Yesterday’s Apple event was not much awaited (let us be honest about it, at least I was not) and what apple fans are looking for is the 10th anniversary of iPhone next year. However, as with each year, we did look forward to seeing if there are any pathbreaking innovations coming out this year.
The two major features which were predicted came true – a dual camera and removing the headphone jack. Are they really path breaking?
Is this really innovation? Let us go back into a little history. When Steve Jobs was at the helm of Apple, suddenly there were outbursts of innovation beginning with iPod to iPhone to iPad. The rhythm continued till about 2010 and then things started to slow down. Except for the change in the size of the screen, not many new innovations have come out from Apple. Every year, the only dialogue you hear is “the biggest thing ever happened to iPhone since it was born”. Definitely. This is an improvement from the previous version, but not a major change or new feature coming in except that they have started to bring out more and more accessories which will generate alternative revenues because we know iPhone sales are slowing down.
It is important to understand at this juncture that there is a cycle of innovation and all companies have to go through it. There is a limitation – in thinking, in market acceptability and accessibility.
Apple over the last 15 years has bought out products which had a different perspective. This increased the hype of their offerings and together with Steve’s obsession for beautification and practicality (read design thinking), Apple products have changed the way the world looks at technology. Competition evolved. Even though not many are able to match/catch up to the beautification (many companies are coming close these days), there is a tough competition which has evolved. With the IP protection and patent laws, Apple was able to withhold many of its innovations and keep them in-house. Alternatives evolved.
When disruptive innovation happens, the level of hype comes down. We take the time to understand the long-term impact of a new feature/functionality. This has to be playing in as time goes by. Let us go back a little into history and look at iPad. iPad initially came in as an offering between a smartphone and personal computer. People predicted that there is no need of this offering and there is no long-term impact, but today, we look at devices like iPad and tablets as a serious alternative to a personal computer because it is easy to carry around and worked with. This lead to bringing in lighter and more compact laptops. It took a while to accept the concept of iPad and tablets, but now, all of us are using them.
During the latency period companies like apple cash in on the current needs. Look at the new iWatch, yes, good load of new aspects came in, water resistant, inbuilt GPS and ability to track your workouts, but bringing Pokemon to the watch is only going with the market craze and if they can add few bucks to their kitty by bringing this game to the watch, why not?
It is not all about Innovation all the time. It is very difficult to sustain the innovation business model. Companies need to offer best what their core is – for Apple, it is any of their products and we know they are very good.
IMHO, Apple’s Innovation Quotient has not come down. It is just that the hype level is coming down and this is a natural phenomenon. This will settle down and for a path breaking innovation to shake the markets to come in, will take a little while longer.