Second, pay some attention to customers of the future. You, me, and other loyal Apple customers who continually strive to improve how we use our Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Yes, I’m willing to bet a Starbucks run that Apple is rethinking all the time. What does that mean?
The early years of the Mac were not all that successful and may have cost co-founder Steve Jobs his job. Yet, the future was point and click and the Mac thrived and became synonymous with Apple. Jobs moved on to limited success with NeXT, then limited success with Pixar, and then Apple came back into the picture.
What we need to learn from that lesson is obvious. Change happens. What we see at Apple every year is constant change; some iterative improvements on current products, some new products, but a constant change in the status quo.
Yet, the old saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” applies to Apple. Things are changing constantly; we use our Macs, iPhones, and iPads in ways never envisioned by Jobs when he launched each product. Iterative and incremental change has a larger impact over a larger time frame.
Is it time to rethinking the Mac, iPhone, and iPad? Yes. Is Apple doing that? Yes.
What will the constant rethinking bring to Apple’s customers and product line? A Mac notebook today is a vastly more powerful device than the first generation of decent Mac notebooks; I bought a PowerBook 100 back in the day. What has changed? Everything. And nothing. The new MacBook Air features a clamshell design and a built-in keyboard. More power. More features. More capabilities. But a design that remains much the same as 26 years ago.
What about iPhone?
Today, 12 years after iPhone was introduced, all smartphones look the same. Flat slabs of glass with rounded corners. Everything inside has improved each year; we have a better camera, faster internet connections, and a million or so applications to use, but the similarities to the original are striking.
What about iPad?
Jobs launched the iPhone’s precursor a year before his death in 2011. What has changed? Everything and nothing. Each new models is thinner, faster, lighter (so to speak) with ever greater capabilities, and yet there is little visual or usable difference between the first iPad and the recent iPad Pro models.
If Apple is to rethink how we use our devices it must also be willing to discard the past so the future has a home. Apple did that with the old Apple IIe and IIc line. It did the same with the iPod line. Is Apple willing to replace the old with the new?
What would a new and radically different Mac look like? How will it function differently than the current Mac line? Ask the same question of iPhone and iPad. There are times when rethinking a product requires a radical shift. The Mac was radical at its origin but all personal computers function much the same way as a 21st century Mac. The same holds true for the iPhone. It was a revolutionary product that changed the course of an entire industry (thanks to Google copying iPhone; much like Microsoft’s Windows copied the Mac OS).
Apple spends tens of billions each year on R&D and some of that goes into current products to improve their capability, and some of that expense is devoted to products of the future.
What will replace the 35 year old Mac? What can replace the 12 year old iPhone? Mere incremental and iterative improvements? Or, is there a next insanely great thing out there? Will Apple recognize it when it arrives? Or, will the company embrace such dramatic changes the way Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, and tech giants embraced the iPhone when it arrived?
So many questions; so little time.