Just in case you haven’t heard, Apple is doomed. Again. Why? How? The company has failed to innovate since co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs died. There’s just one problem with that meme. It’s wrong.
When it comes to the traditional PC business, Apple’s Mac included, and the nascent smartphone and tablet industry, iPhone and iPad included, there is plenty of innovation. There’s just not much disruptive innovation these days, the likes of which Apple has a long and storied history (Apple II, Mac, Apple Stores, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, App Stores, Apple TV, iPad).
It doesn’t take much to be an innovator in technology these days. Disruptive innovation takes planning, work, luck, and persistence.
For a few examples, consider that Apple disrupted the fragmented portable media industry with the iPod. It further disrupted the smartphone industry with the iPhone. And, then again the struggling tablet industry with the iPad.
Disruptive vs. innovative changes.
What’s an example of the latter? Retina display on iPhone and MacBook Pro. That was an innovation, yes, but hardly an industry disruption. Today, everyone makes Retina-caliber displays.
Here’s another. Remember the MacBook Air with solid state drives? SSDs? Innovative, yes. Disruptive, no. Everyone has SSDs these days.
Apple disrupted the smartphone industry with a large display, icons for apps, a good email and web browser. Years later we see that every smartphone sold today follows Apple’s disruptive lead, but new features on competitors phones do not disrupt. They’re merely another level of basic innovation.
Consider Amazon’s new Fire Phone. It’s a mid-size smartphone at 4.7-inches, Gorilla glass, rubberized frame, and it’s specially tuned to make it easy to shop Amazon and store and use digital content. The 3D-like ‘dynamic perspective‘ display is innovative, yes, but disruptive? No.
While the Fire Phone costs less than an iPhone, it’s not that much less. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos:
Fire Phone puts everything you love about Amazon in the palm of your hand—instant access to Amazon’s vast content ecosystem and exclusive features like the Mayday button
In other words, Fire Phone is a portable portal to Amazon’s online store. And it’s a phone. Amazon sweetens the pot with all sorts of promotional and technological gimmicks to differentiate Fire Phone from Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy line, but in the end it’s a portable portal to Amazon. Buy a Fire Phone and get 12 months of Amazon Prime (normally $99 a year). There’s nothing disruptive about Amazon’s attempt to hold their fragmented ecosystem together.
Every company in the title above does the same thing. Apple’s iPhone killed the iPod business. Google’s Android OS disrupted the smartphone industry. Samsung is the only other smartphone and tablet maker making meaningful profits. Microsoft has stooped to making their own hardware. And, well, there’s Amazon, the giant store in the cloud with a need to keep customers coming back.
Carrying around an Amazon store in your pocket is innovative, yes, but won’t disrupt anyone else’s business.