May 30 2012
During the All Things D interview, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc, said that he would double on secrecy. Now some people think that this means that they have a lot to protect and that it is a good thing to run a company in KGB-/NSA-/Gestapo-style.
I think it can also mean that they’re just pretending to have something big in the pipeline while in reality they have nothing big left and only evolutionary upgrades will hit the stores over the next years. But the show must go on as part of their marketing machinery.
In any case, I believe that only Steve Jobs could get away with that “super-secrecy”-strategy because he was an extraordinary presenter and sales person and he had the talent to make people buy into what he told them – even if everybody knew it was bullshit. He had the so-called reality distortion field working for him. But everybody else from Apple’s management are just boring in comparison. Their version of secrecy is only tiring and not in the least exciting, interesting or fascinating.
Let’s face it: The cult of Apple doesn’t work without Steve. Without him, Apple is just another big technology company that is about as fascinating and sexy as Microsoft or Oracle.
I also hated Tim Cook’s comment that “a whole generation was growing up that thought it should be free. If that continued you wouldn’t have any artists. If that happens to movies, we won’t have any great movies anymore.”
This tells me a lot about the real Tim Cook and his way of thinking, and I really don’t like the last century attitude behind this statement.
Artists were creating art long before there was a content industry that fed them – with breadcrumbs, I’d say, because the big profits got lost in the companies that owned the rights to the work of the artists. Nothing has ever really changed for the artists. What Cook actually means is that without their entire DRM shit (on movies and books), the content industry – of which Apple is a huge part – would disappear.
Now guess what, in the digital age, artists no longer need the old distribution channels, they can deliver their products directly to their audience. The servers and the software are there. I don’t need anyone anymore to print my book or press my CD.
And then there is this thing called crowd funding which worked quite well for “Iron Sky” (in addition to funding from official sources). There’s also that thing called product placement which makes sure that new James Bond movies are already in the black before they even make it to movie theaters. The situation is not that much different from Open Source software development. You have to find other ways to finance the development – or the movie – but the thing is that there ARE other way of funding or generating revenue. Independent artists have done it before the Internet and they are still doing it.
By the way, the expression “independent artists” alone is something you have to taste on your tongue. Independent from what? From the content mafia, of course.
Something tells me that artists would still be doing fine without the old content industry and its out-dated business model. Maybe Apple wouldn’t do so well anymore, and the big studios would also have some serious problems if artists decided to not work for them anymore. But every few years, new technology renders old industries obsolete. It’s the way of the world. Evolve or extinct. I would have expected the CEO of the self-proclaimed “most innovative company in the world” to understand that and offer an, well, innovative solution for artists to make an income – one that does not consist of simply trying to cement a business model that is no longer maintainable in a networked world.
Anyway, I’ve said it before and I say it again: I don’t think the next big thing will come from Cook’s (or anybody’s) Apple. At the moment, my impression is that Mark Shuttleworth (the founder of Canonical) is the only one in the industry who really has a vision and enough focus and ambition paired with sufficient financial resources to get the next big thing going. And then there is always a submerged startup company somewhere that hasn’t surfaced yet. So great new things will come. But not anymore from the richest company on the planet.