Apple Loses Its Innovation Edge
Steve Jobs belied the rumours of his demise and released an array of Fall season ensembles in his Let's Rock! event in San Francisco. Unfortunately, there wasn't that much to offer, and left the faithful yearning for the traditional 'one more thing', besides sending Apple stock price (AAPL) down over 3%.
When Steve Jobs introduced the original iPod to the world on October 23, 2001, not long after another fateful day, he proclaimed, "With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again!" He could not have been more right. The music industry has gone from a lingering distaste for online music delivery to serving up 8,500,000 songs on iTunes, and the iPod still holds 73% market share.
Yet after the iPod and its many iterations, there really hasn't been that much zing. Every innovation has seemed incremental, almost something that should have been there in the first place, and we are still locked into the scenic walled garden of iTunes. The iPhone, for all its hype, brought little revolution to the mobile marketplace - carriers still rule the roost in every country where the iPhone is available, and people still over-pay for more features than they typically use in any given week.
Today could have been different. We are used to expecting wonderful things from the last icon of technology. We would not have been surprised if he had sprung a time travel machine on us (the iTime?). The yearning for good news in a rather bad year perhaps raised expectations beyond what the ivory towers could purvey.
Yet, we perhaps knew there was little great news in store. The rumors that had leaked were not hinting at any large rabbits hidden away in the hat. Even more disquietingly, they were not stamped down like errant knaves from the castle bearing news of the queen's infidelity.
We got 120 GB iPods, a slimmer eco-friendly Nano, earbuds, the 'funnest' iPod Touch ever - lots of games and the 2.1 software update for the iPhone. The big news of the evening was the Genius function, which auto-recommends songs based on your selection, either in your library on in the iTunes Store. That's a neat feature, but not very different from what Amazon has had all these years, and one is surprised it wasn't already built in.
Jack Johnson wrapped up the evening, and while that might be a nice touch, it smacked of half-hearted innovation, like there was no sparkle left in the wand, or perhaps they need a new star. One hopes Mr. Jobs has many years of creative life ahead, yet, a company cannot be dependent on a single icon. Microsoft seems to be making the post-Gates transition well enough, and while it might be too soon to tell, there is no clear succession defined at Apple.
Robert X. Cringely's proclamations aside, the synergy between Disney, Pixar, and Apple has not yet materialized into any grand design. The iPod may continue to outsell the competition, and the iPhone draw admiring eyes (though not many buyers, at least in India), but without a steady stream of ground-breaking innovations, Apple can all too easily slip back into the shadows of the tech-media space it occupied for many years in the first twilight of Steve Jobs.
Apple Loses Its Innovation Edge
- » Published on September 09, 2008
- » Type: News
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