"Subject: It's About Time for Major Changes
Distribution: Design Teams and Support Staff (not marketing)
Date: April 1, 2016
In the spirit of the day and springtime new beginnings, I'm laying out a proposal for major changes in all areas of hardware, software and support.
An Adaptable, Upgradeable Long-Term Mac "Pro"
Start over on the Mac Pro. Go back to using standard form factor components and offer a truly powerful and upgradeable workhorse. Use standard form factor graphics cards to allow a much wider choice of options, higher performance and ability to offer newer GPU models quickly.
Use a Tower design (again), with a real set of build to order options. Tower case with at least 5 internal tool-free drive bays/trays, and a couple M.2 slots. It doesn't have to be plain jane - there are some striking tower designs that are both incredibly functional and attractive. (Some amazingly so.) But function should be the first priority. (That results in better long term customer satisfaction after the initial appearance wow factor has faded.)
Include basic boot video support for non-Mac EFI graphics cards. (For basic video output until the OS X driver loads.) Work with Nvidia and AMD more closely on driver updates to bring us more on par with performance and features on the PC side. A "Mac Pro" should already have graphics cards that support HDMI 2.x with full 4K/UHD support at standard refresh rates. (No more HDMI 1.4 lower refresh rates/limited support for 60Hz with some displays.) And HDR is a bonus. HDCP 2.2 support is also necessary for 4K DRM.
Yes, this is a radical change, but how's the current 2013 model working out in sales and customer wants/needs? Power users need an upgradeable workhorse, not a closed 'work of art'. (With standardized hardware, we could have had a dozen upgrades for performance since the last custom design.) If you're not going to change the basic platform for years, at least make it easily component upgradeable. (And why hasn't there even been a graphics card upgrade for 2013 Mac Pros. Is there adequate thermal/power headroom in the enclosure for faster upgrades?)
Properly done, base systems and CTO components (graphics cards, storage, ram) could even be stocked in stores for build to order. (With the right case design, a quick install.) Stocking a base (bare) tower model + the GPU and Storage options. Even if only 2 or 3 choices (current/high performance) of each to start. (Yes, this may sound crazy but we used to be "the crazy ones" remember? Maybe it's time to 'think different' again.) With standard form factor cards, they could be easily refreshed as newer/better options become available. Over 2 years without a flagship product change is too long. Current and potential future customers think you've abandoned it.
Too risky/scary to commit to mass production/long-term? Go back to Apple's roots. Create a small team to do a 'limited-edition' Mac Pro Tower to test the waters. Maybe auction off the first one autographed by the team with proceeds to charity. An event like that is right in Apple's wheelhouse. (I'll bet there would easily be enough volunteers for the team, and the cost would be well worth it I think. Less than spent on some acquisitions that may never result in a real product and are just a blip on the PR newsfeed.)
I think these changes would cause a shock wave through the industry and attract/win back customers that have given up on limited option, closed designs being suitable for their needs and growth. (With Apple's buying power, we could be price-competitive enough to even attract some current hackintosh builders.) High volume made standard motherboards/GPUs, etc vs a custom design, low volume version that not only costs more but may have trailing edge performance before it's even in customer's hands. (And the ability to keep the Mac Pro capabilities fresh vs the current years long change cycle.)
Offer an alternative to the current closed/sealed shut design. Powerful all-in-ones are nice, but there should be easy access to components like storage/drives without a complicated major disassembly and re-glue. To preserve that seamless look for product placements in movies and TV shows, a removable complete rear panel shell could be designed for easy access/repairs and still satisfy our designers love of the clean look. (e.g. Push release pin on the stand hinge, pop off rear panel shell.) Calculate cost of this change spread over the life cycle vs total assembly/repair time costs per year for the current design. Factor in new design benefits to attracting new customers. (Keep a low-cost base model like current design as an entry level.)
Enough of the constant push for thinner. At this rate, every 'thinner and more powerful' laptop design will have to have a budget allocated for the inevitable repair extension program down the road. Also ask our customers if they really want a single interface port, requiring adapters for basic connections. Design to prevent any possible key contact with the screen when closed even when slight pressure is on the case. And we're using a better AR coating now correct? (Oil/salt resistant.) I'm getting tired of partnership offers from screen cleaning/protectant companies to bundle in/recommend their products that have so many claims they must be made from Unicorn tears.
* First, an SD card slot built-in. (Or at least a USB port for using a flash drive for backup/recovery.)
* Built-in clone/backup utility to user flash drive for recovery without needing an internet connection or a Mac with iTunes.
* For iPhones and existing iPad designs, an Apple Dock with built-in card slot or USB Port for this purpose.
(Major iOS update installers could include an automatic backup/clone option of the user's current install before upgrading, providing local /faster recovery should something go wrong during the upgrade.)
Some of the above are major shifts in focus, but we can still offer a standard/closed/all the same (except for storage/display size) product option for those that prefer that. (That market may already be saturated.)
* Bring back a pure bitstream Audio option.
* Siri Remotes - Did anyone do a drop test on these? Or use them in a home with kids? Remotes get dropped in real life. Some owners have had repeated glass breakage and at $79 a pop, not cheap.
* Offer repaired/refurb remote exchanges. (Owners could trade in broken Siri remotes for refurbished ones in store for a small fee/core charge.) Future design change either to the material or include a protective case with purchase. (Offer protective covers for current owners of remotes free or at cost.)
Stagger Major/Mass releases of OS Upgrades
Rather than release every Major OS update (OS X, iOS, tvOS, watchOS) the same day, stagger them out to reduce the demands on update servers. (And it goes without saying to improve beta testing to avoid as many mass problems as possible.) Release security only updates separately without waiting for other non-essential feature changes. (Current OS users usually have no choice as security updates are often
bungledbundled in with other OS updates.)
"We Brick It - We Buy It (back)" Policy
The iOS 9.3 release was a wake-up call and literally a world-wide support crisis emergency response test program. Starting now, we need to offer owners affected by major bugs in an official public release that bricks a device a replacement if the problem can't be corrected in 48 hours. (Refurbished device, shipped overnight if need be. Yes, they may get a later model refurb and the cost of this is major incentive to ensure releases are better.) A lot of details on verification need to be worked out, but we can't afford another repeat of this. Millions of customers lost use of their devices for days and we lost a lot of customer good will, as well as our reputation. (The press had a field day and our forums were flooded with angry customers.) The above mentioned SDcard backup/clone, restore feature if done properly could avoid a significant amount of cases like this and should have already been implemented long ago.
Warranty/Phone Support Term Changes
First, free phone support for the full standard warranty period worldwide.
High end products should include a 3 year warranty or discounted applecare.
A Real Customer Loyalty/Retention Program
For customers with a long history of ownership (often decades), we need to reward their loyalty with more than lip service. Addition discounts on new purchases is a start, as well as preferred treatment on phone support, a longer standard warranty and in store perks where possible. (Look at SVS's "Customer Bill of Rights" for an example from another industry, although I doubt we could come close to that level.)
Reduce Mainboard BGA Component Failures
With the constant drive for thinner enclosures and higher performance, there's been a long history of repeated cases of BGA component failures like Graphics chips. (Often blamed on lead free solder joint failures from thermal cycling. This is an industry wide problem seen for years with GPUs, DSPs, etc.) Typically these happen after the standard warranty has expired, but how often have we (and other companies) eventually had to offer multi-million dollar repair/replacement programs. (It's hard to really estimate the total cost, plus the damage to our reputation and customer productivity.) Either come up with a better way to secure (and cool) these devices long-term, or go back to solder with lead for these components. How Eco friendly are millions of failed boards world-wide in the industry. Not all are recycled and not all recycling plants are good for the planet. Solving this problem would save downtime, repair costs and resources - human and material/transport. (Things like this remind me of Ethanol gas. A net bad idea on almost every level.)
Extend Security Updates for Older OS's
Yes, the majority of users have upgraded to later/current versions but there's still a lot of users of older/unsupported OS versions that often are not about to upgrade due to either the hardware or software they use. We should at least offer basic security patches going back to snow leopard. (If necessary, partner with open source programmers to make them available from a trusted source.) This could cost less than what we spend on some ad campaigns and buying companies that add little to the bottom line or customer satisfaction. (And we have $200+ billion in cash.)
Some of the above (mass similar/closed designs, reliance on iServices) makes me wonder for years why a competitor hasn't made a reverse '1984' ad. Not that they offer better products, but we're ripe for comparison to negative images portrayed in that commercial that we once fought against.
(And note to the Auto design group frustrated trying to create a one piece body design (without unsightly door seams). That's a joke right? If not I'm reassigning you all to working on the core products business asap. But I agree on axing the custom charge adapter.)
OK, if you made it this far - just kidding. But seriously, despite being April Fool's day I really want that status report on the new watch bands on my desk by end of business day."