An Apple in the White House?

Today’s Washington Post article titled Staff Finds White House in the Technological Dark Ages was no big surprise.  However, while I was taking a shower (in a hotel in the Houston suburbs of all places) it occurred to me that this presents an incredible marketing opportunity for Apple.

If I were king of Apple (or say, a board member with deep White House ties), I’d be on the phone with “the appropriate person” with the offer of “a Mac on every desk in the White House along with an iPhone for every White House staffer.”  I’m sure there is some law that prevents Apple from giving this away from free so I’d offer it “at cost” just to Mac-enable the White House.

You can’t buy better PR than “Apple computerizes the Obama Administration, displacing ancient PCs running Windows XP.”  Plus, the leader of the free world then would carry around an iPhone and a MacBook.

In addition, I see an executive order coming that completely changes the stupid, archaic, and limiting rules about archiving communications within the White House.  This is a regular excuse that is used to explain why it’s “hard” to use things like Blackberries if you are president.  Baloney – there are plenty of straightforward approaches that solve for whatever you want to do.  It’s not like someone archived all of Rumsfeld’s Snowflakes (or maybe someone did – if so – egads.)

While we are at it, did anyone notice that Apple reported record revenues and profits in the quarter ending 12/27/08?  Yeah, I guess you did but it’s worth repeating the numbers since all we’ve been hearing is bailouts and losses.  These are quarterly numbers.  Revenue: $10.17 billion.  Net Income: $1.61 billion.  These numbers are lower than reality because of the bullshit GAAP rules that force accounting for the iPhone to be reported ratably over the life of the iPhone contract.  If you actually accounted for this in a way that made sense, Revenue would be $11.8 billion and Net Income would be $2.3 billion.  As every good MBA knows, the key rule is to “follow the cash” which increased by $3.6 billion in the quarter.  It’s worth saying again – $3.6 billion.  Wowza.  Well done Apple.

  • Asante Reliford

    That's a good idea, but I thought the president couldn't carry a cell phone due to security reasons. I used to work for Verizon Wireless, and everyone in the white house uses Verizon Wireless. As far as I know, mostly for security reasons. CDMA being more secure than GSM technology, and VZW's coverage is so much than any other CDMA carrier. Which is weird because I'm sitting here looking at the VZW advertisement at the bottom of the screen. I'm new to your blog, read an article in a magazine you wrote. Good stuff.

    Asante

  • http://www.karlkatzke.com Karl Katzke

    Um. iPhone would be no-go without a lot of development; security concerns prompted special development of a secure Blackberry that meets government information security requirements.

    I agree with you on an apple for every desk, but you might have some work selling that to the current IT staff, which doesn't change per administration as far as I know!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Yeah – although if RIM could address the security issues I bet Apple could also.

      The IT staffing issue (and leadership) is an interesting one. I have no clue what the politics or constraints are here but if there ever was a moment in time for wholesale replacement, this would seem to be it.

      • http://www.karlkatzke.com Karl Katzke

        Yes, because Apple WANTS to burn a special mainboard for a specific version of the iPhone. With special buttons that aren't in the rest of their commodity cases, and they want to do all the research and integration and coding work necessary to support the secure, encrypted card and peripheral sockets that RIM is supporting on the secure Blackberry. They're chasing the government market so hard that they have sales reps dogging every department at every government agency, program, and outpost in the world to sell them laptops and iPhones.

        Right.

        And in case you hadn't heard, they're also going to produce a netbook that is also a pony in Q2 09, and they're absolutely doomed if their iPod line doesn't become compatible with the Zune.

        I'm sure there's more … Since I agree with you so fully and I think you have a clue, let me see if I can find few quotes from Ron Enderle to back up your points…

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/derek_scrug1878 Derek Scruggs

          Karl, you must run into a lot of straw men in your daily life. Brad didn't say it would be easy or that Apple wanted to, he said he bet they could. You're talking about the company that spends more money on advertising than Microsoft. They have the resources. Doesn't mean they should, but it does mean they could win the bet.

          • http://www.karlkatzke.com Karl Katzke

            Well, yeah, but why bother? It doesn't fit their business model.

            There's a lot of things that Apple COULD do, but by saying they could do something like serve a particular market, the implication is present that they SHOULD do something to service a particular market. Why expend the effort when it doesn't fit their business model?

            Considering how far behind most of the federal government is in communications, data security, and other modern business innovations … I think that the new administration will produce significant forward motion.

          • Doug Ludlow

            Karl – Apple wouldn't of course make a special iPhone for you or I – it wouldn't make sense at all.

            However, devoting resources to building a secure "Obama iPhone" would result in one of the greatest marketing coups of all time. Regular news images of President Obama conducing diplomacy on his iPhone would result in positive publicity that billions in advertising expense couldn't buy.

          • http://www.karlkatzke.com Karl Katzke

            They don't spend billions marketing the iPhone. Apple is in the business of producing products that match their image and that sell themselves by working well.

            The iPhone has passed RIM's entire product line as of Q4 2008. Why spend millions in engineering costs for what is essentially a marketing ploy to gain a further incremental market share improvement for a product that is already the market leader? It makes no fiscal sense, period, unless Apple has engineers sitting around with their thumbs up their arses. I guarantee you that they don't. Anyone who says "Apple should produce X for Y" (without being an Apple employee with inside knowledge of their expected product roadmap) is in need of a clue.

    • DCX

      In addition to the "Secure Blackberry" mentioned in the zdnet article above, the new President can also choose from this fine assortment of communicators approved for classified use.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/lou_paglia Lou Paglia

    Great idea on making the bold move to get Apple into the White House. The technology should be top-tier there of all places.

    What will good to watch here is how much the administration is hamstrung and how much they can change about the situation. This should be something fairly straight-forward and controllable to move things to next generation technologies (cost concerns aside).

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/CoryS CoryS

    But, how would you plug all those Apples into the IBM mainframe they use for all their batch processing? :P

    Trust me, a good start would be to get the Obama family loaded up and using a family blog site, powered by Apple / MobileMe, using that equipment. That's the market they want.

    Good stuff.

  • http://blog.firebellydigital.com Duncan

    Change we need indeed! The campaign used technology and social media very wisely. This makes sense. All the nay sayers that worry about security, and apples working with old shitty equipment – need to think through things better. Don't underestimate Apple. Look at the innovation they've brought to the table.

    And CoryS – how patronizing my brother. You realy think the Obamas need someone to "help" them to use a family blog.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/todd_vernon84 Todd Vernon

    It could happen. But it would require apple to provide all the specs on their hardware to Grumman who would put out RFP's for milspec versions of all those chips. After about 10 years of sourcing the parts the OS would be rewritten for added security in some language no on has ever heard of. Finding the Internet too insecure the government would build a new global network to only connect government sites. The administrations new macs would arrive sometime in 2022 but look a lot like a mail truck. It could however fire lasers from space :-)

  • Steve in DC

    Did you just say that archiving White House communications is archaic and stupid? Wow, you sure don't know much about this stuff, do you? Even though I'm a happy iPhone user, I would be VERY worried if the new administration thought this is even remotely a good idea.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/martin_edi18731 Martin Edic

    First, RIM is a foreign company (CA) and they house the data in their own datacenters. That won't fly. Obama's people are already all Apple users. I'm guessing procurement is through competitive bidding so scratch the inside deal with Apple.
    My real question: What will Apple do with $28 billion in cash? That's a lot of dough. And Microsoft's numbers are very bad.

  • dick costolo

    windows XP? they wish. the current white house computers are running window2000.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Ah – lucky them. Windows 2000 – now that was a bitchin' OS.

      • Bill Mosby

        I know a few places where OS/2 was in use until a couple of years ago: three locked cabinets, one each in Novouralsk, Seversk, and Zelenogorsk, RU. Ran parts of systems that monitored uranium blend-down operations.
        Any other copies still working anywhere?

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/lou_paglia Lou Paglia

          OS/2, blast from the past. I remember, when interning at Time Life, a debate with a systems engineer where he believed OS/2 was going to beat Windows in the long run. That was all that ran on the computers of the tech group.

  • Bob Rose

    Re: "(or say, a board member with deep White House ties)," that would be my boss man Eric Schmidt! I think it's a great idea. Um, maybe GPhones instead of iPhones, ok? ;-)

  • DCX

    More developments on the Presidential Blackberry front.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Nope – I said the way they do it is archaic and stupid. "changes the stupid, archaic, and limiting rules about archiving communications within the White House. "

  • Bill Mosby

    It was kind of like a Windows that wasn't quite all there, from a UI standpoint. It would take me about 15 minutes to remember how to get around in it, as typically one would only made 3 or 4 trips a year to get data out of those systems.

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    There's a lot of things that Apple COULD do, but by saying they could do something like serve a particular market, the implication is present that they SHOULD do something to service a particular market. Why expend the effort when it doesn't fit their business model?
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