Name another technology company with a longer list of market disruptions than Apple. I hear the silence. It’s not Microsoft or Google or Samsung. And we’re not just talking about technology innovation because everyone does some of that.
No, what is missing in recent years is what I’ll call market disruption. Apple did just that with the Apple II, the Mac, Apple Stores, iPod and iTunes, iPhone and the App Store. Even Siri and the iPad were major disruptors to a few moribund technology sectors. What has Apple done since the last great thing?
What Hath Jobs Wrought
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was at the helm of every major product on my list, the last being the iPad’s introduction in 2010 and Siri’s launch just before Jobs died. What hath Apple wrought since then?
There are two kinds of basic innovation and Apple is involved in both.
The first is the kind we hear of the most and see with every product upgrade from nearly every manufacturer; incremental innovation. Improvements to the status quo. Apple does it. Samsung does it. Technology manufacturers are on a constant quest to improve, and their products resonate with incremental innovation.
The second is market disruption innovation; the kind of product that changes the direction of a particular market. The Mac did it. The iPod did it. The iPhone did it, too. One can argue that other products disrupted various market segments, but Apple’s streak of redefining a particular market or business segment is long and storied.
Other technology manufacturers that compete against Apple’s products may have features– and within those, some measure of innovation– that Apple’s products do not, but those are incremental innovations; the improvements that all tech companies employ in their products.
Apple’s history is long with market disruption innovation, and most of those were driven by Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, just over five years ago. Since then, Apple has continued a streak of incremental innovation in nearly every product; Mac, iPhone, iPad, macOS, iOS, even Apple TV.
The question one needs to ask simple. “What product market has Apple disrupted since he died?”
I see three new products from Apple that are noteworthy.
The first is Watch. That’s right. Watch. Apple’s iPhone accessory is the smartwatch segment leader in marketshare, revenue share, and profit share, and though numbers are hard to come by as Apple refuses to publish much about Watch, it may already have become the watch industry leader ahead of Rolex.
The second is Beats. Again, numbers are hard to come by, but in the segment where Beats competes, it leads the industry, both in wired and wireless headphones; mostly thanks to the ubiquity of the iPhone and the division’s marketing prowess.
The third is AirPods. Apple re-imagined how earbuds should work and if you haven’t tried them, and you have experienced with wireless headphones or earbuds, you’ll be impressed. Pairing is instant, charging is simple, and, as it has with many products, Apple sets the direction for the wireless earbuds industry with AirPods.
Here’s the only problem with these three market disrupting products from Apple since Jobs died in 2011. They’re not standalone products in the sense of Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad. They are accessories so they won’t sell by the hundreds of millions over years. They are disruptive to a degree, but not huge market movers; by nature, accessories cannot outsell what they accessorize.
It’s been awhile. Tim Cook’s Apple is profitable and valuable but isn’t growing much. Apple is in dire need of a few new market disrupting products.