When you hear technology pundits, official members of the technorati elite, stock and market analysts, and critics say that Apple has stopped innovating, dismiss their argument with extreme prejudice.
To keep it simple, they don’t know what they’re talking about. Most of the companies that compete in Apple’s space innovate regularly; including Apple. The problem here is that there are many ways to innovate technology, many ways to differentiate products, and fewer ways to disrupt a market.
Elementary, My Dear Watson
When Apple introduced the original iPhone back in 2007 it came with both differentiation and innovation in the form of a much larger touch screen and desktop-class applications.
And not much more. But that was enough to alter the course of the entire smartphone industry, most of which today resembles the iPhone’s iconic design.
That is called disruption; or, in this case, disruptive innovation; that sweet combination of differentiation and innovation which changes a market.
How did competitors respond? By copying the iPhone. It’s as simple as that. Samsung copied the most and lost a billion dollars in court by doing so, but everyone else copied to one extent or another, and, here and there, improved features from the original.
Alright, how is it that Apple has lost its ability to innovate while others have become the innovators? Well, that actually hasn’t happened. All of Apple’s competitors innovate, but they are incremental innovations, not market disruptive innovations.
In other words, Samsung, Google, and everyone else hawking an Android or Windows or BlackBerry smartphone or tablet have made incremental improvements (and they call it ‘innovation’) to their products.
A larger screen and larger battery are less innovative than they are differentiators. Apple can add a larger screen and build a larger iPhone, too. But a large screen does not disrupt an entire market.
Apple does an excellent job at both differentiation (but not just for the sake of differentiating products from competitors) and market disruptions. Look at the Mac, iPhone, and iPad– most have durable and recyclable aluminum cases, and they run OS X and iOS respectively, substantially different and arguably better than Windows and Android.
That’s differentiation, but not disruption.
Apple has a long history of disrupting markets with new products, going all the way back to the Apple II, then the Mac, followed up in rapid succession by iPod and iTunes, the iPhone and app stores, and the iPad. One could argue that Apple’s retail Store also disrupts how technology products are displayed and sold. Look at a Microsoft Store and tell me where the inspiration came from for the design and layout.
Simply put, most technology gadget companies innovate; constantly improving their products in incremental ways. Also, those companies– and Apple– differentiate their products wherever possible so they stand out among the teeming masses of products. Apple does a better job of differentiation than most. Finally, Apple has a long history of disrupting markets, while others follow Apple’s lead.
When you read or hear that Apple does not innovate anymore, dismiss the argument with extreme prejudice. They don’t know what they’re talking about and are not worth your time.