Apple’s reputation for an innovative, game-changing, market disruption company is well deserved. The only problem is this. The hype of that reputation is greater than Apple’s history of innovation.
Tech pundits, bloggers, and market analysts seem to think Apple needs to have a game changing, planet-shaking, disrupting product every six months or so. Has that ever happened?
Apple’s first computer in the late 1970s was a game changer and heralded the beginning of the personal computer revolution. The Mac came in 1984 and brought about the graphical user interface revolution (look how long it too Microsoft to catch up).
OS X in the early part of the century was revolutionary for Apple, but not so much for Mac users. The next revolution didn’t occur until the iPod hit the streets in 2001.
Apple expanded the iPod and iTunes to online music sales, but Apple’s next evolutionary product didn’t happen until Macs with Intel Inside shipped in 2005.
What was the next market disrupting, next great thing? The iPhone in 2007. It was a full three years later before the iPad revolutionized the tablet market in 2010. It’s barely two years later and critics are calling Apple a beleaguered has been company because the iPad mini wasn’t priced at $99.
It should be obvious to sane people that Apple has a split personality. It launches revolutionary, game changing, market disrupting products, on average, every four or five years. We could argue that the iPad is merely an evolution of the iPhone, and not revolutionary, though it disrupted Microsoft’s dormant tablet industry.
What’s the next great thing?
Don’t worry about it. Unless Apple is coming apart at the seams inside out, it will come. There are more important fish for Tim Cook to fry.
First, R & D. Research and development. Apple’s latest financials indicate a huge increase in the R & D budget. Second, milking the cow. Apple is required to extend a product’s life cycle, maximize the product line’s margins, and grow sales at a rate few companies can fathom.
The law of big numbers looms. Think about this. Apple’s sales are running at a $150-billion annual rate. Yet the company grew revenue and profits by approximately 50-percent year over year.
Even if Apple only grows 25-percent over the next year, that’s almost $40-billion more in revenue; about the size of Google, and not much less than Amazon’s total revenue for the past year (and Amazon is barely profitable).
Finally, Apple’s biggest revolutionary, game-changing, industry disrupting action might not be the next great thing (an Apple television, content on demand, et al). It may be something simple like keeping up with demand, expanding the market for current products, running an efficient organization, implementing higher quality components at lower prices, managing the supply chain, and keeping sufficient differentiation between Apple’s products and their competitors.
That sounds like the kind of work that Tim Cook is good at managing. That next great thing? It will come.