Here’s my great idea to make Apple better. Spin off some of Apple’s apps into a subsidiary company as was done with Claris.
Once upon a time things like MacWrite were written in house by Apple, until they weren’t. Claris emerged from Apple as a completely separate entity that still adhered to Apple’s high standards of software development. Doing so again would help relieve some of the strain on engineering resources at Apple that have become apparent in the last couple of years.
Apple’s ‘develop and abandon’ methodology for applications outside of Macintosh and iOS is a problem. Apple deploys engineering resources like the little dutch boy, plugging the most important holes in the dam as they appear. The most important holes are always in iOS and Macintosh. That makes sense. iOS is paying the bills these days. Problems in Pages don’t get attention. Innovation in Pages doesn’t get attention. Pages just sits there, as do all of the iWork and iLife applications. It’s time to just spin those apps, and probably some ‘core’ functionality (think email and music apps) out of Apple.
With a clean break Apple could move a new Application subsidiary out of the Bay Area that has a notorious talent shortage. There isn’t a shortage of programming talent, there’s just a shortage of talent that can be contained in the Bay Area. There’s talent to be found in Austin, or Boston, or Chicago, or Seattle. With a decision to split away from Apple, a new subsidiary could form wherever conditions are more conducive to attracting talent.
Splitting of applications would also give Apple louder feedback from the developer community. A Neo-Claris, truly separate from Apple, could develop applications outside of Apple. They could provide strong feedback to the parent company when innovations in the core OS are problematic; no need for public shaming in the blog-o-sphere.
Please Apple, please, do this. You’re spreading yourself too thin thinking that you can only create lightning in a bottle when you maintain tight control of your products. That’s just not true. Steve re-created lightning in Emeryville at Pixar. Kevin Feige has recreated that lightning at Marvel Studios. You can spin out some lightning with a John Lassiter of Apps (or services, those aren’t getting the attention they deserve either).
You’ve done an outstanding job of keeping the ethos of Apple alive after Steve. That ethos has changed under Tim Cook, for the better in my book. Now, reproduce that ethos in a different company, possibly in a different place. Let a new Claris thrive, and let Apple thrive.