There was a time that Apple was so different from everyone else that it was almost crazy. When the iMac was released without a floppy drive users nearly revolted, but as Steve Jobs predicted, the end of the floppy was nigh and it’s difficult if not impossible to find a desktop computer today that accepts floppy disks. Innovation at Apple obviously goes beyond removing floppy drives, though.
When Apple released the iPod people were amazed and a new category was born. Even though MP3 players already were on the market, the iPod made itself the king of the category and introduced it to a much wider audience. Like the iPod, the iPad and the iPhone while not completely new device categories, but they were so far from the current models of smart phones and tablets that they might as well have been the first.
Apple has made its living from new and unique products but lately this idea of Apple leading the way has somewhat fizzled. Does Apple have something up its sleeve or have they become complacent and too reliant on their existing product lines?
From the beginning, Apple has made some pretty groundbreaking devices, from the original Apple I in 1976 and it’s revolutionary TV-based display, to the Apple III and its fan-less design up to wild iMac and iBooks; Apple has always been a little left of center and it’s served them very well.
Apple has made themselves known in the past for not only quality and great design, but for cutting-edge products and product categories. With products like the iPhone and iPad Apple defined categories that while already present, were filled with very niche-type products.
Steve Jobs was quoted as saying “Stay hungry, stay foolish” and while Apple is definitely hungry for new customers and more market share, the foolish seems to have left for the time being.
Resting On Their Laurels
It’s hard to blame Apple for not wanting to upset the cart, so to speak, because as the old saying goes, why fix something that isn’t broken? It would be hard to argue that there is something broken with Apple, since they are wildly profitable and popular. It’s hard to walk down a city street for more than a minute without seeing the quintessential white headphones connected to an iPhone or iPod. A strong case for this lack of innovation comes from Hartmut Esslinger. If you don’t know who Hartmut is, don’t worry you’re not alone. Hartmut Esslinger helped with the initian design of the Mac and worked with Steve Jobs to create a “design language” that could be seen in the Macintosh line of computers. Hartmut was quoted as saying:
“the Apple of today still has great design at its core, but must maintain its passion for cutting edge innovation.”
These are strong words for someone who helped Jobs start it all.
In the past, Apple would amaze crowds at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) with brand new products and product categories. In the past few years, however, we’ve only seen improvements on their current offerings. Bigger iPhones, smaller iPads, and thinner MacBooks have led the charge. While these are definitely amazing innovations, Apple’s way of making things that nobody has thought of before is what made them amazing. For now, it seems that Apple wants to use their past innovations as much as they can before a new product is released.
The Last Amazing Apple Product
The question then is what was Apple’s last majorly great product? I would say the last major release of a new product was the original iPad in March of 2011. While there have been some pretty amazing advancements in Apple’s current products, this was the last innovative product they released.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the newest iteration of the Mac Pro is a work of art and deserving of a good bit of awe, but remember that this is still just a refresh of a current product.
To put this into perspective, before the iPad was released, the last major new product was the Apple TV in 2010, then going back a little further you’d see the MacBook Air in 2009, and the original iPhone in 2007. Seeing this patterns shows that just about every two years a new product should be released from Apple, but with it being three years now, one has to wonder when the next major release will come out.
New Products Coming?
Tim Cook promised a big year for Apple in 2014, which should hopefully mean new products and new product categories. While everyone is hoping for larger iPhones and thinner MacBook Pros, the real question is what new products are on the horizon. There’s been talk of the iWatch and the iTV for years now, but with innovation showing down for Apple this may be the time to release those new category products.
Along with the iWatch and iTV, Apple has been investing heavily into the health and fitness category of products lately, which could stand to reason that they are planning some interesting new products or peripherals for their current devices. These would be a step away from their status quo, which would be a big sign that innovation is still fresh.
It’s easy to say that Apple has stopped being innovative that that they’re destined for hard times because of it, but to be honest, the more products you innovate, the harder it becomes to comes up with something new.
Sometimes it’s better to improve what you currently have instead of blindly creating new products just for the sake of innovation. While the tech world is ever changing, Apple is good for playing the long game and hasn’t followed anyone in the past, and while we have to hope this is still the case, only time will tell if Apple has something up their sleeve or if they’re just biding their time, looking for something new.