Apple, arguably the most innovative technology company in the world, continues to limp along by merely updating its current products and calling them "new and improved." Just like your typical laundry detergent or a new flavor of soda, Apple products work great and have become staples in many peoples' lives, yet this re-branding strategy seems rather pathetic coming from a creativity giant like Apple. Will they ever be the powerhouse invention company that they once were?
Apple faithful will no doubt continue to extoll the virtues of the company that created the iPod and the famed iPhone mobile devices. It was Apple that reinvented itself from a computer company into a mobile device company. When it comes to anything mobile and entertaining, Apple holds a lion share of the market. This most recent quarter saw Apple pulling in a "mere" $7 billion dollars in revenue -- this without the emergence of any new products.
Sure, Apple can just continue to milk the cash cow that is their current product line. But with resources and infrastructure that they have at their disposal, why wouldn't they want to leverage that horsepower to develop something truly new and different?
One of my guesses is that they're scared -- both the company and its investors that is. Scared of taking a risk that they might come out with something that falls flat, and could forever scar the legacy left by Steve Jobs. If the company is doing so well financially, why rock the boat, right?
It's a matter of principle. Design principle that says that something good is never really good enough. A principle that says that just sitting on your laurels counting cash is not the end of the line for any self-respecting tech company. If I were an Apple design engineer, I would probably be pounding my fists on my desk in frustration, asking why we aren't embarking on the development of truly new devices. it's the same reason why I am a startup guy -- I hate the idea of sitting on new product designs because the company doesn't want to spend money on R&D. Executives would rather count cash than count the number of prototypes on an R&D bench. Money does make the world go 'round.
So, while small tech companies like Nest develop new innovative products like web-enabled thermostats, Apple management elects to spend money on software updates and colored plastic cases. From a business standpoint that's a pretty lucrative strategy, but from an innovation perspective it just seems like a cop out. And of course Apple users won't complain, because as long as their iPhone continues to work reliably, there's no need for anything new as far as they're concerned.
As much as Apple remains the technology king, there are people like me who long for the days when the Apple conferences were actual product launch events. The excitement of learning what the latest and greatest Apple device was kept techies on the edges of their seats. Those were fun times. Will Apple ever return to those days?
I hope so...