I'm Worried About Apple. Again. And You Should Be, Too

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I fully realize how unrealistic my suggestions are. As Yahoo! Finance's Jeff Macke pointed out on Twitter, Apple is doing more with external retailers, not less. And, as far as we know, it has no plans to move forward with my idea of ramping up a high-margin iAccessory business of its own, while endorsing only a handful of equally as high-end products from third parties.

As much as I believe in the particulars of my argument, forget them for a minute. They cloud the bigger picture. There's always more than one way to address a shared bigger picture concern. In this case, it's all about protecting Apple's image. We can agree that Tim Cook must make this a priority ... no?

That's Apple's bread and butter. Its image. Right now it's taking a beating.

Cook needs to create his own reality distortion field. By taking control of the retail trajectory -- lock, stock and barrel -- Apple can (re)assume ownership of its entire consumer/user experience.

This is not about scaring off middle-of-the-road buyers. We all know that it's not only high-end shoppers who buy Apple stuff. For goodness sake, "everybody" had an iPod and "everybody" has an iPhone, iPad or both.

It's about creating the perception of exclusivity alongside ubiquity. It's about saying "hey, look out on the streets, everybody loves Apple products. You can't walk more than five paces without seeing several of them; however, make no mistake, people aspire to own them and the process of acquiring them -- be it online or in person -- is exclusive, special and detail-attentive right down to how we make you feel when you open our packaging."

That's the Apple mystique. It's part of the Apple culture we feared we would lose when Steve Jobs died. And it's a critical element -- one of the elements -- of Apple's success.

I'm concerned because it seems most people don't share my worries regarding image. If it ends up that Tim Cook and Apple management have become less obsessed with image, I could quickly move from concerned to alarmed.

At day's end, Apple must distance itself from mediocrity, not strengthen associations with it.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.