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On Apple's 'inability to innovate'


During WWDC 2013, Apple's Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller presided over a sneak peek of Apple's upcoming Mac Pro and boldly exclaimed, "Can't innovate anymore, my ass!"

Schiller's off-the-cuff remark was in response to the increasing number of tech pundits who seem to think that Apple has lost its inability to innovate, now that Steve Jobs is no longer running the show.

Of course, anyone who has followed Apple over the years knows that the "Apple can't innovate anymore!" refrain is nothing new. Indeed, every time Apple releases a new product, critics are quick to proclaim that Apple has peaked.

"What can follow the iPod?" they asked.

"Okay, the iPhone is amazing, but what's next?" they impatiently wondered.

"The iPad is a game changer, but Apple is now out of ideas!" they declared.

What's funny is that Apple, more so than most any other company, has a proven track record of innovation that stretches back for over a decade. Yet, curiously, Apple has seemingly garnered no credit amongst tech pundits when it comes to its current ability to innovate.

At the same time, tech pundits are all too eager to predict Apple's demise and levy the tech crown upon whatever tech company happens to challenging Apple at the moment.

Remember when the Palm Pre was going to steal the iPhone's thunder?

Highlighting the shockingly absurd and oftentimes foolish sentiments that frequently swirl over Apple, John Kirk over at Techpinions has assembled a goldmine of blurbs that unabashedly paint Apple as a "has-been" company.

One such blurb comes courtesy of David Goldman of CNN Money who wrote the following this past June:

Apple will hold its first major product event in nine months on Monday, a stunning gap for a company that relies on regularly impressing customers with new innovations.

I always find it funny when folks think the Apple ship is sinking simply because there isn't an annual iPhone-level product introduction. A revolutionary device like the iPhone doesn't come along every single year, which is why such products are so transformative when they are introduced.

Gauging Apple's ability to innovate within the timeframe of a lone year is anything but instructive. The gap between the iPod and iPhone introductions, for example, was more than five years. The gap between the iPhone and iPad introductions was three years. And now people are going nuts because nine months go by without a brand-new shiny device?

Addressing this very point, Kirk references an old and on-point Jobs quote about catching the waves of technology.

Things happen fairly slowly, you know. They do. Those waves of technology, you can see them way before they happen, and you just have to choose wisely which ones you're going to surf. If you choose unwisely, then you can waste a lot of energy, but if you choose wisely, it actually unfolds fairly slowly. It takes years.

Instant movies. Instant shopping. TV on demand.

So much is immediately accessible these days. What's more, many great tech companies are working furiously to give consumers even faster access to the goods and services they crave. Amazon's ongoing efforts to establish same-day shipping comes to mind.

This "I want it now" attitude, or perhaps expectation, has clearly seeped into the psyche of tech pundits when it comes to Apple. The reality, though, is that true innovation doesn't happen in an instant. As intimated by Jobs, it takes time for all of the pieces of the innovation puzzle to coalesce.

And the funny thing is, even when Apple does come out with a game-changing device like the iPod or the iPhone, the very same critics that are quick to declare that Apple can't innovate are just as quick to predict that said products are nothing special and will flop in the marketplace.

Sometimes it seems that Apple is quick to be painted with the "can't innovate anymore" brush simply because they don't come out and say what products they're working on months in advance.

I'll close with this. Here's a quick look at some of the products Apple released within the last 12 months.

  • An iPhone 5
  • An iPad mini
  • A fourth-gen iPad
  • New MacBook Airs with almost double the battery life
  • A revamped iMac

Not bad for a company, which if you believe the headlines, is plummeting into mediocrity.

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