An accurate appraisal and an historical perspective reveals that Apple brings two kinds of innovation to the marketplace. ‘Incremental‘ innovation which steadily improves a product. And, ‘Disruptive‘ innovation which leads to a revolution in a market.
You Say You Want A Revolution?
Most technology companies which compete against Apple in the marketplace engage in the traditional incremental innovation.
They take an emerging standard, add a few twists, take on something proprietary, and bolt on a growing list of features and call the result ‘innovation.’
Unfortunately for those who pay little attention to history or facts, incremental innovation does not a revolution make.
Does anyone truly believe that Apple could not drop in a few of the features found in Android OS that are not in iOS?
Apple’s list of revolutionary changes which have disrupted industries is long and visible, but not always obvious.
For example, there’s the original Mac, not heralded as an initial success, yet paved the way for the graphical user interface predominant on all computing devices today.
What Else You Got?
From the Mac on Apple has produced a steady stream of products that have disrupted their respective industries. The iPod (industry leader). The Apple Store (most profitable retail stores on earth). The iTunes Music Store (largest media store on earth). The iPhone (the standard which defined the modern smartphone). The iPad (the most used, most profitable tablet in history).
To a lesser visible extent Apple also disrupted how apps are distributed by the iTunes App Store and the Mac App Store. Quietly and with little fanfare, Apple’s hobby, the Apple TV, has become a huge moneymaker, spawning copycats everywhere.
That’s a heady list of disruptive business segments which have attracted many competitors, but where Apple remains the most profitable in each.
Revolutionary, My Dear Watson
Not so easily visible is another revolution taking place within Apple’s own ranks. The company has a new head of retail and online stores. Apple has been hiring fashion executives, biometric sensor engineers, and working frantically to differentiate future products from the riffraff copycats in Google, Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft and a horde of Chinese knockoff makers.
High ranking executives who helped shape the 21st century Apple are moving on, richer for the experience. Meanwhile, Apple has brought on a bevy of talent to help shore up and shape both the current product line and future products.
The Beats Electronics acquisition (when finally announced) may have shocked some, but Apple needs people with media ties and vision in the content arena, and Beats brings both. Apple set the standard for highly profitable and inviting retail stores, quickly copied by Microsoft, Samsung, and others. Burberry’s former CEO is a savvy fashion marketer with an eye for both technology and the user experience.
The Revolution Inside
Apple CEO Tim Cook is creating his own revolution within Apple, just outside the shadow of co-founder Steve Jobs, but as much a revolution in the making as any constructed by Jobs during his second coming.
What’s the new revolution at Apple? Let me call it a hydra revolution; one with many heads, many directions, one objective. A variety of industry leading products that work well together within a seamless ecosystem. Apple has grown incredibly large, prosperous, and powerful in a few short years, and needs to learn how to manage both the size, and growth opportunities never considered in the past.
That’s a revolution in the making.