Open Letter to Tim Cook

October 11, 2013

Tim Cook

Dear Tim,

Apple has always rejected that which obstructs the obvious.

That has made Apple a deep repository for business lessons in technology, and I find it fascinating that technology leaders aren’t more inspired by those lessons than by the resulting products.

Apple’s success is clearly based on dynamically balancing innovation, ambition, and execution on the pivot point of customer delight.

Overweighting any of those characteristics will upset the balance. History is littered with failed companies that were innovative. Executing well can lead to doing a great job of making a poor product. Unsupported ambition is just hubris.

Of course, that means that weaknesses invisible in other companies are all too exposed. There is no need to go over those here, but a discussion of the more subtle pressures on the balance may be useful.

Apple must grapple with identity management and make manageable the intricate web of identities, groups, and rights in Apple’s product and service ecosystem. Examples of dysfunction abound, but solutions are less clear. A better articulation of personal identity, participation in groups, and rights and limits imposed by product or platform rules is essential.

An area obvious in broad strokes is improving services. Smooth navigation on screen is an Apple hallmark. Shouldn’t a user experience equally smooth navigation across products and repositories? This is a particularly lumpy area for Apple, ranging from good (camera roll) to truly deficient (iTunes.)

The last area I’ll mention is content creation on Macintosh. This is a “trim tab” area with larger impact than is obvious. Microsoft appears determined to head the wrong direction (a subject of past and future letters) creating opportunity if you do something and peril if you don’t.

I hope my admiration for Apple shines through; the more I survey the tech landscape, the more obvious it is that Apple’s success is well-deserved.

Warm regards,

Larry Zulch