Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Steve Jobs' Dilemma -- How Can the Great Showman Continue to "One-Up" Himself?

Yesterday was the day that all of the Mac faithful were waiting for -- Steve Jobs, on center stage at his annual Macworld techie mecca, revealing the latest hidden jewels in his empire.

But wait -- something strange happened on this day -- Apple's stock price actually dropped (and dropped big) by 5.5% following his performance.

Why? The Apple flock expected more. After all, last year, the man behind the Apple curtain, announced the iPhone to much adoration. And, in previous years, there was the iPod, iTunes, and so much more.

This year? Sure, an ultra-thin and ultra-cool laptop (but, even that doesn't come with a CD/DVD drive -- imagine how Jobs would blast the competition if they introduced such a product without that standard (and some say necessary) feature). And then, Jobs introduced his new online movie "rental" service as part of iTunes.

I guess that is kind of cool in theory -- he did manage to get all 6 of the major studios to sign onto his vision after all (which is certainly no small feat). But, his movie rental service comes with huge -- yes huge -- limitations. One -- only about 1,000 movie titles will be available to consumers at launch. Two -- those new movie titles that will become available on iTunes will arrive 30 days after their DVD release. Third -- once users have begun to view their rented films, they will have only 24 hours to view them rented films before they evaporate into the ether. That certainly is not consumer-friendly.

Now, we all know Steve Jobs well enough to know that he would blast any rival for such significant limitations on an online movie rental service. But, Jobs generally gets a hall pass on these kinds of things from his adoring fans (which include the media). Let's face it, he is the king of cool in the technology/digital media world (hey, even my family owns 2 Macbooks, 3 iPods, a host of peripherals). So, I have not seen him yet get slammed in the press about these limitations.

Even so, this time at Macwold, even the faithful and the media expected more. Jobs did announce cool stuff, but none of it -- in the eyes of observers -- was revolutionary this time. None were game changers. And, all seemed to come with significant limitations.

So the message to Steve Jobs following Apple's 5.5% stock drop is this -- yes, he is the great showman of the techie world. But, after doing it so well for so long, how can he continue to exceed expectations? How can the great showman continue to top himself?

We consumers, of course, love the fact that he sets the bar high. But, perhaps he set the bar too high for himself this time.

Well, there's always next year ...