With the recent revelation that Apple are in discussions to acquire British car maker McLaren and the relatively uninspiring launch of the iPhone 7, you have to ask the question;
Has Apple lost their creative mojo?
It’s difficult to believe it’s closing in on 5 years since the passing of Steve Jobs, the most well known technology entrepreneur/innovator of our generation, famous for revolutionising the way the human race use technology and building the world’s most valuable brand!
Not long after the passing of the visionary co-founder of Apple, many industry experts started to question what impact this would have on the company’s performance, in fact within 24 hours of Steve’s death, Apple’s stock fell by over 5%.
At the time, this uncertainty might have seemed a bit melodramatic, surely a company of this size and stature had a strong enough succession plan in place that the prosperity of the organisation did not lie on the shoulders of one person, even if it was their visionary CEO?
However, for those that were around to remember, or have taken a bit of time to read up on the history of Apple, you’d know the troubled times Apple faced between 1985 and 1997, when Steve Jobs was not around to steer the ship.
Following the re-insertion of Steve Jobs as CEO in 1997, Apple became an innovative juggernaut, whilst often not the first to market, they would take existing technology and blow it out of the water, putting them months and in some cases years ahead of their main competition.
What have we seen since 5th October 2011?
Realistically not a lot, we haven’t seen any big-bang innovations, definitely not to the scale of the App Store, iPhone or iPad anyway. Yes we get a new iPhone released every 12 months or so, with some trivial new features added, but nothing to shout from the roof tops about. I struggle to remember the last time I looked at a new iPhone and thought to myself “I’ve got to get myself one of those.”
Arguably their most significant “innovation” (if you can call it that) over the past half a decade is the Apple Watch, which ultimately has incorporated a lot of their phone technology, added a few new gimmicks and put them into a smaller device that you wear on your wrist. Apple Watches to date have failed to capture the widespread acclaim of anyone outside of health fanatics and hardcore Apple enthusiasts, who will literally buy anything associated with a half eaten piece of fruit.
Previous innovations took good technology and made it great, they didn’t focus on being first to the market, but instead focused on getting it right. iTunes, the App store, iPhone and iPad all changed our lives for the better, allowing us to complete complex everyday activities on the go. Compare this to their most recent innovations, which at best can be described as “incremental improvements” that are not universally acclaimed…
I am still waiting for someone to offer me a reasonable answer for removing the earphone jack from their recent iPhone 7, other than for Apple to sell more accessories.
Buying Innovation Instead of Building it?
It’s clear that Apple’s ability to launch truly innovate products within the technology sector has nose-dived and the timing of this coincides with the passing of Steve Jobs. This innovation flatline has resulted in a decrease in financial performance of late, with share prices falling and year on year revenue decreasing for the first time in 13 years!
Their biggest splash in the technology sector since 2011 came when they purchased Dr. Dre’s Beats for $3billion in May 2014, which prompted some people to suggest that they have now changed their business strategy, deciding to flex their financial muscle to “buy innovation rather than build it.” This philosophy is supported by their $1billion investment in Chinese ride-sharing service Didi Chuxing!
I guess this leads us to the real question here;
Is Apple’s innovation slowdown due to the absence of Steve Jobs and his passion for perfection, or has the “technology industry” as a whole hit a development roadblock after many years of fast moving evolution?
For me, three things would certainly point to the latter;
1. None of Apple’s major competitors have developed anything spectacular during this time, at best they’ve been busy playing catch up.
2. Apple’s recent strategy to actively search for new opportunities within other sectors, most notable the automotive industry, suggests that they see limited opportunities for future growth within the technology industry. Whether Apple are planning on actually developing a car is still to be seen, but we know it has been recruiting automotive experts for the past few years.
Apple currently play a big part in our lives at home and at work, two places where we spend a lot of our time, so climbing into your car would make perfect sense! I for one know that when I think about the prospects of an “Apple Car” it raises my interested levels to a height I haven’t felt for Apple, or any technology products, for many a year!
3. I simply can not accept that Apple’s ability to innovate rested solely with Steve Jobs. Yes their strategy may be taking them in a new direction, but I have to think something big is going to happen sooner or later. This may be in the form of a car, car technology or something completely unexpected.