Apple iPhone 5C: Return of the Ordinary

Steve Jobs is gone and is gone forever. Nothing more can reinforce the fact in our subconscious than the release of Apple iPhone 5C by Apple Inc. (AAPL) on 10th September 2013.

Apple, to most of us, is almost the final word when it comes to product design, seamless consumer experience, imagination, and yes, perfection. All this was achieved by not aiming to make analysts and strategists happy, but by completely focusing on user experience with Apple products – starting from packaging to fonts to the casing to design to overall manufacturing and feel of the product.

All this core user experience was achieved not only by keeping the focus on every aspect of product design/manufacturing but also keeping the number of products low. Apple is probably the only company in the world with such a large balance sheet size (USD 424 Billion Market Cap, 37% EBITDA margin, USD 170 billion cash reserve) and such a limited range of products and equally limited models. Probably tells us a thing or two about focus or rather Zen-like-focus!!!

However, the launch of iPhone 5C changed everything and suddenly Apple 5C symbolizes everything which Apple was not.

Describing the Zen of Steve Jobs, Jeff Yang in his weekly column “Tao Jones” describes the impact of Zen teachings in Job’s work and style, and how Jobs was proud of things that Apple didn’t do as he was of the things it did. One of the things which Steve Jobs definitely didn’t like was having a bunch of never-ending models designed to capture every segment of the market.

With the launch of iPhone 5C, Apple has moved from user obsession to market obsession where it no longer aims to delight its users but wishes to service number-crunching analysts in order to justify its share price/market cap/valuation and those crazy EBITDA multiples.

Hence, iPhone 5C is not the continuity of the same series of models but rather symbolizes the break from whatever Apple has been so far, and in one stroke, Apple ceased to exist as a bold company driven by a Zen practitioner, which dared to imagine the future and create it.

Instead, now the boardroom is filled by a timid group of managers who find the legacy too big to hold and wish to get comfort from analyst reports, focus groups, journalist views, and hide behind the fig leaf of banality, and aim to build by not imagining but looking at everybody else for guidance. In that sense, Apple of yesterday is gone forever and is taken over again by the era of ordinary, which touched Apple in 1985 and almost killed it, but for Steve Jobs. Alas – he is no more!

RIP Steve. RIP Apple.

Shailesh Vickram Singh

Shailesh Vickram Singh is an entrepreneur / venture capitalist with more than 20 years of exp.