Apple Doesn’t Innovate

People often say and write that Apple doesn’t innovate. That it is merely taking technologies and products, introduced by other companies, applying some Apple-magic to it, before spinning it as “The Next Best Thing”.

  • “Music players, smartphones, tablets and ultra portable laptops existed well before Apple unveiled their version of these products in 2001, 2007, 2008 and 2010. There is nothing new about what Apple did.”

  • “Clearly, Apple is acquiring all of its components from companies like SAMSUNG, LG, Broadcom, etc., so it is pretty obvious that they aren’t creating anything new; they are just repackaging these parts in a fancy aluminum or glass case and selling it for more than it’s worth. No innovation by Apple here.”

  • “Multitasking, notifications, maps, wireless syncing, copy-and-paste, the app store, cloud services, etc. are all shamelessly copied. No innovation here either.”

  • “The only thing Apple is good at is getting existing products and technologies to work more seamlessly, be more intuitive, and lure in customers through superb marketing.”

These are the kind of arguments I often find online. You would think that these arguments could be easily countered by pointing out how quickly other companies try to mimic Apple’s products (music players, smartphones, tablets, ultrabooks). But, apparently, that particular thing Apple did some time ago is, well, just that, a thing Apple did some time ago, because right now Apple is nothing but a copying bully.

This is all bullshit.

Apart from the fact that some of these arguments just don’t make any sense, this is the kind of FUD that competitors, idiots and uniformed people spread for reasons that are motivated by their own fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Apple is a very opinionated and ruthless company when it comes to the products, services and the software it designs. About the only freedom the company does allow is for customers and developers to take their business elsewhere if they disagree with how things are done.

Clearly, that is a good reason not to like Apple and the products that it creates. And that’s perfectly fine. Nobody is forcing you to. So please, quit trying to educate us on how irrelevant Apple has become, based on these bullshit arguments.

The whole principle of innovation is to look at existing solutions to problems and come up with different solutions that are better in particular ways, that matter to you. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. So it’s perfectly acceptable to look at what a competitor is doing —you’d be a fool not to— and see if he’s solving problems that you could solve even better.

In January of 2007, on stage at MacWorld, Steve Jobs showed us how he believed Apple would change the (smart)phone industry with the iPhone. He was so excited about every aspect of this product that he demoed the hell out of every feature. There wasn’t a single person in that audience that didn’t hang at his fingertips while he was swiping through lists of songs, contacts and emails, rubber-banding as he went along. I agree, Steve performed masterfully, but I also remember how defining it was to be able to do it myself a few months later. Playing with that large multi-touch display felt like I was holding something from the future.

As it turns out, if there’s one thing that these PC guys (Apple) are a lot better at, it’s building great software to go with the hardware. While Apple wasn’t the only one working on touch displays —no vacuum— they were definitely the first to perfect it and put it into a product that worked incredibly well and shipped in the millions. And it’s this road from the idea of multi-touch to a working product that is filled with new solutions to hard problems, both in software and hardware, as Jony Ive explains:

“There were multiple times when we nearly shelved the phone because there were multiple problems. I hold the phone to my ear and my ear dials a number. The challenge is that you have to develop all sorts of ear shapes, chin shapes, skin colour, hairdo… it seemed insurmountable”.

That is innovation.

Still, today, people are using these same defining features to mock Apple. “Isn’t it obvious to swipe your finger across the screen to move through a list?” — I guess it is not innovation unless it involves something artificial as a stylus.

But you don’t have to take my word for it; here is Google General Counsel Kent Walker in a letter about standards and patents:

The capabilities of an iPhone are categorically different from a conventional phone, and result from Apple’s ability to bring its traditional innovation in computing to the mobile market. Using an iPhone to take photos, manage a home-finance spreadsheet, play video games, or run countless other applications has nothing to do with standardized protocols. Apple spent billions in research and development to create the iPhone, and third party software developers have spent billions more to develop applications that run on it. The price of an iPhone reflects the value of these nonstandardized technologies — as well as the value of the aesthetic design of the iPhone, which also reflects immense study and development by Apple, and which is entirely unrelated to standards.

Although sometimes it’s hard to be sure what Google’s position is on the matter.

But in any case, the pace this industry is moving at requires many of its players to push it forward. I am certainly not implying the other extreme: that this is a one man show.

5 thoughts on “Apple Doesn’t Innovate”

  1. Relax! :-) No-one is denying that Apple innovates, sometimes in a huge way, more often in tiny progressive steps. The thing that a lot of people – including myself – are getting fed up with is that Apple pictures every singly thing they do as this huge magical amazing Progress with a capital P and that all products their competitors produce are plain garbage or at best rip-offs. Look around, there’s innovation everywhere, if you focus too much on Apple, you are missing out. Apple is like this brilliant comedian that laughs really hard at their own jokes meanwhile shouting that all other comedians are OR not-funny OR stealing. Such a person is called a prick and such an attitude deserves a big FU, so don’t be surprised then that when Apple obviously copies someone else – which they do sometimes, like everybody else – they get sneered at in a big way.

  2. I didn’t want to imply that Apple is the only company doing interesting things. Added a paragraph to the end to express that.

    I didn’t make up these comments. This actual stuff people tell me in fora, twitter and face-to-face.

  3. Apple innovated in 2007 with the iPhone. Since then, they have done very little except copy features and functions from their rivals, exploit a flawed and broken patent system to litigate rather than innovate, etc… Slide to unlock was a Nokia invention. Even the name “iPhone”, they had to purchase from Cisco.

    They showed the world what a smartphone could be, and then the world took that and showed Apple what a phone could be taken to the next level. Apple is a ruthless company, 10x than Microsoft ever was. Where they lead the market, is in marketing. They are the Harley Davidson of the cellphone world. Selling outdated tech, lacking features, but they are a household name and people who know nothing about the product want it for the image that they have built around it.

    Apple: Yesterday’s technology, tomorrow.

    If you are a 15 year old girl and want a cute phone for texting, get an iPhone. If you are a power user that wants a superior device, get Android. Nuff said.

  4. I totally agree.

    If Apple were not innovating, then other companies wouldn’t copy their products.

    Innovation is not just about technology. A much better user experience is also innovation.

    Android is made by Google. Then phone makers create their own flavor. They are not gifted for software, and especially not for the user experience. The whole thing doesn’t look and feel integrated.

    I personally don’t care to be “locked in” to Apple. I choose to be. As a user, it give me a much better integrated solution and amazing experience. As a developer, I have a better OS, better SDK, better documentation and better tools.

    Samsung has been caught with the hand in the cookie jar. Apparently, they have a copy machine where you put an Apple product and it churns out a Samsung one :-). Think about their copies of the Mac mini, the iPhone and the iPad. HP photocopied the iMac’s wireless keyboard and magic mouse as well.

  5. It is not all bullshit.

    APPLE DOESNT INNOVATE. IOS 3 is the same as IOS 6 with a bunch of patches. Siri is a bust. MAPS App LOL please. No wonder every IPhone users who updated with the new MAPS APP couldn’t wait to get Google Maps back onto their phones. And Yes I have owned a BB, A Windows Phone an IPhone and an Android phone as well. I also owned a Treo 650 which was touch screen and had a stylus. Treo synced with my Calendar and Emails so yeah, what exactly did the IPhone do differently? Made it better yes I agree, but they just borrowed that technology from somewhere else and called it their own. Internally, they use LG Screens and Samsung Chips. Only thing that is Apple is the shell and the branding and the main board.

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