This was an article that, until recently, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write. But after Apple came out with Designed By Apple In California, Apple’s recent nostalgia-filled picture book of the last few decades of Apple design, I decided to so do. Apple has been on a serious nostalgia trip lately.
Here are several examples:
- In every iPhone update, including the most recent iPhone 7 launch, the new iPhone is mentioned as being X times faster than the first generation iPhone, even though such comparison is completely irrelevant.
- In the most recent MacBook Pro update, Apple mentioned the first (successful) laptop, the PowerBook 160 and, for fun, compared it to the new MacBook Pro.
- In the Apple Watch launch, and despite Jobs’ advice to not follow in his footprints and do as he would do, Tim Cook introduced the Watch with the use of “One More Thing”.
- In iOS 10, Apple added the ability to send and receive stickers. One pack of the stickers, available for free on the App Store, is called Classic Mac. The pack contains several Classic Mac icons, including the Happy Mac icon, and the trash can.
- In one of Apple’s recent product videos, the rainbow Apple logo can be seen flashed at the end of the video.
- In 2014, for the 30 year anniversary of the Mac, Apple had a tribute to all of it’s Macs, including pre-Steve Jobs Return Macs.
- Similarly, for Apple’s 40 year anniversary in 2016, they created a video that detailed the past 40 years.
- While we don’t know what SE in iPhone SE stands for, it isn’t the first time that an Apple product has SE in it’s name. The Macintosh SE (SE standing for System Expansion, since it was the first Mac to offer an expansion slot) was sold between 1987 and 1990.
I find it interesting that Apple, until now, didn’t have an extensive catalog of products and literally had to buy some older products back to make this book (the original iPhone featured in the book looked like it took a beating). Why is that? Is it that Jobs’ Apple wouldn’t allow for such a nostalgic catalog? Is Cook right or wrong for commissioning this book, and is it a right choice to sell it? Apple’s nostalgia wasn’t noticeable for a long time until recently. It’s crept into it’s videos, software and launches for awhile now. While I find it cool whenever they sneak in a reference to an old computer or old software or something, it does harken back an old Jobs quote about looking forward and not looking back. Jobs hardly ever had nostalgic moments during his tenure, even back to the old Mac 128K days when he was around. He focused instead on the products that he was bringing to market and didn’t have time to look back. While personally, he may have looked back occasionally to learn from the mistakes of old Apple, he didn’t publicly do so. He did not allow Apple itself to have the appearance of nostalgia. Now, Apple is selling nostalgia in a coffee table book dedicated to Steve Jobs. The ultimate irony. I don’t think it’s a bad idea for Apple to be nostalgic, though. I do think, however, that they picked the wrong time to do so. With the media really dealing a pummeling to Apple in recent months, a nostalgic move, especially one like the book, comes off as an admission that they don’t have any more great ideas. It looks like a sort of “Greatest Hits” of Apple technology. While it may not be one, appearances are everything and the appearance this book gives to the public is not a reassuring one, especially as journalists are crying “lack of innovation” en masse. It looks incredibly inward looking, narcissistic and nostalgic at exactly the wrong time. It looks like their defense to such an oppressive press is “look at what we’ve done” instead of “look at what we’re doing”. Was it wrong for Apple to make a book? I don’t think so. But was it wrong to make that book public? That’s where I think it looks bad.
One thing I do find interesting is that Apple is one of a hand full of technology companies that could make a book like this. They could include most of their products of the past decade. Most technology companies couldn’t fill a same-sized book with their products from the past year or two, as they have too many products to catalog (I’m looking at you Samsung). While Apple seems to have lost some focus, mostly due to it’s ever-increasing product line (iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 9.7 in, iPad Pro 12.9 in, iPad mini 4 and iPhone 7 Plus, all being products one would consider as a tablet from Apple), Apple still has a relatively small product line compared to other companies. At the same time, if Apple wants to lose it’s “lack of innovation” narrative in the media and have the nostalgia book mean something, they need to streamline their product line and have some major hits with their products, be they updates or new products entirely. Apple is looking back at exactly the wrong time and it’s damaging to the brand. They need to look forward and produce some stunning products this coming year. And stop being so darn nostalgic.
Thanks for reading,