There was a time when the only certainty in the technology industry was that Apple would start a trend and it would likely become an industry standard. Just consider the use of the USB port on the original iMac, the concept of an all-in-one desktop computer, the iPhone, the iPad, and the Apple Watch. All these technologies have become standard bearers and inspired or forced competition into following where Apple led.
Apple rarely designs the first of anything, as the company excels in leveraging existing technology into a product or service that people will desperately want. A lot of the company’s innovation took place during its underdog years when it had everything to lose. This is what made Apple so successful, it operated like a startup even if it had the resources of a Fortune 500 company.
Clever design and a mastery of materials have also built Apple’s reputation as well as enabled it to charge a higher price for its goods.
Apple today is seen as a fat cat. The most valuable company in the world and is also valued at a trillion dollars. It’s easy to dismiss Apple as having gotten too big, some might say the company has lost its hunger. That its products are iterative and that it is no longer innovating.
Take, for example, the Mac line of computers. These have long been considered the Rolls-Royce of computer hardware. Macs are said to offer the perfect blend of performance, style, and innovation. The recent developments in Mac hardware have been quite uninspired.
“Apple today is seen as a fat cat. The most valuable company in the world and is also valued at a trillion dollars. It’s easy to dismiss Apple as having gotten too big, some might say the company has lost its hunger. That its products are iterative and that it is no longer innovating.”
Macs still cost a lot, but they sorely seem to lack innovation. The iMac has remained in the same form factor for over a decade. The MacBook Air is still being sold with 2015 specs, the MacBook Pro’s keyboard is problematic, and there are still no new Mac Pros.
The iPhone, it could be argued, is where all the innovation is. While the iPhone XS and XR seem to be standout devices in terms of hardware, they’re clearly iterative takes on the iPhone X. Aside from improvements in the camera department as well as Memoji avatars, there’s very little an iPhone does that an Android flagship cannot do.
Apple is trying to find its next big product. The Apple Watch seems to have captured the hearts of users, but it is still considered an accessory, certainly not a product that people can live without. AirPods, HomePod, and Apple TV are all stupendous products, but they’re limited to the Apple ecosystem and not accessible by anyone who doesn’t have an iPhone.
At this point in its history, Apple can cruise on its laurels and slowly iterate its current products and still reap tremendous profit. The company that once spearheaded design and innovation has lost a lot of the urgency and momentum we saw 10 or even five years ago.
Apple can still surprise us and bring next level innovation in several areas. The reality is that the company can focus on one or two products and manage to make them successful. It seems that the version of Apple we have today is happy to play it safe and bang out revision after revision of products that people are already familiar with.
I believe Apple still has its innovation mojo, the company must just focus on where it wants to innovate. The big difference from a decade ago, is that competitors have caught up and can match a lot of the hardware and even software innovation present in Apple products.