Ben Thompson, writing at Stratechery, has written the smartest piece I’ve come across about Apple and why it may have bought Beats Electronics. It’s a lengthy piece that’s well worth taking the time to read through.
He rounds up the article by asking whether Apple is fundamentally changing who it is as a company. Is a company that’s always been known for it’s computing devices, soon to be known as much for fashionable wearables?
Apple Computer the name may have been retired in 2007, but Apple the personal computer company is 38 years old, and very well may have grown as big as it can grow. Is it doomed to simply slowly fade, delivering massive profits and interesting side projects along with a stagnant stock, much like Microsoft in the 2000s? It wouldn’t be a failure of Tim Cook, but more the natural order of such things.
Or are we witnessing a reinvention, into the sort of company that seeks to transcend computing, demoting technology to an essential ingredient of an aspirational brand that identifies its users as the truly with it? Is Apple becoming a fashion house? Think about it: you have Jony Ive as all-up head of design, the equivalent of a Tom Ford or Donatella Versace. There is the hire of Angela Ahrendts — why would she leave the CEO position of Burberry for a Senior VP role? You have an iPhone framed as an experience, not a product. And now you acquire an accessory maker differentiated almost completely by its brand, not its inherent technical quality.
There’s no doubt that many of the recent hires at Apple indicate a major shift taking place behind-the-scenes. Regardless of whether the Beats deal actually goes through, what does it say when Apple seem to be hiring as many people from the arenas of health, fitness, and fashion as it is technology people?
It does all seem to point to a new era at Apple.
The big question is how long will it be before we start to see the behind-the-scenes changes emerge in the form of new products? And what will those new products be?