It's a funny thing; the more technology advances, the more impatient people become in anticipation of even newer and greater innovations. The result is an abundance of analysts, bloggers, and pundits who may very well be the crappiest generation of tech observers we've seen to date. Of course, I'm borrowing some phrasing ingeniously employed by comedian Louis CK who, while appearing on an episode of Conan, explained in hilarious detail why so many of us are unappreciative dopes when it comes to technology.
When it comes to the folks that cover Apple, this dynamic is for whatever reason amplified. The "what have you done for me lately" attitude is pervasive amongst talking heads who seemingly employ a running counter that precisely measures the last time Apple released a game changing product.
It goes without saying that other tech companies are free from this burden.
When's the last time you read an article arguing that Google, Facebook, or Samsung need to start innovating lest they become irrelevant? Yet with Apple, we're constantly bombarded with asinine articles like "Apple must release an iWatch now or the company is doomed." Believe it or not, but such a blurb actually surfaced last month courtesy of Trip Chowdhry, a managing director at Global Equities Research.
"They only have 60 days left to either come up with something or they will disappear," Chowdhry said during an interview with CNBC.
For whatever reason, the tech community at large affords more credibility to companies that simply throw everything at the wall in an effort to see what may, by pure happenstance, catch on (Samsung) and companies that are more open about showing the public what they've got cooking in their research labs (Google).
Apple may be an immensely private company, but its modus operandi is hardly a well-kept secret. The company releases finished products that it believes will fundamentally have a positive impact on the way people interact with technology, and in the process, make them truckloads of money. As a result, Apple doesn't tend to release poorly conceived and ill-executed products like the Samsung Galaxy Gear -- recently voted by many as the worst tech product of 2013 -- nor does it release unfinished products that feature cool technology like Google Glass.
Consequently, Apple works tirelessly behind the scenes to come up with the next big thing, only to be greeted in the interim with a chorus of doom-and-gloom predictions from folks who simply don't understand how Apple works.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating article featuring an interview with Greg Christie, a senior software engineer at Apple. The article gave us an interesting glimpse into the timeline associated with the development of the original iPhone.
The article tells us that Greg Christie was originally asked to join Apple's secretive iPhone project in late 2004, with the project not being officially green-lit by Steve Jobs until February 2005.
So from the time Christie joined "Project Purple" to the time the iPhone was ready for release, over 2.5 years had elapsed. And when you consider that the iPhone project itself was borne out of Apple's research into a tablet, it's possible that the entire iPhone project, from the moment Steve Jobs thought it might be doable to the moment it reached store shelves, may have been at least 3 years in the making.
True innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum. You can't blindly throw money at R&D and hope that innovative products will result, Innovation takes time, a lot of hard work, and is often predicated on a perfect storm of events to help transform an incredible idea into a shipping product. Sometimes technology needs to mature in order to make a product feasible. The iPhone, for instance, wouldn't have been possible in the early 2000's because battery technology hadn't yet reached a point to effectively power a large screened device like the iPhone.
Nonetheless, critics love talking about how Apple under Tim Cook has lost its footing, how the company needs to come up with something big and amazing right away.
Let's try and keep things in perspective, folks.
Tim Cook has been the CEO of Apple for about 2.7 years and people are already impatiently chomping at the bit for an iWatch capable of measuring all sorts of complex health vitals. For years, folks have been speculating, if not demanding, that Apple just has to release an HDTV. People are so keen on Apple disrupting another industry that we're often treated to any number of "Apple should" headlines. Apple should buy Netflix. Apple should have bought Nest. Apple needs to buy Yahoo.
These "Apple should..." pieces make for great headlines but rarely provide any compelling analysis as to how Apple, as a multi-billion dollar corporation, stands to benefit from any of these acquisitions or products.
For instance, while "Apple should build an HDTV" makes for an intriguing headline, such articles rarely mention the ins and outs of the TV business. There's no talk of margins, replacement cycles, competitive landscapes. All we're given are generalities about how Apple needs to "revolutionize" x, y and z.
Given the long development of the iPhone, not to mention the fact that Tim Cook's three-year mark at Apple is still a few months away, I find it bizarre that people are not more inclined to take a "let's wait and see" approach when it comes to Apple's next big thing. Curiously, people seem to forget that the time gap between the iPod and the iPhone was well over five and a half years. Before that, the time between the iMac and the iPod was about three years and some change.
Nonetheless, there are no shortage of analysts and disillusioned bloggers who are beyond quick to exclaim that "Apple has become boring!", as if the company has somehow strayed from the faulty notion that the company has always released revolutionary new products every 2 years or so.
How about we all just take a breath, relax, and see how Apple's 2014 unfolds? How bout we enjoy the amazing technological age we now find ourselves in?
I find it perplexing that people are so keen on complaining about what Apple (and other companies for that mater) should and shouldn't do that they seemingly ignore the wondrous technological world we currently live in; as if the status-quo is so horrendous that life will come to an end if Apple doesn't cater to the whims of pundits who seem to exist only to be outraged at something or another.
Now Tim Cook flat-out said that we should expect new product categories in 2014. We're just into April and already people are complaining that there haven't been any new product categories yet.
Again, let's relax. Doesn't Apple track record afford it a little bit of time before the draconian judgements on the Tim Cook era come raining down?
Let's also remember that Apple doesn't rush products to market, nor has it ever. Apple is methodical. It takes steps to ensure that a product is sufficiently compelling before releasing it to market. With a recent research report from Endeavour Partners finding that more than 50% of consumers who purchased wearables no longer use them, don't we want Apple to take its time (assuming an iWatch is in our future) instead of releasing a second-rate product prematurely?
Don't get me wrong, I am certainly excited to see what Apple's "next big thing" is. I am not, however, depressed, forlorn, or pissed that Apple has decided to announce such a product on its own schedule and not my own. And while Apple shouldn't be impervious from criticism, it's still way to early to predict doom and gloom scenarios and demand innovative products ASAP.
And in the meantime, why don't we remember that things right now are pretty great. There has never been a better time to be a tech enthusiast or a gadget geek. The things that even throwaway smartphones can do today is nothing short of astounding. The types of things affordable gadgets can do today is freakin' jaw dropping. Enjoy it.
If Apple waits until late 2014 to announce something new and exciting, I won't fret about it. And neither should you.