Apple Claim Chowder: Evolutionary Or Revolutionary

With an Apple Event fast approaching, I’m reviewing critiques of past Apple Events to see how accurate they were. Turns out, not very. Critique is needed and welcome. Repeated errors? Not so much.

Evolutionary Or Revolutionary

The iPhone and the iPad have received a lot of criticism for being evolutionary, not revolutionary. I take strong exception to this sentiment. Apple’s iPhone and iPad — which are only seven and four years old, respectively — have been about as revolutionary as tech can get.

Before And After

From 1906, to 1956, to 2006, we went from the horse to the car to the airplane. However, as the photos below demonstrate, the way we read, entertained ourselves and communicated, while waiting to ride in the horse, the car and the plane, remained largely unchanged…until the iPhone arrived in 2007.






Further, look at the two photos, below, showing the multiple tasks that we can now accomplish with the aid of a single device.




Finally, perhaps the critics think that this is no revolution at all; that this is all simply the inevitable result of the march of progress.





Things do not happen. Things are made to happen. ~ John F. Kennedy

Critics think Apple’s products are evolutionary? I beg to differ. And reality begs to differ too. They’re as revolutionary as it gets.

An Attitude Of Ingratitude

If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. ~ Tecumseh

There are (at least) two reasons why we don’t appreciate the significance of the iPhone/iPad revolution.

First, change seems to come very slowly when we’re looking forward but very rapidly when we’re looking backward. The iPhone was a leap. The iPad was a leap. Some acknowledge that they were revolutionary but claim that everything since has been evolutionary. I disagree.

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. ~ Bill Gates

Sometimes, evolutionary can be revolutionary too. During the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, personal computing improved at breakneck speed. The changes were gradual and iterative but they came so rapidly, one after the other, that the effect was to change everything in a very short period of time. The same thing is happening in mobile, today.

Big things start small. ~ Hiten Shah (@hnshah)

Big things do indeed start small. But they don’t stay small for long.

The second reason we don’t appreciate what we have is because we’re an ungrateful lot.

Human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted. ~ Aldous Huxley

    It’s been years — considered a long time in tech — since Apple delivered a “mind-blowing” product that made a cultural dent, some say, harking back to the iPad in 2010 and iPhone in 2007. ~ Jon Swartz, USA Today, 4 October 2012

Seriously? “It’s been years….” You mean it’s been, like TWO years before that article was written and FOUR years before today, since Apple changed everything. All over again? Geez, what a bunch of slackers they are.

The discontented child cries for toasted snow. – Arabian proverb

All this ingratitude reminds me of a joke:

    A woman was driving down the street in a sweat because she had an important meeting and couldn’t find a parking place. Looking up toward heaven, she said, “Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place, I will go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life and give up sex and tequila.” Miraculously, a parking place appeared. She looked up again and said, “Never mind. I found one.”

3d clown - puppet, juggling with color balls

Claim Chowder

Here are some past quotes regarding “evolutionary” vs. “revolutionary”. They haven’t stood the test of time very well.

An ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree eating acorns, but never looking up to see where they come from. ~ Timothy Dexter

    (T)he iPhone itself may not be so great after all. ~ Randall Stross, professor of business at San Jose State University, 12 December 2009

    The iPad is not the revolutionary product so many hoped it would be. ~ Don Reisinger,, 28 January 2010

    Yet for some of us who sat in the audience watching Steve Jobs introduce the [iPad], the whole thing felt like a letdown. ~ Daniel Lyons, BusinessWeek, 28 January 2010

    Ultimately, the iPad is a large iPod touch: a great device to draw your inspiration from, but perhaps not the seismic shift in technology that we were expecting. ~ Claudine Beaumont, The Telegraph, 28 January 2010

    The company once notorious for its ability to upend convention and revolutionize markets may no longer have what it takes, worry some technology journalists. Call it the iPad or the iPlod, but the message seems clear: Apple may have lost its mojo. ~ Jeremy A. Kaplan,, 28 January 2010

    Behold: The Apple iFlop. Neither “truly magical” nor “revolutionary,” the cluelessly named Apple iPad tablet device has dropped like a shiny wedge into the gadget game, dividing tech watchers in to opposing views — the critical and the adoring. ~ Scott Moritz,, 28 January 2010

    Apple’s new iPad device is destined to disappoint (and not just because of the unfortunate name). ~ Russ Wilcox, CEO E-Ink (makers of Amazon’s Kindle), 28 January 2010

    It’s not going to revolutionize anything, it’s not going to replace netbooks… ~ Bruce Beris, bruceb consulting, 4 February 2010

    Tablets look cool, but the reality is they don’t do anything new. ~ Michael Comeau, Minyanville, 5 March 2010


    The iPad is a not so ‘magical’ e-reader. Expect to hear a lot of: ‘I spent a cold night in line for this?’ ~ Scott Moritz ,, 9 March 2010

    (T)he Apple iPad is not unique, nor necessarily the best of breed in the media tablet sector it is spearheading. ~ Anders Bylund (TMF Zahrim), 11 March 2010

    And while Apple would be expected to ignite the tablet computing sector as it has done with MP3 players and the smart phone, there is something it can no longer do: sneak up and surprise the competition. There is no surprise with this device; it is just a huge iPod touch. ~ John C. Dvorak, MarketWatch, 26 March 2010

    In short, I don’t get the ‘magical and revolutionary’ vibe that Apple chief executive Steve Jobs touted at the iPad’s January unveiling. ~ Rob Pegoraro, Washington Post, 9 April 2010

    The iPad is useless. Beautiful, but useless. ~ Josh Belzman,, 20 May 2010

    Right off the bat, I’m glad to see that my initial reactions to [the iPad] were accurate. Anyone who believes this thing is a game changer is a tool. ~ Paul Thurrott, Paul Thurrott’s Supersite for Windows, 6 October 2010

    I cannot see a need for the thing [iPad]. ~ John Dvorak, MarketWatch, 22 October 2010

    I can’t imagine anyone under the age of 30 wanting an iPad. … Furthermore, I do not recall ever seeing anyone under 30 actually using an iPad. ~ John C. Dvorak, PC Mag, 13 December 2010

    But I don’t see any overwhelmingly compelling capabilities that would make people sitting on the tablet fence go out and have to buy one, despite some attractive apps. I don’t see this as heads above the competition (especially the Xoom) right now. Apple didn’t really move the bar all that much. ~ J. Gold, J. Gold Associates, 2 March 2011

    The iPhone is heralded as the most revolutionary mobile phone in human history, but the cold and harsh truth is that for all the cheering and punditry, the iPhone’s impact on the world is negligible. ~ Thom Holwerda, OS News, 29 Dec 2011



    Apple’s new iPhone 5 is a well-crafted device that’s likely to please the company’s fans and sell in the tens of millions. But if you’re looking for something truly innovative in a smartphone, look elsewhere. ~ Troy Wolverton, Mercury News, 12 Sep 2012

    Key take aways: Innovation at Apple is over… Just incremental improvements, nothing ground breaking. The best is over for Apple. ~ Trip Chowdhry, Global Equities, 23 October 2012

    And I’m really struck by this mini iPad thing. As if that’s any kind of a product innovation. You know, once you start just changing the size of your products, I really think you’re not exactly innovating. I wonder if they’re going to start coming out with the tutti-frutti iPad, where it comes out in different colors. As if that would be some sort of innovation… ~ Jeff Gundlach, CEO, Doubleline Capital, 7 Nov 2012

    However, for the company to truly move forward as a tech power, Apple should hang-up on the iPhone after one more iteration – presumably the iPhone 6. You might disagree. Granted, the phone is still selling well. However, aside from a different chip and larger screen, the change from the 4S to iPhone 5 was not that significant. ~ Richard Saintvilus, Forbes, 6 January 2013

    Google glasses may look and seem absurd now but (Brian) Sozzi says they are “a product that is going to set the stage for many other interesting products.” For the moment, at least, the same cannot be said of iPhones or iPads. ~ Jeff Macke, Yahoo! Breakout, 27 February 2013

    Enterprise tablets now exist that provide the best of both worlds between end user and IT, which puts the Apple in a precarious position of needing to add more robust enterprise features. Until that point, Moor Insights & Strategy recommends enterprises re-evaluate their iPad pilots and deployments. Enterprises should immediately evaluate the latest enterprise tablet offerings from HP, Dell and Lenovo and make their decisions on future deployments incorporating those additional options. ~ Patrick Moorhead, Moor Insights & Strategy, 15 March 2013

    Nothing new is coming from [Apple’s] pipeline. The iPhone5S and the iPad Mini aren’t new products. ~ Stephan Dube, Seeking Alpha, 28 May 2013

    Let’s face it this new iPhone is just an upgrade, a refresh, dare I say a sequel. I am sure that true tech devotees will tell me how wrong I am, that this new device is smarter, faster, revolutionary, etc. But to me and millions like me it seems a lot more evolutionary. It looks a whole lot like the last iPhone and the one before that and the one before that too. ~ Sandy Cannold, ABC News, 23 Sept 2013

    (T)hese days, Samsung sells the most smartphones, and up-and-coming manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE are nipping at Apple’s heels. The new iPhones — at least the ones being spun from the rumor mill that claim color as the big innovation — do not exactly sound like great leaps in technology. ~ Nick Bilton, New York Times, 8 September 2013

    Remember when the iPhone was truly innovative? Think hard, because you’d have to go back to 2007, and the release of the first iPhone. But since then, Apple has been tossing out retread after retread… ~ Paul Thurrott, Supersite for Windows, 13 September 2013

    The 5c may be this year’s Surface RT. ~ Rick Munarriz, The Motley Fool, 13 Sept 2013

    Apple’s innovation problem is real. … Rivals have caught up to Apple in the markets it once dominated, and the tech giant’s rumored future products appear to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. ~ Julianne Pepitone and Adrian Covert, CNNMoneyTech, 8 September 2013

    The most that Apple could think to do with the new, faster processor in the iPhone 5S was animate 3D effects that make some users feel ill and a fingerprint sensor that solved a problem that wasn’t exactly pressing. Apple’s new iOS7 mobile operating system, which felt ‘more like a Microsoft release,’ crippled many older iPhones and led to complaints of planned obsolescence. ~ Christopher Mims, Quartz, 30 December 2013

    By copying the work of others, Apple seems to admit it has fallen behind competitors. ~ Transcend Asset, 5 June 2014

Lessons Learned And Unlearned

I can think of (at least) three lessons here.

First, little people belittle greatness.

To belittle, you have to be little. ~ Khalil Gibran

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do. ~ Benjamin Franklin

Ridicule is the tribute paid to…genius by the mediocrities. ~ Oscar Wilde

Little men with little minds and little imaginations go through life in little ruts, smugly resisting all changes which would jar their little worlds. ~ Zig Ziglar

Second, we often do not see what is right before our eyes.

You see, but you do not observe. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Third, acceptance comes in stages.

All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed; Second, it is violently opposed; Third, it is accepted as self-evident. ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Apple Claim Chowder Series:

Evolutionary Or Revolutionary
Business Models

Published by

John Kirk

John R. Kirk is a recovering attorney. He has also worked as a financial advisor and a business coach. His love affair with computing started with his purchase of the original Mac in 1985. His primary interest is the field of personal computing (which includes phones, tablets, notebooks and desktops) and his primary focus is on long-term business strategies: What makes a company unique; How do those unique qualities aid or inhibit the success of the company; and why don’t (or can’t) other companies adopt the successful attributes of their competitors?

14 thoughts on “Apple Claim Chowder: Evolutionary Or Revolutionary”

  1. Let me pull out a metaphor I’ve used to describe the pundits demanding that Apple deliver a new, revolutionary product category every three years (or forever be condemned as “no longer able to innovate”):

    Five-year-olds at a birthday party all sugared up, jumping up and down, and yelling at the balloon guy to “make me another poodle!”.

  2. The thing I keep seeing on hardware geek forums and Anandtech comment threads about Apple is that the [Iphone/Ipad/Macbook air/Retina Macbook] cannot possibly be considered a ground-breaking product because X company sold product Y way back in the dawn of time that (allegedly) had all of the features of Apple’s latest thing.

    Somehow the significance of the fact that nobody remembers that product, that it sold at most a few million units and then disappeared, that it did not become the new standard for what laptops/phones/tablets are, that nobody slavishly copied it, whereas the exact opposite is true of Apple’s products, escapes them.

    Another thing that seems hard for people to grasp is that each of Apple’s revolutionary products have been so in a different way.

    It’s easy to focus on the shift in phones from physical keyboards to touchscreens, because that’s highly visible. It’s harder to describe the way that Apple brought *competently written software* with *an intuitive UI* to a marketplace (phones) where both of those things were simply unheard of. Apple created a complete package of hardware and software that was completely unlike anything else on the market. The result was turning smartphones from something that sold only to
    nerds and people whose jobs made it necessary for them to be reachable
    by email at all times, into something that sold to essentially

    On the other hand, the revolution in tablets was more subtle — because tablet computers had existed for over a decade, but nobody outside of some very tiny markets bought them, and the iphone already existed. Simply by moving their phone software onto a 10″ device, Apple created the first tablet that was actually useful to a broad range of people, and created a new computing platform that allowed software to be used to do jobs beyond the office and desk. On the surface it looks like they just blew up the iphone, but that misses the point that moving intuitive touch based UI onto a larger, highly portable screen created something new and powerful.

    I would argue that Apple has also revolutionized the laptop. But few talk about it because they did it through evolutionary steps, patiently chipping away at size/weight/low battery life pain points for years until they finally had something that was light enough and lasted long enough on a charge to completely blow away the competition in the tiny ultraportables market. Then they slashed the price of the Macbook Air to below what they had been charging for their mainstream laptop. Result: intel creates the ultrabook standard, and suddenly all the other laptop manufacturers were looking to shave pounds of weight and thickness off their machines.

    In each case, Apple turned a tiny niche product category that almost nobody cared about into something that vast numbers of people wanted to own.

    1. Right. A revolution isn’t always about what something is, it is about what it does. And what Apple has done with both the iPhone and iPad has changed the landscape and what _the rest of the competition_ does. It isn’t that there aren’t predecessors. It is that the predecessors did not change things.

      It isn’t simply because something became the most popular. Apple’s iPhone has arguably never been the most popular, but they did change how people view and use smartphones. So much so the rest of the competition had to release products like the iPhone.


      1. “And what Apple has done with both the iPhone and iPad has changed the landscape and what _the rest of the competition_ does”

        And laptops too — the ultrabook exists because of the Macbook Air. extreme high DPI screens would not be becoming common on modern PCs without the Retina Macbooks. Arguably, even intel’s NUC exists in part because of the Mac Mini.

        In a way, apple has become the tastemaker for the entire industry. Which is sad in a way that PC makers have become so benighted that they need Apple to prod them into evolving their products.

  3. John, I suggest a special Leo Laporte Apple Knockers award, for serving up junk well beyond the call of doody. And he runs MacBreak Weekly.

    in the most recent episode, it was all that Andy Ihnatko, Rene Richie, and Jason Snell could do to keep Laporte from dragging Apple through every conceivable rap on the iCloud issue. Which is yet unconfirmed to be an iCloud issue. A. R. and J., you are losing my respect, showing up on MacBreak.

    And then we are treated to endless, endless, endless reminders that he, Laporte, has not been invited to an Apple event in about ten years. He wondering why. Why? Really? Is he stupid or just sad?

    Maybe a Laporte/Dvorack award, the Pair of Nuts trophy for complete journalistic malfunction.

    1. “I suggest a special Leo Laporte Apple Knockers award” ~ stefnagel

      Leo used to be a huge Apple supporter when bashing Apple was the norm.

      Here’s my thinking on Leo. Like you, I’ve been very disappointed in his take for the past several years. But after a while, I relented. Leo is a generalist. He knows a ton of stuff about a ton of stuff. Personally, I like deep analysis. Leo’s guests provide that, not Leo.

      If it weren’t for Leo, we wouldn’t have the variety of podcasts that he produces. In that way, we are very, very lucky to have him.

      I now think of Leo as more of a foil. He rants, others respond to his rants. It’s all good.

  4. I always thought Patrick Moorhead was an inappropriate inclusion in the TechPinions roster of authors. Thank you for reminding me why.

    1. I’m not picking on Patrick. I’ve quoted many people who I greatly respect. We all make mistakes. The best quickly correct their errors. The worst never change their opinion.

  5. Seriously, thanks for reminding about best buddy Paul Thurrott! iPhone 5s was incremental upgrade? Check out iBeacons usage – it did not exist in 2012 and how is the evolution bad? People are crazy!

  6. That comment by Paul Thurrott, where he calls the iPhone 5S and 5C “turds”, reminds me of how big a moron he is. Haha

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