Apple Can’t Innovate Anymore, My A$$

on July 5, 2013
Reading Time: 9 minutes

I am sick to death of pundits proclaiming that Apple can no longer innovate. Apparently, the less one knows about a subject, the more strident one’s opinion on that subject becomes. Nevertheless, this nonsensical posturing has simply got to stop, for it is easier to believe a lie that you have heard a thousand times, than the truth that you have heard only once.

Can’t innovate anymore, my ass. ~ Phil Schiller

The critic’s arguments seem to break into two categories, which are really two sides of the same coin:
— Apple desperately needs to enter a new product category;
— (But it’s already too late because) Apple can’t innovate anymore.

Apple Desperately Needs To Enter A New Product Category

Apple again seen losing steam, new products needed desperately
Apple managed to earn $9.5 billion in profit on $43.6 billion in sales last quarter without launching any exciting new devices, but the long wait for new launches is expected to begin taking its toll this quarter.

Apple’s business model forces it to constantly come up with groundbreaking new products
“At most companies, a year without a major new product release isn’t cause for panic. But Apple isn’t most companies. The problem with that business model is that it forces Apple to constantly come up with a groundbreaking new product.”

Apple needs new hardware
“There’s two reasons Apple needs new hardware: To prove it can still create killer new product categories post-Steve Jobs and because that’s how it makes its money.”

Find a new category to go innovate
“I keep trying to tell Apple…” Misek says, “Find a new category to go innovate.”

Any man who thinks he knows all the answers most likely misunderstood the questions.

Apple, a once-great innovator
“With Apple wrapping up its developer conference this week, the contrast between the once-great innovator that brought the world into the smartphone and tablet era and current Silicon Valley revolutionary Google couldn’t have been more stark … innovation is ideas like Google Glass, which represent new paradigms of human interaction with technology.”

Apple’s trailblazing days are over
“Google’s gaming console: The latest sign that Apple’s trailblazing days are over?”

Apple hasn’t been able to enter any major new product categories in years
“Apple’s stock hasn’t slid because it’s been putting out uninspired hardware — it’s slid because the company hasn’t been able to enter any major new product categories in years….”

If it can’t reinvent a category again soon, Apple could be in big trouble “(Apple) transformed itself from a niche company in the computer world to one that created entirely new categories of gadgets. If it can’t do that again soon, Apple could be in big trouble.”

The list of areas where Apple can repeat its act is dwindling
“In the past, Apple snuck up on people. It entered markets filled with clunky, overly-geeky products, released groundbreaking consumer-friendly versions, and established its dominance before rivals had the chance to respond … But today, we have huge companies investing millions of dollars in products that Apple “may release in the future.” … If there’s any area in which Apple can innovate, chances are, someone has already imagined it, written a blog post about it, Photoshopped it, and created a ready-made blueprint for any company that wants to gamble on it. … The list of areas where Apple can repeat its swoop-in-and-turn-the-industry-upside-down act is dwindling. ((The list of areas where Apple’s opportunities are supposedly dwindling: “TV? Microsoft beat Apple to the punch with futuristic voice and gesture control, and Hollywood doesn’t appear willing to let anyone innovate on the content distribution front. Wearables? Everyone and their mother is making a smartwatch, and Google has Glass locked, loaded, and almost ready to fire. Mobile/desktop PC convergence? Microsoft has already put its chips in that basket. … and then there’s gaming. The established players Sony and Microsoft are continuing to innovate, and now that Google is reportedly making this Android-based gaming console, that’s one less way that Apple can sneak in the backdoor and set the house on fire”.))

By the time Apple does it, it will have already been done
“(L)ike just about every other possible area of innovation, it’s becoming less and less likely that we’ll see more Apple “trailblazing.” … By the time Apple does it (no matter what it is), it will have already been done … and probably much more elegantly than the pre-iPod MP3 players, pre-iPhone smartphones, or pre-iPad tablet PCs.”

iWatch will be another hobby
“Just Like Apple TV, The Apple iWatch Will Be Another Hobby For Tim Cook”

Apple outfoxed: Foxconn first
“Apple outfoxed: Foxconn first to debut iPhone-compatible smartwatch”

Samsung is already working on a watch
“…Samsung …is already working on a watch of its own.”
Samsung unveiled games console first
“Sorry Google And Apple: Samsung Unveiled Games Console First”

Google to beat Apple to products Apple is reportedly developing
“WSJ: Google working on an Android-powered game system, smart watch and new Nexus Q … its reason for jumping into all these categories is to beat products Apple is reportedly developing in the same categories….”

(But It’s Already Too Late Because) Apple Can’t Innovate Anymore

It’s harder to innovate once you’re the incumbent
“Apple’s problem is that it becomes harder to innovate once you’re the incumbent rather than the challenger”.

Apple is not innovative
“Quite frankly, Apple is not innovative…”

Apple aren’t innovating any more
“(Apple) have a right to be proud of their accomplishments, but it’s not surprising that pundits claim they aren’t innovating any more.”

Apple is no longer a leader
“Apple is no longer a leader. Apple has become a challenger that now needs to look up to other leaders across the multiple categories it competes in and figure out what to do next.”

Apple is just another product company
“(T)herein lies the rub and the real tragedy: Apple is quickly becoming just another product company….”

Another company out-innovating Apple
“Cramer: Another Company Out-Innovating Apple?”

Apple has become a design follower
“Apple has become a design follower instead of a leader — and it may be just fine with that”

Apple is a lagging brand
“Apple’s Fall From Leading To Lagging Brand”

Stunning nine month gap between product events
“Apple will hold its first major product event in nine months on Monday, a stunning gap for a company that relies on regularly impressing customers with new innovations.”

A bear walks into a bar and says, “Bartender, I’d like a gin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and tonic.” And the bartender says, “Sure, but what’s with the big pause?”

Jony Ive is meddling in software
“Sir Jony has been trapped in a monochromatic hardware world of his own making for so long that now that he’s allowed to meddle in software, he’s pulled out that box of Crayolas he’s kept locked in the bottom drawer and let loose his inner Wonderland.”

The end for Apple exceptionalism
“iOS 7 redesign: the beginning of the end for Apple”

Apple plays catch up
“Apple’s primary motivation (with iOS 7) was to play catch up with… no, not Android but with Microsoft.”

All been done before “…Apple has not only failed to truly innovate in its own right, the changes and additions it has introduced (in iOS 7) have all been done before.”

Nothing new
“Is iOS 7 Apple’s admission that it has nothing new to bring to the table?”

I miss John Dvorak and Rob Enderle…but my aim is improving. ~ John Kirk

The Wide Lens

“The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” ~ Winston Churchill

I mean, honestly, could Apple’s critics be any more wrong? Could they have it any more backwards? Do they know nothing at all about Apple or the Tech industry? The very people who seem most certain of Apple’s future (or lack thereof) are also the very people who seem most ignorant of Apple’s past. The following lengthy excerpts are quoted from Ron Adner’s: “The Wide Lens: What Successful Innovators See That Others Miss.”

[pullquote]Jobs tended to be late for everything because he wanted everything to be ready for him[/pullquote]

“(Steve) Jobs tended to be late for everything because he wanted everything to be ready for him. Jobs understood that the natural trajectory of challenges is toward the (smart mover, not the) first mover. (When the co-innovation of an ecosystem is required), the pioneer has no advantage. In fact, the pioneer is at a slight market share disadvantage relative to laggards. The “system” works to resolve co-innovation challenges, while industry rivals figure out execution.” “Reflecting on catching technology waves in 2008, (Steve Jobs) said:

“Things happen fairly slowly, you know. They do. Those waves of technology, you can see them way before they happen, and you just have to choose wisely which ones you’re going to surf. If you choose unwisely, then you can waste a lot of energy, but if you choose wisely, it actually unfolds fairly slowly. It takes years.”

“His insight was to ‘surf’ the co-innovation wave, knowing that its challenges would be resolved over time. His brilliance was to wait to expend his energy on the execution challenge.”

Waiting To Catch The MP3 Wave “Steve Job’s iPod journey is an exemplary illustration. Jobs knew that, on its own, an MP3 player was useless. He understood that, in order for the device to have value, other co-innovators in the MP3 player ecosystem first needed to be aligned.” “Jobs constructed the iPod ecosystem. (Then) Apple waited, and then waited some more…. As the iPod’s co-innovation risks faded away — when (the) pieces were solidly in place — both MP3s and broadband were finally widely available — (Apple) finally made its move, putting the last two pieces in place to create a winning innovation: an attractive, simple device supported by smart software.” “With its proprietary hardware-software combination, (Jobs) didn’t just put down the last piece, he put down the last two pieces. And he made sure they interlocked. Apple didn’t launch the iPod as a product. In combination with its iTunes music management software, the iPod was a solution.” “By shifting to offering solutions, Apple increased the execution challenge for itself as well as for everyone else, effectively lowering the value of competitor’s previous efforts and increasing the barrier for rivals to achieve future success.”

Waiting To Catch The Smart Phone Wave

[pullquote]Once again, Jobs was late – five years late[/pullquote]

“Once again (with the iPhone), Jobs was late – five years late.” “And rivals didn’t seem to care.” “Reacting to Apple’s January 2007 announcement of the iPhone (six months before its launch), Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of BlackBerry shrugged, “It’s kind of one more entrant into an already very busy space with lots of choice for consumers.” “Asked to react to the announcement of the iPhone, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer literally laughed out loud.” “Steve Jobs could smile because he knew what (his) ecosystem carryover meant. Of the 22 million iPods sold during the 2007 holiday season, 60 percent went to buyers who already owned at least one iPod. The iPhone was not going to be a new entrant fighting to capture attention in a crowded mobile phone market. It was the next generation iPod. By carrying over the key elements of the iPod ecosystem, he would carry over his buyers too.”

The Critics Have Gotten It All Wrong

Apple’s critics seem to be diagonally parked in a parallel universe

After reading the excerpts from Ron Adner’s book, you can see just how wrong the critics have been.

A bartender walks into a church, a temple and a mosque. He has no idea how jokes work.

Some technology pundits appear to have no idea how tech works, either.

“Some people get lost in thought because it’s such unfamiliar territory.” ~ G. Behn

Not only have the critics gotten it wrong, but they have gotten it exactly backwards. Their advice constitutes the worst possible course of action for Apple, not the best.

Listening to free advice of a certain kind costs you nothing…unless you act upon it.

The critics don’t remember Apple’s history or tech history or the history of innovation.

Why don’t Apple’s innovation critics make ice-cubes? They can’t remember the recipe.

[pullquote]Stop telling us that you can predict the future when you can’t even recall the past[/pullquote]

Apple’s critics need to stop telling us that they can predict Apple’s future when they’ve already proven that they are not even capable of accomplishing the far simpler task of recalling Apple’s past.

The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. Then things got tense.

The facts can always be ignored, but one does so at one’s peril.

A drunk walks into a bar. “Ouch!” he says.

Nor does ignoring the facts change the facts or make them go away.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” ~ Aldous Huxley

When you’ve got your facts wrong, the second thing you need to do is more research.

I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswomen, “Where’s the self-help section?” she said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

When you’ve got your facts wrong, the first thing you need to do is just shut up.

First law on holes – when you’re in one, stop digging. ~ Denis Healey

Categories

What is this nonsense about there not being any more tech categories to conquer? The best way to evaluate whether Apple could enter a market is to ask whether people are satisfied with their current user experience. Where there is dissatisfaction, there is opportunity.

First

What is this obsession with being first to market?

[pullquote]It is better to be a smart mover than a first mover[/pullquote]

— Did being first help MP3 Man in MP3 Players, Palm, Nokia or Rim in smart phones, Microsoft in tablets, Microsoft or Google in TVs?
— Did not being first hurt Apple in iPods, iPhones or iPads?

No, in an ecosystem that demands co-innovation, it is better to be a smart mover than a first mover. Arguing that Apple has missed the streaming music or the console or the TV or the wearables market is like arguing that Apple has missed the train when the tracks have yet to be laid.

Apple Is Surfing The Innovation Wave (Like Mavericks)

Apple is doing what it has always done – and what it has always done successfully. They are surfing the innovation wave, just waiting for the complementary ecosystem parts to catch up. Apple isn’t late, the co-innovation wave is late. And when that co-innovation wave finally arrives, history tells us that Apple will be ready.

Rainbows & Innovations

images-70Rainbow

Rainbows don’t appear when it isn’t raining or in the darkness of the night or after every rain shower, but that doesn’t mean that there will never be a rainbow ever again. Rainbows only occur when all the conditions are right.

Significant tech innovation doesn’t appear every day, or every month, or every year, and new tech categories are rarer than hen’s teeth, but that doesn’t mean that there will never be innovation ever again.

Innovations only occur when the conditions are right.

Study the industry. Wait for the conditions to be right. And while you’re waiting for the next tech innovation, the next tech category, or even the next rainbow…

…don’t be an a$$.