I’ve been an Apple customer since 1980 when I bought my Apple II. And I’ve been a big fan of the company and posted earlier about how I learned from working with them. Learning to present visually.
However, the future of the company concerns me because I believe machine learning is going to be crucial in the delivery of digital services and Apple seems to be counting on digital services to make up for shrinking sales of the iPhone. For the following reasons I believe Apple will fail at machine learning.
- Machines need vast quantities of relevant data in order to learn effectively. However, unlike Facebook, Google and even Microsoft, Apple’s focus on privacy means it hasn’t collected this type of data, as it believes it compromises customers’ privacy.
- The coin of the realm for academic researchers is publications and their attendant citations. But Apple’s extreme secrecy prevents its machine learning researchers from publishing their research. Thus the best and the brightest will go to Google, Facebook and other companies that allow them to publish and enhance their reputations.
- Apple’s DNA is in industrial design and vertical integration of hardware, software and services. And that DNA has created the world’s most valuable company. But the times they are a changin’. Big data, machine learning, AI, robotics, AR, VR and more are rapidly changing the landscape. Apple’s latest products – including a $300 vanity book – show no inkling that they are changing with the times.
So, what do these pundit-type musings about Apple have to do with startups and mentoring? Well there are a few lessons:
- Recruiting is not just about salaries and stock options. Understand what else is highly valued by your job candidates, as researchers value the freedom to publish their findings.
- Beware of success! It can blind you! Just look at all those Route 128 giant mini computer companies like DEC, Prime, and Wang that totally missed the PC revolution and are long gone.
- Understand how your strengths can become weaknesses as the world around you changes: business is very Darwinian- adapt or die!