Since its creation in 1976, Apple has enjoyed the reputation of being one of the most innovative companies in the tech industry. After a few long years of mishaps and even the scare of bankruptcy, the return of Steve Jobs at the head of the Cupertino giant in 1997 brought back life to the struggling computer maker and launched a new age in technology. Over the following thirteen years, the company has gone from one success to another. From iTunes to the iPad, Apple has established itself as the leader in the industry both in innovation and net profits. In fact, today, Apple is the largest and richest company in the world, with a market capitalization larger than the entire GDP of Sweden as an example.
However, since the release of the iPad in 2010, Apple has not released anything that can be described as an industry mover like the iPhone was. The Apple Watch, though a nice and well-built gadget, lacks the wow factor of the other gadgets of Apple’s arsenal during their initial launch. So can Apple still innovate? Yes. But has it been innovating lately? No.
Lately, instead of innovating and creating new device classes, Apple has contented itself by copying the success of others or making small improvements to its existing devices. The iPad Pro is a great example of that attitude as it is nothing but a lackluster imitation of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3. A larger screen, a keyboard and a stylus are not innovations!
Apple’s lack of innovation can be explained by two factors. First, the company is at the top of the industry in the terms of revenues. There is really no pressing need to create or change when business is doing so well. As the old adage says: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. However, the problem with that logic is the fact that the tech world is not static. Everyone, every company is continuously trying to gain an edge over competitors. In fact, as Engadget’s Aaron Souppouris puts it: When did Apple become the boring one? Among the three giants in the US – Apple, Microsoft and Google – Apple is now the least innovative. Microsoft has its Hololens, and Google has its self-driving cars and its internet balloons. Apple… has none of these moonshot projects.
Second, for a long time, Apple has enjoyed the favoritism of tech reporters and the resulting acclamation of anything bearing a fruit logo has given the company a false sense of superiority. Despite the fact that many features introduced by Apple for its gadgets have been on other platforms for years, the company will continue to pass them as its own inventions and tech journalists will gulp it down. So why innovate, when you can just pretend and everybody will believe you?
Apple’s lack of innovation does not mean that the company cannot innovate. Apple has the talents and resources to do so. The company has to get out of its comfort zone to try new things. Others before it where once too at the top of the world. Remember Nokia and BlackBerry. Today, where are they? Furthermore, so-called tech journalists will have to stop their blind adulation of the company for it to truly feel the heat from its competitors.
Apple has built just about everything that we need. They’ve updated the hell out of existing products, but what else can they offer? Will they expand their innovations and surprise us soon?
Steve Jobs used to share a story about how he first became inspired by the idea of what computers could do. He would tell people about the time he read a science magazine when he was young, and he found an article ranking animals by the efficiency of their movements. At the top of the list was cheetahs and hawks, and humans were listed down on the bottom due to them being relatively slow on two legs.
He then continued to read the second list in the magazine. This list compared humans on bicycles versus all the other animals. Humans were suddenly the most efficient animals on the planet. At that time, Jobs realized that was the power of machines.
Jobs used to call the computer a bicycle for the mind. Apple has always succeeded at the pedals and handle bars. The handle bars and pedals are the parts where we humans touch the machine, where we interact with it and the machine responds.
Apple has always exceeded at taking something known to man and enhancing it. In the 1980s, it was the mouse. It was invented at PARC and made mainstream by Apple. Apple simply made it better, and made computers plausible. In the early 2000s, it was the clickwheel paired with the iPod’s simple software. In 2006, the iPhone was introduced with its miraculous touchscreen capabilities, paired with iOS, this made smartphones accessible to everyone. In 2011, the world met Siri. Siri was meant to be a new way for a human to “pedal” and their smartphone would react.
Apple has a process; they examine the world for technologies humans are using to interact with computers. They look for tech and gadgets to perfect. But how many new versions of the iPhone will we see before we get introduced to something new?
Lately, it seems as if Apple’s new products are failing more often than they are succeeding. Hence the question, “has Apple stopped innovating?”
What’s next for Apple? What else can they make??