Part 2: Where Should Apple’s Innovation Be Focused?


This is part 2 of 7 in a series of articles that explores Innovation at Apple.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?


Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?


Critics seem to think that Apple needs to do more, to try more, to risk more, to say ‘yes’ to more, to fail more, to take more ‘moon shots.’…

The history of success is one of great leaps of faith, big risks. … And we haven’t seen any risk from Apple in a long time. ~ Bob Lefsetz, Apple’s Numbers, 2016/04/27

I will offer a suggestion. To thrive in the next era of tech, Apple needs to take a series of bigger, bolder risks. … It should be more nimble and slightly more public with its experiments, and push more of them out sooner. When it releases stuff, it should move faster to fix and improve what is wrong. Above all, it should take more risks; it should say yes more often. … What it doesn’t have quite yet is enough of an appetite for the speed and risks that come with creating and maintaining new services. ~ Farhad Manjoo, Apple, Set to Move to Its Spaceship, Should Try More Moonshots, May 4, 2016

…but that’s not how Apple rolls.


First, no company is good at everything. If you’re good at everything, you’re good for nothing.

The abilities of man must fall short on one side or other, like too scanty a blanket. ~ Sir William Temple

Demanding a company do everything well is asking them to be the best at nothing. ~ Ben Thompson (@benthompson) 9/7/14

A company does best that which it does most.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle

Apple — and every other company — should focus on doing those things that they do best and — just as importantly — those things that others do poorly or not at all.

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete. ~ Jack Welch

Never do things others can do and will do if there are things others cannot do or will not do. ~ Dawson Trottman

What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. … Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself — and thus make yourself indispensable. ~ André Gide


Second, what Apple is famous for — and what Apple is infamous for — is focusing on just a handful of projects.

Focusing is powerful. A start-up’s focus is very clear. Focus is not saying yes. It is saying no to really great ideas. ~ Steve Jobs

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things. ~ Steve Jobs, WWDC 1997

What did I learn from (Steve Jobs)? We could be here all night, probably all week, maybe even a month. I learned focus is key, not just in running a company but in your personal life as well. That you should do only a certain number of things great, and you should cast aside the rest. ~ Tim Cook

We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. ~ Tim Cook, Acting Apple CEO, January 2009 FQ1 2009 Earnings Call

We don’t believe we can do things at the level of quality and link things as we want to between hardware, software and services so seamlessly if we do a lot of stuff. So we’re going to stick with our knitting with only doing a few things and doing them great. ~ Tim Cook

Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff. ~ Steve Jobs [Advice given to Nike CEO Mark Parker]

What are the five products you want to focus on? Get rid of the rest, because they’re dragging you down. ~ Steve Jobs

If you really want to know what focus means to Apple, watch the first 1:45 of this 3-minute Jony Ive video from November 11, 2014. At the 1:00 minute mark, pay particular attention to what Jony Ive says about “saying no.”

Power is not revealed by striking hard or often, but by striking true. ~ Honore de Balzac

STOP! I know and you know and we both know you skipped the video. Go back and watch it RIGHT NOW. Skip ahead to the one-minute mark if you’re so pressed for time. But watch it. You’ll thank me later. Who knows, you may even thank me now.


Third, not only does Apple prefer to focus on just a few things, it prefers to focus on just a few BIG things.

We are inventing the future. Think about surfing on the front edge of a wave. It’s really exhilarating. Now think about dog-paddling at the tail end of that wave. It wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun. Come down here and make a dent in the universe. [said to a job applicant] ~ Steve Jobs

We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise, why else even be here? ~ Steve Jobs

At Apple, we were always asking, What else can we revolutionize? ~ Tony Fadell, now CEO of Nest Labs

I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed. ~ Steve Jobs

Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. It’s very fortunate if you can work on just one of these in your career. Apple’s been very fortunate in that it’s introduced a few of these. ~ Steve Jobs

As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big. ~ Donald Trump

Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir man’s blood. ~ Daniel Burnham


The critics want Apple to take more moon shots. I don’t know why. It certainly hasn’t done Google any good.

Google’s moon shots look more like a disease than a cure. It’s hard not to look at Google’s extravagant expenditures without being reminded of Microsoft’s meandering, and ultimately pointless, research efforts in the late 90s and early 2000s. Microsoft suffered, and Google suffers, from having too much money and too little direction. The ‘moon shots’ that pundits so admire don’t strike me as admirable attempts at exploration. They look more like a desperate attempt by Google to hit a target they cannot see.

The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it. ~ Mal Pancoast

Begin with the End in Mind ~ Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Apple has their own version of moon shots, but they do them the Neil Armstrong way.

You only have to solve two problems when going to the moon: first, how to get there; and second, how to get back. The key is don’t leave until you have solved both problems. ~ Neil Armstrong

The difference between Apple’s moonshots and Google’s, is that Google knows how to launch a product. Apple knows how to stick the landing.

It is not the going out of port, but the coming in, that determines the success of a voyage. ~ Henry Ward Beecher


More advice from Farhad Manjoo:

Apple’s last decade and a half, mostly under Mr. Jobs, has been defined by perfectionist focus. As its executives and marketing videos repeatedly boast, Apple says no to a thousand ideas before it says yes to one. That attitude was perfectly suited to a particular era in tech — the rise of mobile devices, which were the ultimate expression of Apple’s expertise in creating jewel-like hardware.
But the next moment in tech is likely to be dominated by data-driven online services — more products like Siri and Apple Pay, fewer stand-alone hardware innovations like the iPhone.
In that environment, the slow search for precision and perfection might no longer be in Apple’s best interest. ~ Farhad Manjoo, Apple, Set to Move to Its Spaceship, Should Try More Moonshots, May 4, 2016

In other words, times have changed and what worked for Apple in the past won’t work for Apple today or in the future.

I like Farhad Manjoo’s work and I have a lot of respect for his opinion. However, in this instance, I think he’s got the wrong end of the stick. There will always be a place for products and services created by “the slow search for precision and perfection.” Just because that place isn’t every product and every service in every instance, does not mean that “precision and perfection” aren’t appropriate for some products and some services in some instances. Apple will cede the fast and the furious to their competitors and focus their efforts on the slow and the sublime.

There never has been, and there never will be, a time when well thought through, quality products and services weren’t, and aren’t, appreciated by a segment of the buying public.


Let’s step into the wayback machine and explore a cautionary tale from Oct. 21, 1879.

It is well known that Thomas Edison — who may well have been viewed of as the Steve Jobs of his day — was the inventor of the electric lightbulb. It is well known — but it is also completely untrue. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb. Electric lights — as an alternative to gaslight — were being used on a street-wide scale long before Edison entered the field.

[pullquote]I have not failed. I’ve just found 6,000 ways that won’t work. ~ Thomas Alva Edison[/pullquote]

Edison’s great insight into — and his great contribution to — the lightbulb was realizing that the tricky part would be choosing a filament that would be durable but inexpensive. Rather than enter the market half-cocked, Edison retreated to his laboratory where he and his team in Menlo Park, New Jersey, meticulously tested more than 6,000 possible materials before finding one to fit the bill: carbonized bamboo.

[As an aside, I feel confident that had today’s tech analysts been reporting on Edison and his team during the time when the they was conducting their experiments, the pundits would have confidently interpreted Edison’s seeming lack of activity as proof positive that “Innovation at Menlo Park is dead.”]

Edison didn’t invent the first lightbulb. Edison invented the first lightbulb that was practical, and affordable for home illumination. Edison wasn’t first, he was first to get it right. So it is Edison who got all the credit, got all the glory, got most all the profits, and it is Edison who is remembered as having invented the lightbulb on Oct. 21, 1879.

Apple didn’t invent the first computer, the first MP3 player, the first mobile phone, the first tablet. They weren’t first. They were first to get it right. And they did it, not by exploring 6,000 products, but by exploring 6,000 ways to perfect one product.

If you think there isn’t a place in today’s time — as there was in Edison’s time — for goods and services that are lovingly designed and meticulously crafted, then you are a very dim bulb indeed.

We believe that customers are smart, and want objects, which are well thought through. ~ Steve Jobs


Tomorrow, part 3 of 7.

1. Who is Apple innovating for?
2. Where should Apple’s innovation be focused?
3. How does Apple innovate?
4. When should Apple introduce its innovations?
5. What does innovation inside of Apple look like to someone outside of Apple?
6. Why does Apple do what it does?
7. Why not be Apple?

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?

34 thoughts on “Part 2: Where Should Apple’s Innovation Be Focused?”

  1. I agree the way Apple “innovates” is very different from Google and MS. But I disagree that Google is showing MS-like “innovation”.
    MS innovation was in the end almost always cut off at the knees by the diktat that anything and everything should be Windows-based. Apart from the obvious (Windows phones and tablets being ergonomics nightmares) this also had the 2nd-degree effect of pushing moonshots to even wilder fringes where they’d be out of reach of anything Windows (Kinect).
    Google has no such unification diktat, their issue is more about being technology-, not customer- focused, and even though they give innovations lots of time internally, they seem to have little patience after release. Reader, Wave, Message, Glass… all could probably have been iterated into something profitable, or at least lock-in.

    As for your insulting anyone who values actual innovation instead of the “easy+sexy” paint Apple lately applies to others’ innovations, I’m not surprised. My point of view is that Android disappearing overnight would hurt a lot more than iOS disappearing overnight, and that’s what differentiates what is important/meaningful from what isn’t.

    1. “Android disappearing overnight would hurt a lot more than iOS disappearing overnight (both in terms of users affected and in terms on new techs and products), and that’s what differentiates what is important/meaningful from what isn’t.”

      Couldn’t disagree more. Android is generic and would quickly be replaced by another generic iPhone clone, many of which exist (Tizen, Sailfish, Ubuntu Touch, Yandex, Cyanogen, PrivatOS, FireOS, FirefoxOS, Baidu Yi, Alyiun OS, Asha, Rex, Windows Phone, WebOS, BlackberryOS, etc.) The cheap manufacturers would like nothing better than to move upscale with their own knock-offs. iOS, on the other hand, has captured almost the entire high end of the market by being well designed and maintained, with regular and universal updates, security, curation, consistency, and integration with its hardware. It is trusted and trustworthy. Most of the people who care about their phones would be hurt and dismayed if it disappeared. Very few care about Android per se.

      1. “Most of the people who care about their phones would be hurt and dismayed if [iOS] disappeared. Very few care about Android per se.”
        But that’s it exactly: very few outside of iOS users have ego invested in their phone. That 85% see it as a tool to do a job. the 15% iOS users would find something else to care about. I suggest handbags.

        “iOS, on the other hand, has captured almost the entire high end of the market ”
        Not quite, Android flagships are doing OK, and the iPhone is barely high end. iOS has captured the luxury segment of the market. Not the same thing.

        by being
        – well designed: indeed. For your hand (or… no longer ?), and don’t hold it wrong. Also, you’ve got to love bezels. And glass phones.
        – and maintained, with regular and universal updates: indeed. When they don’t brick your phone, nor kill its reactivity. Nexus does better on that front
        – security: iOS has a worse track record than non-rooted, playstore-only Android
        – curation: indeed, but Apple’s “curation” is mostly aboutabout censorship & removing political and porn and competing apps. More people think they should be able to run any app they want on their phone.
        – consistency: ?? consistently what ?
        – and integration with its hardware: ?? as in ?
        – It is trusted and trustworthy: wrongly though, see the long list of hacks and malware the very appstore distributed to millions of people.

        The very fact that despite all the available alternatives, Android is utterly thriving, proves it’s irreplaceable. I cornucopia of OEM-specific OSes makes for a long list, but is exactly what customers don’t want and devs can’t live with. As for the other FOSS OSes (Cyanogen is Android, by the way), they like any provision for sustainably providing the cloud services that make most of the value of a Mobile OS. Sure, they can run apps, some (a few) of them can even run them well. But even assuming they’d get critical mass, they don’t include anywhere near the equivalent of Android’s cloud services.

        1. “security: iOS has a worse track record than non-rooted, playstore-only Android.”

          To those of you who’d like to review Android security, try Googling “StageFright”.

  2. Great critique of the focus vs. moonshot approach!

    From a theoretical point of view, I think Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” and his D-Day analogy describes best *why* focus is important, and why a diluted moonshot approach is ineffective when you are venturing into a new category/market (you can capture the enthusiast and early adopters, but will get stuck there).

    It explains why Apple tends to own the first mass market success, despite often being late to the market. Earlier attempts (and moonshots) tend to be like small artillery fired against tanks (you only succeed if you find a small hole in the armour, much like Luke Skywalker did). Apple brings in the big guns, so big that even Apple can only fire a few.

    1. Naofumi: For some products the slow approach fits, because the advantages of the first-mover are possible to pass.

      But what about social networks ? What about online video ? What about ARM’s victory over Intel in mobile ? etc etc ? Sometimes even the big guys lose.

      The question is: can the stuff Google creates for it’s moonshots be protected from competitors ? Of course we don’t know for sure, but we do know:

      Google is very good at business strategy and competing in technology based business, and has a some big hard to access/copy resources that they can deploy for those tasks.

      Network effects offer strong benefits for most modern technology businesses(and most modern tech business let 1-2 winners take all), and are quite strong.

      Most Google’s moonshots couldn’t be easily blocked by Apple/Amazon/Microsoft , as Google Maps has been. And i’m not even sure UBER could block something as powerful as a self-driving car, but maybe.

      Most of Google’s mooonshots are really technical ambitious – which is another moat.

      So i’m not so sure Apple could compete there.

      But yes, Apple’s approach might work when we’re talking about competing against spotify, but those are easy. And even Apple understands that in services, sometimes you need to offer an incomplete service(siri), or else you won’t be able to compete.

      1. Although I’m no expert in autonomous vehicles, there seem to be no shortage of companies rolling their own, independently of Google. Some collaborate with Google, but a significant number seem to not. It does not seem that there is an insurmountable technical hurdle. As far as moats go, it doesn’t seem to be much of a deterrent.

        The same can said for their AI. When a newcomer like Amazon gains wide praise for its Echo, I would see that as a sign of a low barrier to entry.

        As for small guys beating the big ones, that’s a separate theory from “crossing the chasm”. It’s a process that Christensen called “disruption”.

        As for network effects, note that Google Search, Facebook, etc. were all latecomers. Whether or not network effects are insurmountable depends a lot on the circumstances.

        1. I see many of you tend to trivialize technical achievements when it doesn’t come from Apple either because you do not understand their usefulness, or lacking imagination or technical knowledge on the field to anticipate future application.

          How many company besides Google have self-driving car running more than 1.5 million miles on real road with other People and Cars?

          If it was so easy you really think Google will be the only company willing to take the risk?

          Siri, Alexa, Google now, Cortana, Facebook Bot are not AI they are preprogram voice assistant.

          AI, is a system that can learn by themselves or having capability to imitate intelligent human behavior (ie) Deep-mind

          Just because Apple is Good at Branding and selling hardware does not necessarily mean they’ll be automatically good at providing great services or building AI unless you think it is something as trivial as replicate an App.

          1. “If it was so easy you really think Google will be the only company willing to take the risk?”

            Lots of companies are working on self-driving cars, including most of the auto industry players, and some are already very advanced. You’re delusional if you think Google has any kind of serious lead in this area.

          2. Why aren’t their self driving cars on the road along side the Google’s one

            Use your brain

          3. Actually, one great example of how technology is no longer a powerful “moat” is the iPhone. Google took only 4-5 years to mostly catch up (with 4.0). Patents also proved to be worth very little as a deterrent.

            The high-end position that iPhone enjoys would not be possible with technology prowess alone. It takes much, much more.

          4. When it comes to AI and cloud based services the technology aren’t the most important factor the data is

          5. OK. I don’t necessarily agree, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that what you say is true; that dat is the most important.

            One important point to note is that technical advances in silicon, mobile, sensors and business models actually make data collection magnitudes of times easier.

            Hence for example, for autonomous vehicles, it’s much easier and cheaper now to map roads with better, cheaper and smaller cameras. Apple should have no issue spending the necessary money to map Silicon Valley roads in great detail. More significantly, Uber etc. could easily collect mapping data while going about their normal business, making map data collection much cheaper.

            Technical and business model advances make the whole spectrum of tech, including hardware, software and data, more easily accessible to more companies. Data is no exception. I expect data availability to increase even faster than Moore’s law for the next decade.

            Also consider the open source software for big data and AI. Even Google open sourced at least some of its AI stuff. Google also borrowed Linux and the Java API for Android, without which Android would have taken much longer to catch up to iPhone.

            In the grand scheme of things, tech, China and new business models are rapidly decreasing the barriers to entry for every single facet of tech. The hurdles that do remain tend to be less tech and more logistics (Amazon), marketing (Apple), mass production (cars), etc. Tech evolves too fast these days to be a “moat”.

        2. With regards to self driving cars, there’s a problem with AI: getting the last 10% to work is exponentially harder, and unlike Amazon Echo, you cannot forego that last 10% with driving . So sure , there are some doing highway self driving with needing the driver being alert, but from that to full 100% automated driving, including city driving there’s a huge distance. And industry insiders think Google has a 5 year lead.

          So by doing this research Google buy itself a lucrative option of the future self-driving industry, with decent likelihood of winning. But even if they don’t succeed, they’ll probably make a ton of money of patents, like microsoft did with all the suspenseful work they put into mobile.

          And in general, if you look at Google as an AI research company – sure they are early some times, sure they have their issues, but since AI would be such an important technology , it’s reasonable to assume they will win some businesses, lose some businesses and all in all, make good money.

          Also i don’t buy the story of Apple in the past being “slow”, i think it’s more complicated. For example, i wouldn’t be surprised that to learn that Jobs had the vision of touch based interfaces far before the technology was available, he just waited, as we know, for the technology to be good enough(invention of capacitive multi-finger touch instead of resistive touch).

          But let’s say Google had that kind of vision – what would they do(with today’s resources) ? they might try to invent good touch tech. Is it the wrong strategy ? Think of it like that: if Apple had invented and closely patented key capacitive touch tech, There’s a possibility of the iPhone without no competition at all, for a very long time.

          1. The “moat” discussion is very different from earning some money off patent licensing. These should be kept separate.

            You quote a 5 year lead. Even if that were true, think how much that actually means in the market. The iPhone was 4-5 years ahead when they launched the iPhone, as evidenced by how clunky Android was at versions 1 & 2. Today, Android is much closer or maybe surpassing iPhone in certain respects. Market share wise, Android dominates. This clearly demonstrates that a 5 year lead in technology alone isn’t much of a moat.

            Patent-wise, Apple’s patents were totally ineffective at stopping Android. Part of it is no doubt the generally weak protection that software and design patents have. However, I would add that as long as you have deep enough pockets, you can easily sustain a long enough legal battle to render any patent obsolete by the time the final verdict comes down. So not much of a moat here either, unless you’re targeting smaller fish.

            If you just want to make money from patents however, then it’s much easier for both sides to reach a reasonable compromise over the license fees. There’s much less at stake in this case.

            My conclusion is, technology gives you an advantage, but is not an effective moat in and of itself. I doubt that any of Google’s moonshot are good moats either.

          2. I didn’t know that about patents, that even if you have a strong patent suit, it’s still pretty weak. But still aren’t there some fields besides Pharma like medical devices(and MRI’s), where de-facto being first and having the patent usually means you’ll get a big advantage and some form of strong protection ?

            >> The iPhone was 4-5 years ahead when they launched the iPhone, .. Today..Market share wise, Android dominates.

            Don’t you think that if Android and Apple would have started from the same starting point , there’s a decent chance the iPhone wouldn’t have been such a great business with Android maybe grabbing much more of the profit share ?

          3. Steve Jobs instructed the iPhone team to patent like crazy, and he launched a thermonuclear patent war. Apple still couldn’t stop Android in any significant way. Without going into specifics, this clearly illustrates the limits of patents in tech.

            Regarding Xiaomi, that is just one company with a particularly troublesome approach to IP. Having the ability to stop Xiaomi does not equal the ability to shut out more moderate but more powerful competitors, whose CEOs do not choose to wear black turtlenecks on stage. Xiaomi is a rogue outlier, and should be treated as such in an analysis.

            On the last point regarding the hypothetical case where Apple would have had less technical lead at launch, there is historical precedent that you can learn from. The Apple Watch, the ultra book category (the MacBook Air), the iPod. All these are cases where Apple did not have the first product, or did not have a huge technical advantage at launch. They still did pretty well profit wise in their respective niches, in some cases even better than the iPhone.

          4. I don’t think looking by Apple’s patent strength and judging every tech industry is the correct way. why ?

            Apple works in a unique field, software and consumer products, which like you mention has weaker patents.

            But let’s look at the xiaomi example with LTE. LTE is a standard, which means you have to implement it in a very precise way, which turns out to be how the patent is written. So patents are strong(and most companies pay high royalties). Another example of such tight fit between patent and tech is pharma – you patent exact chemicals, and yes other companies learn something from a newly invented drug, but still the barriers are high.

            Other industries – i know toyota invested a lot of money in hybrid technology and in the end licensed it’s patents, while still building a huge hybrid brand and making tons of money. I wonder if because of dynamics of that industry companies aren’t eager to “illegally” copy other’s patents even if they can afford to because some industry dynamic.

            I’m not saying patents are the “end all” weapon, it’s far more complicated, and there are other defences. But there are technological industries with long investment cycles(pharma,medical devices, energy, automotive, maybe robotics) and companies(and some types of venture capital) invest there and seem to make money, so maybe Google can too ?

            True, often it’s by being bought, but maybe Google’s approach to partnering can be seen as equal to acquisitions, but still provide Google with decent profits ?

          5. I thought the original discussion that you started was about “moats” and not about making money off licensing fees. As I said, using patents as “moats” and using patents to earn money are two very different things.

            Regarding LTE, most likely these are standard essential patents, where the owners have agreed to license for a fair price as part of the admission to the standard in the first place. These cannot be used as “moats”. A lot of this was discussed during the “thermonuclear” patent war.

  3. Focus involves a way of seeing. But how does Apple see a product? In depth? With detail? In motion? In color? Sure. But that’s beside the point that John is making. Apple sees with compassion and that’s the point. Its passion is compassion. Apple wants to provide products that both instruct and delight. Toys that are tools. Compassion and intentionality makes Apple special.

    John Berger says in his book titled Ways of Seeing: “Compassion has no place in the natural order of the world which operates on the basis of necessity. Compassion opposes this order and is therefore best thought of as being in some way supernatural.”

    How’s that for a dent in the universe?

    1. Yes, Steve Jobs spoke of the humanity Apple infused in their products. Critics laugh at this, but Apple’s customers don’t and Apple’s profits are no joke.

      1. Yep, like Edison and Ford, Jobs aligned his life’s work with the great instrumental human values: freedom, equality, justice, nonviolence. Edison lighted homes, Ford lightened loads, Jobs enlightened minds.

  4. Apple’s innovations to existing products are often in the same spirit as those in its groundbreaking new products.

    Its groundbreaking products are only very rarely things that look like they were stolen from the future or from an alternative universe (the mac in 1984, the iphone in 2007). More often, they are things that others have already brought to market, but apple does it in a way that transcends the competition in polish, aesthetics, ease of use, and integration into a complete package (eg, ipod + Itunes).

    In the realm of existing product lines, you have occasional improvements that essentially nobody else was doing at the time (like the high dpi display on the iphone 4) that seem to come from nowhere, but which we all now take for granted.

    Much more often you have things like the introduction of retina displays on Macs, where OS X seamlessly gave you the sharpness delivered by the display without forcing you to squint at tiny UI or deal with apps that didn’t know how to scale up their UI. (as contrasted to the windows ecosystem, where to this day it’s hit or miss whether a given app will look right when windows is scaling things up for use on a high dpi display)

    (still hacking up my lungs quite painfully, but I am no longer in that brainless, please let me die state. Sadly my partner caught it from me and is now entering the “just kill me now” phase. Colds suck.)

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