Thursday, August 15, 2013

Opinion: Let the Apple ripen - real innovation takes time

Opinion: Let the Apple ripen - real innovation takes time

Opinion: Let the Apple ripen - real innovation takes time

Poor Tim Cook. Sitting in his glass office with a great mob of investors outside with pitchforks shouting "INNOVATE! INNOVATE!" while the Apple CEO stabs sadly at an iPod with a screwdriver.

He glances at his desk phone and then back at the iPod as a wild grin creeps across his face. Hope and relief shine in his eyes.

A shaft of heavenly light beams through the window as he picks up the receiver, picks up the iPod, puts the two together… then slumps. That's been done. He shakes his head, defeated - that Jobs is a tough act to follow.

A sad sight, I think you'll agree.

Over the last year, Apple has lost what the "industry" calls "momentum". It's got a bit boring. Iterative updates have taken the place of major new devices and, let's face it, when a redesigned Mac Pro is your most exciting device of the year, questions are going to be asked.

Some say the company is doomed without Jobs; others think it's "extremely undervalued".

Question time

One of the people asking questions is Fox correspondent Charlie Gasparino. "What have they had lately?" he demands. "They have had the iPad , they've had a few other things, but they don't have anything innovating from what came from Steve Jobs.

"And that concern is basically manifesting into pressure on Tim Cook to innovate - do something fast."

We're not exactly expecting big things of September: we know we'll definitely see a new iPhone (5S), we might see a cheaper iPhone and we'll probably see a new iPad and an iPad mini 2.

Rumour has it that a fingerprint scanner will be the headline feature of the new iPhone.

A fingerprint scanner.

So yeah, we can see why the board might be getting jittery, but just demanding Apple stop messing about and "innovate!" something - anything - hardly feels like a solution.

Do something fast? No. Do something great.

History repeating

How long did it take the company to come up with the iPod? The MP3 player was launched in 2001, so you could argue that it took Apple 25 years from incorporation to its first full-on category-busting tech innovation. After that, it took a leisurely six years to put the iPhone together and unveil it to the world in 2007.

It may then have been a hop skip and a jump on to the first iPad release in 2010, but the iPad was never as revolutionary as the iPod or iPhone.

The technology world has morphed and warped since 2001. There were vastly fewer tech blogs shooting word bullets at Jobs' feet and demanding he dance when he and his team came up with the iPod.

There was no heaving tech horde at the door, waiting impatiently, as one or two of the braver ones scurried in and grabbed scraps of rumours from under Apple's confusingly metaphorical dinner table.

We've opined before about the relentless rumour cycle taking the magic out of tech - and yes, of course, Apple needs to INNOVATE! INNOVATE! - but, like any tech company, it also needs to take time to get things right.

That means getting its existing products right as well as coming up with glitzy new ones. That means not launching a half-baked iWatch just because its board wants it to live up to some sort of imaginary timetable. Remember Maps? Never forget Maps.

Like you, I want magic: at any tech launch, I'm hoping for something that will cause my eyes to widen and an involuntary "Oh wow" to slip out. I want it to do something useful, I want it to work perfectly, I want it to look gorgeous and I want it to be awesome.

And hey, that's going to take a bit of time.


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//PART 2