Jobs biographer slams Apple design and missed TV opportunity

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Walter Isaacson says Apple should have made the kind of TV Jobs wanted, and claims Apple Park is the company's only great design in the last 15 years.

Apple Park, the company's only great design from the last 15 years according to Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson
Apple Park, the company's only great design from the last 15 years according to Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson


Walter Isaacson, author of the official Steve Jobs biography, says that Apple has not been concentrating on design, and has missed opportunities. Now that the company has lost both Jobs and designer Jony Ive, he doesn't expect things to improve.

"We'll see," he told CNBC's Squawk Box show. "I think what you're seeing now is a company that knows how to execute pretty well, but it doesn't have at its core these two spiritual soulmates who just lived and breathed the beauty of products."

CNBC asked Isaacson about whether there was anything left for Apple to design.

"[That's] like in 1900 when they said everything that can be invented has been invented," he replied. "And no, there is really great stuff to be invented. In the last 15 years, the only great design Apple has done has been the Apple headquarters."

In naming Apple Park as the only great design, Isaacson is ignoring the Apple Watch, the AirPods and the HomePod, and says that nothing else received the same attention as the campus.

"Jony Ive and Steve Jobs made sure they knew the curve of every piece of glass," he said, "because that wonderful round building, it doesn't have straight pieces of glass, that kind of detail."

With Ive concentrating on Apple Park, Isaacson claims that Apple took its attention away from new products, including an Apple TV like the one that Steve Jobs had talked to him about before his death.

"I think that you could have created an amazing Apple TV, an end-to-end integrated product that was both the hardware and software and the content," he said. "Which is what Steve did in every other industry from the iPhone to the iPod that he went into. You could've created a camera that was truly an awesome piece of design."

"If I knew more design things they should've done, I'd be doing them myself," he concluded. "But Jony Ive and I think Steve Jobs would've figured out more designs.

Jobs died in 2011, and apart from the Apple Park campus, the last product he was involved with was the iPhone 5.

During his interview with CNBC, Isaacson also revealed how Jobs had lamented that Tim Cook was not a "product person" like Jony Ive.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 81
    I believe Mr. Isaacson is suffering from Dumbbuttocks Syndrome. Sadly, there is no cure.
    tmaymike1guscatcaptmrgnxcornchipchiapscooter63lkruppleavingthebigglitoloop
  • Reply 2 of 81
    Jessee MichaelJessee Michael Posts: 7unconfirmed, member
    A building that 99.99999% of the world will never see in person or use is more design-worthy than every advancement of an iPhone, or AirPods or Watch as mentioned?
    rogifan_newking editor the grateAppleExposedJWSCouraganwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 81
    ZooNetZooNet Posts: 5unconfirmed, member
    My AppleTV 4K plugged into my Vizio is the perfect TV.

    TVs are like toasters. They have a finite lifespan - unlike my 2010 MBP that seems to keep on ticking like a timex.



    guscatcaptmrgnxgilly33MisterKitjony0
  • Reply 4 of 81
    andrewj5790andrewj5790 Posts: 276member
    He’s obviously never seen the Apple Watch. Or AirPods, or the HomePod, or the iPhone X, or the new iPads Pro. Where is he living?
    mike1captmrgnxStrangeDayscornchipchiaeerropscooter63AppleExposedguscatJWSC
  • Reply 5 of 81
    andrewj5790andrewj5790 Posts: 276member
    Also, what idiot thinks Jobs and Ive sat in a room and “figured out” designs? 
    StrangeDaysfastasleepwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 81
    guscatguscat Posts: 50member
    If he's going back 15 years, he's also leaving out the original MacBook Air and the iPhone in addition to all of the other products listed. What is the last great Apple product they designed, the 2004 iMac?

    As for TVs, they are a very low margin product that has to interact even now with cable. Coming out with a new TV is a lot harder than I think he realizes.
    king editor the grateAppleExposedwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 81
    ZooNet said:
    My AppleTV 4K plugged into my Vizio is the perfect TV.

    TVs are like toasters. They have a finite lifespan - unlike my 2010 MBP that seems to keep on ticking like a timex.



    TVs have a much longer lifespan than computers or phones/tablets - which is probably why Apple chooses not to participate in that space. So do toasters for that matter. I’m still using my mid 2000’s TVs and toaster. Probably will be for a few years to come. 
    agilealtitudewatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 81
    andrewj5790andrewj5790 Posts: 276member
    guscat said:
    If he's going back 15 years, he's also leaving out the original MacBook Air and the iPhone in addition to all of the other products listed. What is the last great Apple product they designed, the 2004 iMac?

    As for TVs, they are a very low margin product that has to interact even now with cable. Coming out with a new TV is a lot harder than I think he realizes.
    Almost as if a biography writer doesn’t know a lot about design and manufacturing! Lol! 
    StrangeDayscornchipauxiochiaretrogustoSpamSandwichAppleExposedguscatleavingthebiggwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 81
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,941member
    He’s obviously never seen the Apple Watch. Or AirPods, or the HomePod, or the iPhone X, or the new iPads Pro. Where is he living?
    He's angry they haven't invented anything that nobody has thought of yet.
    JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 81
    Jobs recognized the following: 1) Most of whats on TV is garbage. 2) Television sets are a commodity 3) Cable TV companies have a tight grip on programming and distribution (and now content and mobile service via mega mergers). Since Apple TV was released this has slowly evolved. Apple's forthcoming programming will advance things a bit. Its been such a slow, long process.
    StrangeDayscornchipchiaJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 81
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,779member
    The last 15 years? That would also exclude little things like the iPhone, the iPad, and the svelte slim iMacs. Sorry, but that's bunk.

    Isaacson is from my city, New Orleans, and I've seen him speak at local tech talks. It's clear he is not a tech guy, doesn't get tech, and is just riding Jobs' coattails for continued relevancy.

    Jobs hired the wrong guy. For compelling reasons why, read Gruber's takes on Isaacon's biography:

    https://daringfireball.net/2012/02/walter_isaacson_steve_jobs
    https://daringfireball.net/2011/11/getting_steve_jobs_wrong

    Inversely, here are his takes on the much better Becoming Steve Jobs:

    https://daringfireball.net/linked/2015/03/02/becoming-steve-jobs
    https://daringfireball.net/linked/2015/03/17/jobs-cook


    edited July 8 tmaycornchippscooter63AppleExposedfastasleepnoeloswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 81
    mubailimubaili Posts: 405member
    Well, one of the rare failure of Steve Jobs in that he failed to find a better biographer for himself. I would not trust anyone that failed to write a great story about SJ when he was granted unlimited access. Yea, Tim did disapprove of his writing. So I think this is Isaacson’s pay back time. 
    tmayStrangeDayscornchipchiaAppleExposedlitoloopwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 81
    Pure stupidity.

    In the last 15 years Apple created totally new product segments... the iPhone and iPad are *titans*.  Also the Apple Watch, AirPods, and lots of innovation on the Mac side.

    Sure they haven't reinvented the television market, or the automobile market, like we hoped they would.  Not yet at least.  But lets be honest, innovation doesn't necessarily present itself in increments of equal duration.  We are on the threshold of the rise of AR, VR, and AI based products.  Apple is very well positioned to be a market leader in these segments, which will arguably drive as much or more consumer buying as the original PC revolution.

    Sorry Walter that July 2019 didn't live up to the readings from your crystal ball.  Don't take it too hard though, you're just a writer.
    StrangeDayschiawatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 81
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,979member
    There never was a "missed TV opportunity".

    There wasn't any money in hardware, it's long been commoditized, hence why AppleTV isn't a big hit, and won't be even at prices equivalent to FireTV and ChromeCast. 

    So the real question is whether Apple can leverage games, and 3rd party game controllers, Apple Music, and AppleTV+ to make AppleTV hardware "great again".

    For the record, I have an AppleTV HD, but mostly watch stuff on my 5K iMac.

    I would consider upgrading to some future AppleTV were it to have a bit more home theater/media center capability built in, ie, some extra I/O or even better, an I/O module(s) as an accessory. Of course, having the latest A/AX series processor would be a plus for games.

    Is there a USB 4.0 future with low enough latency to modularize home theater components on a pair of USB Type C connections? I would like to think so.

    Note:

    For those that aren't aware of it, Intel passed Thunderbolt 3 to the USB.ORG, and it is incorporated into the USB 4.0 specifications, as will be any future enhancements.

    edited July 8 roundaboutnow
  • Reply 15 of 81
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,779member
    captmrgnx said:
    ZooNet said:
    My AppleTV 4K plugged into my Vizio is the perfect TV.

    TVs are like toasters. They have a finite lifespan - unlike my 2010 MBP that seems to keep on ticking like a timex.



    TVs have a much longer lifespan than computers or phones/tablets - which is probably why Apple chooses not to participate in that space. So do toasters for that matter. I’m still using my mid 2000’s TVs and toaster. Probably will be for a few years to come. 
    What kind of toaster do you use? I've never had one stop toasting correctly on one side after a few short years.
    tmaywatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 81
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 620member
    Do we know what an SJ TV might have been?

    ...one thing I've read is that SJ did things on principle (x-grid?) vs always for the bottom line... This upredictability apparently made tech CEOs nervous.  I use a 40" 4K screen and while not Apple display grade I find it makes a compelling case for a TV/monitor, running @ 110dpi so it matches the scale of both Apple 27" Cinema displays perfectly, and might a 40" 8K be the hi res (retina?) version...?  Better late than never?
  • Reply 17 of 81
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,213member
    Why do people put this clown on TV. Just because he wrote some crappy bio of Steve Jobs the CNBC’s of the world think he’s some expert on Apple the company. He’s not.
    tmaycornchipGG1AppleExposedlitoloopwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 81
    I think his point was the AppleTV was supposed to evolve into something else than what it currently is. We don’t know what conversation Isaacson had with Jobs, so we don’t know what plans Jobs had for the device. 

    If you look at the context of Isaacson’s comparison of Apple’s current products to Apple Park, he is right.  Everything was meticulously planned out. Whereas if you compare the watch, HomePod and airpods, you can find areas of opportunity. If it wasn’t for health and fitness improvements to the watch, it would have been discontinued. Where are the improvements to the HomePod?  Why is there only minute improvements to the second generation of airpods?

    IMHO, since the firing of Forestall, there hasn’t been much conflict and passion that is the catalyst of creating all of those amazing products like there was when Steve came back to Apple. 
    spice-boyFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 19 of 81
    tmaytmay Posts: 3,979member
    Do we know what an SJ TV might have been?

    ...one thing I've read is that SJ did things on principle (x-grid?) vs always for the bottom line... This upredictability apparently made tech CEOs nervous.  I use a 40" 4K screen and while not Apple display grade I find it makes a compelling case for a TV/monitor, running @ 110dpi so it matches the scale of both Apple 27" Cinema displays perfectly, and might a 40" 8K be the hi res (retina?) version...?  Better late than never?
    Make an AppleTV that supports the Pro Display XDR, and any other up to  8K displays that people might want otherwise. Problem solved.
  • Reply 20 of 81
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 763member
    Isaacson seems to be working hard to remain relevant. He was Jobs. Iographer. The book came out. End of story. He wasn’t in on the discussions, or the planning, or the long term strategy. He met with Jobs a bunch of times and wrote a book.
    StrangeDayspscooter63ABiteaDayGG1AppleExposedlitoloopwatto_cobra
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