Does it Matter What Walter Isaacson Has to Say About Apple Today?

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It’s one thing to lend an ear to what tech experts have to say about Apple. They may have their biases, but they also have informed opinions about the industry and understand the context of the tech landscape. The same goes for established members of the tech press. The good ones, at least. Objectivity can’t always be counted on, but the established players know their subject matter inside and out. As for analysts, at least they understand market conditions that surround tech companies. They don’t always know as much as they think they do, but there are some good ones out there.

I can understand listening to and reading any of the above to get a sense of Apple and the tech landscape today and going forward. However, I cannot for the life of me understand why anyone gives much weight to what Walter Isaacson thinks about Apple today. Evidently CNBC thinks he is some kind of authority on the current Jony Ive situation, as they gave him some screen time on Squawk Box yesterday.

Here’s the thing. Isaacson’s singular qualification is that he was Steve Jobs’ biographer. I understand that gave the man a good deal of insight into a particular period of time at Apple. In fact, he probably knows as much about Apple during the years leading up to Jobs’ death as anyone. I do understand that his knowledge does give him some unique insight into the relationship between Jobs and Ive and how their collaboration shaped Jobs’ second stint at Apple.

However, everything he knows about Apple is history. It’s all in the past. His writing about tech since the Jobs biography has also been focused on what’s already happened. He doesn’t know Tim Cook and what he does know of him is through the the very biased, second-hand lens of the man he spent a lot of time writing about. These are not qualifications that should get you on television talking about Apple’s present.

For whatever he may know about Apple through his time with and research on Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson is a biographer, journalist and history professor, not a tech expert. I know this because I can look up his basic bio information, but his own words tell me far more. He lacks the industry knowledge of a tech writer and the market acumen of a tech analyst. For example, that lack of basic knowledge and context shows up when he says that Apple Park is the only example of great design at Apple in 15 years. Really?

Forget about the Apple Watch and AirPods. Maybe Mr Isaccson doesn’t care for them, but these are not designs that Apple customers are complaining about. But that’s not the half of it. Fifteen years takes us back to 2004, when Jobs and Ive were still at the peak of their collaboration. Does the MacBook Air ring a bell? It only re-shaped the premium laptop market.

Oh, and this time period also includes the entire product lifespans of both the iPhone and the iPad, which most experts would consider Jobs’ and Ive’s greatest achievements. Apple Park may be an impressive building, but give me a break. It still pales in comparison to three of the most influential products in the history of consumer electronics. Those products reshaped industries. Apple Park is a footnote. That is enough to tell me that this man is no expert on Apple and its place in the tech landscape of today.

If you need more evidence, Mr Isaacson then rambles on about how Apple should have released an integrated TV. Never mind that it wouldn’t have been possible even if Jobs had lived. Hollywood and the cable companies were having none of what he was selling after iTunes. As for the hardware, the Apple TV has always been a sideshow and Smart TVs are cheap and ubiquitous. All that aside, what the world really needed was an expensive Apple Television. Ok. How is that philosophy working out for the HomePod right now?

Then Isaccson starts talking about a camera. You know, a consumer camera. The industry that Steve and Jony killed off in a couple of years starting with the iPhone 4. If not for Apple Park we might have had an over-priced TV with no content deals and an Apple point-and-shoot. I guess Steve and Jony knew better. All I know is this man has absolutely no idea what he is talking about when it comes to Apple outside of that narrow window he got from studying and writing about Jobs.

If you want to gain some historical insight into Apple from 2006-2011, then you’re in pretty good hands reading and listening to Walter Isaacson. That’s right in his wheelhouse. If you want to know more about Steve Jobs, then his biography is essential reading and should definitely be on your list. I’ll never say otherwise. However, if you are looking for contemporary analysis of Apple in the current tech landscape, you can do far, FAR better. CNBC should know that.


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