What do you do when you’ve built a product with 3 billion monthly active users and no future?
You start killing the product and start launching the next product, lest your fate dry with the ink of the history books.
Remember, this is Zuck’s “iPhone moment.” The iPhone turned the wildly popular iPod into a mere app. It didn’t happen overnight, but it began happening as soon as Steve Jobs projected the writing on the wall.
When Apple launched the iPhone in June 2007 it was billed as “an iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator.” The iPhone was designed as the closed ecosystem that only Apple can pull off and that Apple can only pull off. It didn’t even have an app store until Apple quickly pivoted and created its real cash cow - services rendered on its closed ecosystem.
Just as Microsoft owns Windows (the “other OS”), Google came to own Android (the “other iOS”). Despite all their clout, money, and expertise, Microsoft was not able to pull off the Windows Phone. Neither was Amazon able to pull off the Fire Phone. So too did Facebook fail to pull off the Facebook Phone. RIM? RIP.
Of course, both Microsoft & Google eventually developed their own hardware & integrated HW/FW/SW (xW) ecosystem, but their goal was never to create another walled garden. And the other players that failed to compete in the nascent smartphone market had all the cards of psychology stacked against them.
Whenever people want A Thing, there will always be a large group of people that want the Other Thing.
If you go against this, you’re doomed to fail. Watch this play out in cryptocurrency - there will be Bitcoin and then there will be the Othercoin. Inside the industry of a nascent market is a bubbling cesspool clamoring to be The Other. It is by definition a coherent response, a singular alternative.
If Facebook tries to be the Other, their probability of success is extremely low. If they instead aim at collaboratively creating the Other, and leveraging their existing user base to do so, they are nearly guaranteed to succeed.
As many iPod users as there were - there are many many more iPhone users now. With Steve Jobs back at the helm in 1997, Apple had the guts to gut its bloated product line and let Jony Ive paint rainbows all over the stuffy computer industry. Then, 10 years later, Apple also had the guts to put the iPod on death row and disregard the cash they were milking from that cow - an icon product, legendary, branded legacy in a flash.
Speaking of flash - do you remember Adobe Flash? You might not, because Apple singlehanded murdered it in cold blood when they refused to support Flash - a popular format at the time - on their increasingly popular iPhone & iPad products. As justification, Apple pointed to the technical drawbacks of Flash and the importance of support for the new HTML5. Steve Jobs was right, and today we ought to remember his words, paraphrased below with a modern twist:
“The App Store was created during the iPhone era - for smartphones and tablets. The App Store is a successful business for Apple, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond iPhone. But the xR era is about interoperable devices, wearable interfaces and open web standards - all areas where the App Store falls short.”
Now Steve Jobs is dead, Jony Ive has left, and Apple not only has no visionaries but it also has no guts.
I’ve spent my entire life admiring the round pegs in the square holes - the ones crazy enough to push the human race forward. I’ve enjoyed an incredible career at Apple over the past 6 years, but increasingly I find its expectation to be:
Think the same.
Look up the stock price of Facebook (FB) and Meta (MVRS) and it’s almost as if they’re the same company… 🤔
Make no mistake though - these are not the same company. Meta was founded to acquire Facebook, unseat it, and reign supreme over the Next Big Thing.
Microsoft, for all their success with Windows and their promising future with HoloLens… is not assured success.
Google, for all their success with Android and their legendary premature launch of Google Glass… is not assured success.
Amazon, for all their success with AWS and their launch of Sumerian… is not assured success.
Netflix, for all their success unseating Blockbuster and becoming the Tech Titan of the Living Room… is not assured success.
Facebook, for all their success grabbing 38% of Earth’s eyeballs… is not assured success.
if they can muster the guts to start killing Facebook as they appear to be doing… if they can legitimately collaborate & innovate with the Others… if they can genuinely collaborate to be a truly interoperable platform… if they can go back to their roots and focus on product & market with near reckless disregard for profit…