s just the nature of what we’re using these devices for these days. Apple should not take it to an extreme, such as the five-inch monstrosities that we’ve seen out of Android manufacturers lately. But at a minimum, the next iPhone’s screen needs to be four inches, probably a little more.
7. Go small. Apple needs to look at its iPad line and seriously consider a smaller device. While 7-inch tablets have largely been poo-pooed by most analysts (and rightfully so, these devices just don’t sell well), the Kindle Fire has proven that one can if it’s done right.
iOS still is superior to Android when it comes to use on tablets, although Ice Cream Sandwich has all but erased that advantage. There’s no doubt in my mind that an “iPad lite” will do well, even if its just to the company’s loyal consumer base.
8. Reconsider pricing strategies. Apple does not discount, but it does sometimes play games with pricing to make products appear cheaper. It has already shown a willingess to play with its Free/$99/$199 iPhone pricing structure, and all reports indicate it has worked well. Bring this to the iPad and take away one of Amazon’s biggest advantages: price.
Sooner or later Apple’s going to have to do it, and 2012 seems like as good of a time as ever. Don’t cede any more ground to Android, that’s what I say.
9. Decentralize power and delegate. Steve Jobs was all but a megalomaniac. When it came to running Apple, it was his way or the highway. While he may have thought this was the best way to run a company, we all know it’s not. Tim Cook and company must change the way Apple operates and distribute power out to the rest of its officers.
Apple arguably has one of the top tier executive teams in Silicon Valley. Under Jobs, these folks were being underutilized. Phil Schiller has a great marketing mind; Peter Oppenheimer understands how to make money. And some could argue that Scott Forstall is the closest that Apple has to the second Steve Jobs. Which leads me to my next point…
10. Utilize Scott Forstall. He is the future. No matter what Tim Cook does, I just do not see him as the future of the company. While he is the perfect person for the immediate post-Jobs era, giving Apple the structure and discipline it needs right now, long term I think he lacks the vision. This is where Scott Forstall comes in.
Forstall carries himself much like Jobs did. You could also credit a lot of the success around the iOS platform — now Apple’s key business — to him. If Apple is looking long-term for another Steve Jobs, I’d certainly argue that Forstall is the closest to it.
While I believe this list is pretty exhaustive, I’m sure some of our BetaNews readers have suggestions on what resolutions they think Apple should hold itself to in 2012. What are they? Let us know in the comments.