Clearly, with iPhone 6 and Apple Watch and the new MacBook, Apple is just as good at iterative innovation as ever. It’s disruptive innovation that gets the headlines and maps out the future, but doesn’t come along on a regular schedule every six months or 12 months. So, is Apple’s disruptive product pipeline empty or full?
What’s Behind Door #2, Monte?
Most Apple critics, or those who say the company has lost its ability to innovate, don’t truly understand the market, and have little to add to a discussion of iterative innovation vs. disruptive innovation.
Apple iterates product improvements based upon new and available technology. For example, look at the external camera on the iPhone. It protrudes; sticks out beyond the case. What’s with that?
The thinness of the iPhone 6 case has progressed beyond the ability of camera sensor makers to develop thinner cameras; hence the little lens bulge.
The new MacBook has a similar problem. The screen casing is so thin that it’s difficult for Apple to get a higher resolution 1080p camera into the space. Instead, customers are hobbled by a 480p camera, circa 1996.
After being educated by a faithful reader I’ve come to believe that iterative innovation does not come in a complete package where every component is the best possible available at the time.
What about Apple’s disruptive product pipeline? The company just dropped the price tag on Apple TV, a device that hasn’t seen much more than software updates and a few channels added in about three years, let alone iterative improvements to functionality.
So, what’s coming? How does Apple intend to leverage Apple TV to disrupt the Balkanized television industry? The deal with HBO for exclusive rights to distribute HBO Now should be an example of an industry about to be or ripe to be disrupted. One television network after another will move to the application model– apps on iPhone and iPad and Apple TV– and the industry will not be what it once was. That’s disruptive innovation.
Apple Watch is another example of an industry about to be savaged by change, though instead of Japanese watchmakers disrupting Swiss watchmakers, Apple is about to disrupt both with a watch that is both luxurious and practical; a status symbol with utilitarian heritage. That’s disruptive innovation.
What else does Apple have in the disruptive product pipeline? The company is known to be working on automobile technology, whether to build a self-driving electric car, or merely to help current manufacturers enter the digital age with better interfaces, only Apple knows.
Apple introduced HealthKit, but maybe more important to the future of humankind, and a framework that could easily disrupt the medical research field, is ResearchKit. Combine that with Apple’s obvious interest in medical and personal sensors and you can see how Apple’s form of disruptive innovation is a unique blend of layering each product with integrated, interactive iterative innovation features and products. Instead of gathering research data from dozens or hundreds of patients, research facilities could track and follow hundreds of thousands; perhaps millions.
See? Disruptive innovation, Apple style. Is the product pipeline full? I say yes, though I worry that Apple, even with tens of billions in riches, has a difficult time finding qualified personnel to manage all the opportunities the future brings, but that’s a different issue.