Why Apple Doesn't Drive Innovation and Why That's Okay
(A few notes: I'm 16 years old, so I'll only be able to give my personal analysis from Apple events year 2002-ish onwards, and for full disclosure I own a Galaxy Nexus, but am about to receive a MacBook Pro, own an iPad 2, and there is an iPhone 4 and 4S in my household)
Apple has lead innovation for years. And when I say innovation, I mean really making these unique things people had never thought of.
I'm talking about (of course) the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, but also the little things: I'm getting my Retina MacBook Pro in a couple of weeks, and I was marveling at the the idea of the MagSafe. I mean really, that's true innovation in my book.
But, as of late, I haven't been feeling the innovation from Apple. They're making great products, their past innovations have put them at the top of the market, but I haven't seen something revolutionary from Apple since the iPhone 4.
Is Siri cool? Yes. Is it useful? Maybe not (before people say I haven't used it, I'm basing this off of the usage of my Mom who has a 4S).
The iPad 3 brought nothing surprising at all. The day I bought my iPad 2 I already read articles about how the iPad 3 would probably sport a Retina display. I'm too lazy to find the article, but trust me, rumors were already there.
But in the end, that's all okay.
I think Apple 2.0, Apple post-Steve, is all about not driving innovation but driving adoption.
Let's look at Passbook. With the announcement of Microsoft Wallet, I realized that Microsoft is going to fail for the same reason Google did: carriers.
On the other hand, Apple has power. Having this amazingly well selling phone gives them a ton of power, and when the iPhone 5 comes out, if it supports NFC, it will be well adopted. I am sure we will see NFC readers double within 3 months at retailers, and we will see iPhone 5 users talking about this being the best part of their phone.
But is this innovation? I say no. Will it succeed? Yes, yes, yes.
This is why Apple 2.0 can work. They take ideas that Google releases in an early fashion (read: crappy fashion) and improves it, and most importantly uses that wide user base to drive adoption.
If Asus had come out one year ago and said they were launching a tablet with the resolution of an iPad, the tech industry would say it's amazing, but would any website update its graphics? Would more than 50 developers update their apps to support these Retina-level (obviously they wouldn't be able to call it Retina) graphics?
Of course not. And yet looking at the updates on the apps on my iPad 2 the week of announcement of the iPad 3, I probably saw 80% of the apps saying "Updated to Support Retina Graphics" in the change log.
Apple, for better or worse, has moved away from innovation.
Let's now look at some iPhone 5 rumors. I will admit, any revolutionary features won't be in the rumors, but let's see what the industry is expecting (Frankly, the industry has been spot on sometimes. We had heard about Siri rumors before the 4S, although we also heard new design rumors, and MacBook rumors for WWDC were accurate).
1. Bigger screen.
Let's not pretend this would be innovation at all. I don't think even John Gruber would be able to claim this is innovation. This also need to be there for the same reasons as number 3.
2. New Design
I mean, we've heard about this LiquidMetal stuff. We'll see how it pans out, but I don't think it'll be super-innovative (It will be equivalent to the "revolutionary" nature of the design of the HTC One X)
If Apple does not have LTE in the iPhone 5, while this new model would break sales records, it would be very, very bad news. I know people who long ago bought phones for the sole reason of 4G. If Apple doesn't have this, they're seriously screed.
As I mentioned before: Take something that others aren't doing well and make it better seems to be Apple's new business model.
Just a quick aside: I think the one area of Apple that does innovate is Engineering. I think the guys at Apple who manage to fit all those electronics inside that thin a design really deserve a round of applause.
I assert that the innovation from Apple is gone. Post-Steve business model is not to take risks. It's to take things which other companies fail at and to use their large userbase to succeed.
That's not bad. In fact, it seems to be working fine. They own the tablet market forever (I think this will play out just like the iPod, it's a losing battle). The the iPhone is not only the most selling phone, it's much more importantly the phone with the largest profit market. Mac sales are growing: I just bought my first one. Me, the former Microsoft now Google fanboy just bought a MacBook over 2 grand. And I mean, if this isn't enough for you, just go take a look at the trend of AAPL (stock) over the last 5 years.
Apple, today, is not innovation, it's adoption and there's nothing wrong with that.
(Sorry if that was long (eek, at over 900 words), but I feel that The Verge's forum is actually really open to these detailed quasi-blog posts, and I just wanted to share my views, as a 16 year old, to the people out there)