The world leaders in smartphone back in the day were Nokia and BlackBerry. Even Microsoft was a distant third. The iPhone ushered in a sea change that destroyed both Nokia and BlackBerry and left Microsoft floundering. Is their fall from grace a history lesson for Apple? Yes.
Forget History And Repeat It
Apple is being castigated by tech critics, plundits (not sic), and the stock market because the company hasn’t launched an industry game changer since the iPad in 2010.
Here’s the problem with that kind of criticism. It comes from the very same people who scoffed at the iPhone and criticized it when it was launched.
You can’t have it both ways, folks. Isn’t it obvious that disruptive innovation, the kind of which Apple has a history, starts slowly and builds steadily?
That’s how it works. Go down the list. iPod, iTunes, iPhone, App Store, iPad. Slow starters each (with maybe the exception of the iPad, which is merely a big iPhone without the phone).
The sea change that Apple initiated overwhelmed Nokia, BlackBerry, and, at least in mobile devices, Microsoft.
What can Apple learn from the damage it inflicted upon Nokia, BlackBerry et al? Change is a bitch. Either create your own future, or have someone else do it for you.
The Balancing Act
From my perspective, the key is for Apple to maintain that delicate balance between confidence and urgency, between risk and patience. It’s easy to look at Apple’s current position and find fault. Where’s the large screen iPhone? Where’s the iPad mini with Retina display? Where is something new and different and game changing so we (fans, customers, and shareholders) know the company’s mojo wasn’t buried with its co-founder in 2011?
What we see with iOS 7 and iPhone 5S and 5C is typical Apple. Iterative improvements in the hardware, but coupled with game changing features in Touch ID (this will bring biometric fingerprint identity security to the mainstream).
On the risk side of the equation iOS 7 is a leap. A few hundred million iPhone and iPad users who upgrade to the new OS are in for a visual and emotional roller coaster. iOS is a shock, yet friendly. A playful yet utterly sterile way to interact with apps and information.
What we want to see from Apple in the next year is that sweet combination exhibited by the release of iOS 7 and the new iPhones. iPad mini with Retina display, and a broader tablet line– Touch ID, faster CPU, greater memory options– iterative improvements all.
We also want to see Apple do what Nokia and BlackBerry refused to do. Risk a product segment. Maybe that’s what we’re seeing with iOS vs. OS X. In the post-PC era Apple is risking the Mac to make the future. That’s a controlled, disciplined kind of risk which is also far different than Google buying Motorola, or Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia. Both were acts of desperation; risks, yes, but changes wrought by the market, not a future path developed internally.