Innovation is Dead at Apple

I’m going to go on the record right now and say what some others are finally starting to say in that, Apple has hit a point where it has stopped innovating and is attempting to take over the markets that others have firmly established. This may sound slightly familiar because of a company you may have heard of that does just this tactic called, Microsoft.
I believe that the pinnacle for Apple really was the iPod. All of the success to date is stemming from this one little consumer device. This device I might add really hasn’t changed all that much from from the days it was first introduced. Yes, it’s gotten bigger in storage, smaller in size, longer in battery life, able to work on a Windows machine, and able to play video, but really, these were not innovations. All of the things that have happened since the introduction of this little device and have helped to increase market share, but let’s be honest, they were all inevitable if Apple wanted to stay in the market. So, to call the new features in the iPod innovative or far-thinking is ridiculous. What’s happened to the iPod is that it’s become the Microsoft Windows of the digital music player world. There are other music players out there that are just as good with the same feature set, but iPod stays on top just because it gained the most market share first, much like Windows, which isn’t necessarily the best, just the most dispersed.
Now we see the Apple TV coming out. Innovative? No, not really. They’ve just copied the features of other devices that are similar and as many pundits have pointed out, this is a very, very crowded market that Apple is entering against folks with much deeper pockets. So, why is Apple going there? Simple. Much like Cringley pointed out with the Microsoft Zune, Apple really can’t afford not to. There is already a competitor in the field that’s using Apple’s iTunes to do what the Apple TV will do. So, Apple simple has to make a device or they’re going to get crowded out of this field and someone else might create a proper competitor to the iPod (Microsoft? Sony?) that will gain entry in their market through a set top box. But will the Apple TV do what it does better than the others? Eh, maybe. From what I’ve heard from friends, things like the Tivo are pretty damned fantastic and it’s going to take a lot to get them to change to the Apple TV.
Then we have the Apple iPhone. I will lovingly admit that there are a great many features on this device that will warrant attention. But, are there really enough to bat it out of the park like the iPod did so many years ago? No. And when you toss in the price tag, doubly no. Folks everywhere are already starting to debate the rather large cons of this device and rightly so. It’s overpriced. It’s too limited and it’s something that most of us simply don’t need. A little one gig MP3 player for $80? Sure, I’ll buy that, but a $600 phone that I can only use with Cingular (whom I truly despise) no way, I don’t need that. Most folks don’t. That $30 or even free phone you can get is more than adequate for the general public. I also don’t see this phone working perfectly out of the box. It’s going to take at least another iteration for this thing to work and by then, the Sony Ericssons, Motorolas, or the Nokias of the world will have longer out-thought it, since this is their market. They’ve dealt with challengers left and right, yet remained on top.
I think that the iPhone is just a luxury item to round out the iPod lineup. In August or September when Apple do their big iPod holiday push, we’ll see that video iPod we’ve all been longing for. The one that would make me actually start to think about updating from my two year old iPod Mini. So, then you’ll have the range from sub-$100 iPod to $600 top of the line iPhone. It all brings me back to my original point in that this is not innovation, just tacking on new features to an old product to push it along more. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just ludicrous to call a company ‘genius’ for doing it because all companies do it. No one makes a big deal with Dell offers a laptop with a bigger harddrive or a faster processor, but when Apple does it, it’s this huge thing. I suppose it’s just part of the Cult of Mac.
One last note and I purely blame Jobs for this, what’s up with the names these days? Talk about lame. It started with the renaming of the PowerBook to the MacBook which was lame. Apple TV and what will inevitably be just the Apple Phone are pretty lazy names. Get with it. iPod was a great name. iMac was a great name. PowerBook was a fantastic name. Did these days die once Jobs had a life-threatening illness or something? I don’t get it, but the marketing people at Apple are vastly overpaid.