Apple’s odd priorities

The venerable Mac site Macintouch, which also covers the I-universe, is filling with customer complaints about Apple. There are usability problems galore, odd visual choices, hidden controls, capabilities lost, on both Macs and iPhones.

So what does OS 10.2 have, as its headline feature? New emojis! Because that’s what everyone cares about most!

Has there been a firestorm of controversy over a lack of emojis? Maybe, but if so, I missed it.

Also in the news lately are new aerial photos of the huge flying-saucer headquarters building. The company may not have workstation laptops, it may not have 17” laptops, traditional USB ports, a tower computer, or any number of varieties that customers have been demanding for years, but it sure has a lot of cash sitting around in banks and being spent on “perfection” in a new HQ. By the time they move in completely, I wonder if the stock will have crashed?

Apple is hardly alone; many companies have problems setting priorities. There’s the obvious one — do we pay the CEO another $20 million, or do we increase the salary for key engineers? — but there are many others. We’ve seen automation used where people are cheaper, short and long run alike; huge “image” projects that went nowhere and failed to bring image; mergers instead of fixing obvious problems. Years ago, the New York City transit authority, the MTA, chose to buy a fleet of brand new subway cars ($1 million per car) rather than modernizing its ancient signaling equipment. The British “Tube,” meanwhile, kept the old cars but updated its signals, so they could run at least twice as many trains per hour as the MTA.

Sometimes, it’s good to sit down and really, seriously ponder priorities. Often, things just happen independently of each other. Everything is judged on their own merits, but often it’s based on different criteria — a Mac tower wouldn’t sell well enough to make a dent in overall revenues; but new headphones, which also won’t make an impact, get cleared. (Or, for that matter, how was the headquarters rationalized? A building which looks about the same to normal people, but doesn’t have those “exceptional” flourishes, would probably have cut 10%-20% off the price, enough to field a hundred niche Macs).

Priorities. We don’t usually think about them, personally or in business, but they are the key to success.