During the famous keynote when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he quoted Alan Kay, saying, "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware." Apple has done just that, with a concentrated focus on brilliantly designed hardware powered by elegant yet powerful operating systems, both desktop and mobile. This one-two punch put Apple on a trajectory not to be rivaled by any company in the world, let alone other tech companies. Almost as famous as that 2007 keynote is the fact that Apple went from nearly broke in the late 90's to the most valuable company on the planet this past fall.
Speaking of fall, the stock has done so since peaking just above $700 per share this past September. Apple is shipping greater numbers of it's most respected version of the iPhone, iPad and Macs, with record numbers of users converting to the very latest versions of the perspective OS's. So what gives?
Truth is, hardware and software are now only part of the score. In the past decade, a new element plays an integral part–services. Apple flexes its muscle with beautiful hardware. OS X is a fortress, so much so that it makes headlines when a Mac is infected with a virus. But one thing Apple fans never gloat about in front of their Windows or Android friends is Apple's services. Sure, there is iTunes, the one solid Apple service with few viable competitors. But MobileMe? Even Jobs knew it was a stinker. iCloud is marginally better, but the AppStore is loaded with popular iCloud app alternatives (calendars, mail, etc.). Siri sure is handy, but it's often slow. Google's voice search on iOS has received high marks.
And then there is Maps. From the Maps flap and forward, Apple's stock has taken a wrong turn.
I think it is safe to say that consumers, and apparently investors, understand the value of services. Jobs' would likely agree that Mr. Kay's quote should be revised to reflect the new rules of the game. "People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware and develop stellar services."
Apple needs a rock star–the Jony Ives of services–if you will. Update Siri to be much faster, and tie into more data sources. Stabilize iCloud and continue to simplify the user experience. Update (or scrap) Maps, and certainly partner with other location data providers. If Apple could focus on services and get them right, they would have the one-two-three punch, the cord of three which cannot be simply broken.