Even when Jobs was at the helm
You didn't get major new products every year. The run rate was about 1 major new product every 3 or more years. Where did this idea come from that they have to reinvent everything every year?
Oracle supremo Larry Ellison has told Apple that it doesn't stand a chance of success without Steve Jobs at the helm. In an interview with CBS, the multibillionaire performed a bizarre dance routine meant to illustrate what chance Apple has in the post-Jobs era. Just like the oracles of old, Ellison's predictions take a bit of …
You don't need (or even want) new products all the time when people are buying what you've already got at really great margins. Too broad a product offering has killed more companies than a lack of innovation.
Jobs can be compared to a great band manager: He kept a bunch of egos and geniuses focused and producing. He wasn't great by himself, and neither are the people he worked with. They all needed each other and Ellison is right, without someone like Jobs Apple is doomed to go back to high priced mediocrity .
You don't need (or even want) new products all the time when people are buying what you've already got at really great margins.
Too many companies have lost out because they were afraid of cannibalizing their own products, and let someone else do it instead. Apple isn't afraid of doing so (iPhone cannibalized the iPod, the iPad Mini cannibalized sales of the regular iPad, etc.)
Sometimes however, there isn't anything out there to a cannibalize a market. Smartphones are like that now. The only "must have" features in a smartphone these days are a touchscreen, a full browser, ability to run apps, a GPS for mapping, and obviously phone functionality. Apple may have been the first to put all those pieces together in a single phone, but all those pieces have been around since before the iPhone.
In the 8? 10? years since there have been no new killer features for smartphones. So there's really nothing to cannibalize sales, it is all a matter of preference - do you like or dislike Apple's walled garden? Do you want a bigger screen? Etc. People complain Apple isn't innovating in smartphones, but neither is anyone else. No one has come up with a product that obsoletes the iPhone and other current phones in the way the iPhone obsoleted the smartphones that came before it.
Isn't it more simply that the frequency of new products should be inversely proportional to how far ahead of the pack those products and their features put you (ie how many years it takes the rest to catch up)?
Revolutions are by definition larger steps down the road than evolutions are.
There are good designers, and products, in Britian, but there aren't many good salesmen. The Canadians have the same problem. I suppose it is a culture thing but the lack of salesmanship is as much responsible for the lack of tech coming out of Britian (and Canada) as any other factor. The gretest products in the world still have to be sold and mediocre products have to be sold better. Jobs had sales skills.
Oracle has just about destroyed all the promises made when it took over SUN.
Dare we say 'Peak Oracle' has passed even with LE at the helm?
Now Oracle purchases orders are signed off with the same gritted teeth as those for Microsoft.
Unbreakable Linux, don't make me laugh.
Ellison is a bit of nutter and most of what he says is pure fluff but once in a while he does come up with something interesting. He was the guy that 25 years ago said one day we'd have network connected devices attached to huge servers, we'd have no need for as many big machines in our homes and offices.
Well the explosion of tablets and phones connected the internet and it's "cloudy" storage is quite popular these days.
Jobs just may have indeed "been Apple".
Jobs was barely an "inventor", using the classic definition of the term. The iPad? Wow, what a great leap of imagination from creating an implementation of ST:TNG's PADD device, including the shape! What brilliance! [/s]
But what Jobs did was create....arrogance. Apple right now is doing what all modern American corporations are doing: paying strict attention to shareholder earnings by making products with a lowest common denominator, trying to alienate no one with middle of the road mediocrity. Jobs simply didn't care - he believed in himself so much (a level of arrogance, really) that he had the company make what he wanted and felt the market would move toward his view, bringing profits along with him.
I guess that makes him an [I]innovator[/I] mostly of style and form, rather than an "inventor" of the truly new. Jobs did not create much "new", but the brought ideas that he saw refined to the masses.
Apple right now is run by typical bean counters worried about profits, as is typical with unimaginative American graduate business majors - go where the market tells you, rather than try to lead a market yourself. If anything, that will be Apple's downfall.
I think what Jobs had was vision. He had the vision to see that a tablet computer should be different to a desktop / laptop computer. It should have big icons arranged in a grid, only show one program on screen at a time and so on. Of course he relied on other people to turn that into reality, but while the iPad / Android style UI may seem obvious now, nobody else saw it before he did.
"but while the iPad / Android style UI may seem obvious now, nobody else saw it before he did"
With respect, I don't believe that for a moment. It is almost to the level of rubbish.
Really, all the iPad / Android interface is, is a "slenderized" version of the Mac-style desktop, without windows. There was no room for windows so icons only. The icons had to be both touch-sensitive and organized on a small screen, so boxing them in and lining them up simply made sense. Touching an icon opened up the program - the window - but, on a small screen, the "window" had to occupy the entire screen.
Voila. You have a modern smartphone interface paradigm. WinMo had icons in menu trays for YEARS before Apple did, and Palm went even further back than that! Apple simply cleaned it up and made it prettier. The paradigm was out already. To believe that Apple created the touchscreen interface paradigm is typical Reality Distortion Field.
While I think Jobs is very overrated, I don't begrudge him the title inventor. Until he did the iPod, nobody had a digital portable song player that grabbed attention. Same thing with the iPad. And for all that he stole ideas for Xerox, they not only let him do it they shoved more stuff into his mitts as he was leaving. He knew what they had and what to do with it even when they didn't. Not all of them were "design patents" some of them were important engineering choices. And I expect the early Apple work did involve some actual patents. Gates may have created the commodity market, but I'll give Jobs (and Woz) props for their contributions in creating the market in the first place.
"He was brilliant, he was our Edison, he was our Picasso. He was an incredible inventor."
Is he taking the p1ss?
Not trolling (OK, maybe a *tiny* bit) but did Jobs himself actually invent anything? (Having a patent isn't the same as having invented something, obv.)
Agree completely, guy deserves a great deal of respect for what he achieved. Undoubtedly great at marketing to the masses.
However does taking a lot of other products and combining the features in an easy to use way count as invention? Just sometimes feel the hype for Jobs has gone way beyond what he earned. Hate to see him called a visionary as I just dont think its true.
> does taking a lot of other products and combining the features in an easy to use way count as invention?
If done right, it's a lot more useful than mere invention. The key thing is not necessarily to invent new things but to find new ways of using and combining existing stuff. Jobs' genius was to get to the essence of a device and combine that with a clear vision for the design and how it would be used. He (or rather, the team he built) was able to clear a lot of the clutter from existing "stuff" and make products that just worked.
Sure, there was / is the evil side to Apple: patents, restrictions on use and interoperability. However that doesn't take away SJ's biggest contribution which gave us a better quality and higher expectations.
Oh, and from a horticultural point of view, doesn't Peak Apple occur just before it falls off the tree?
No. I don't see it that way.
Jobs' impact is HIGHLY overrated due to his cult of personality. In REAL terms, in the terms of what he actually accomplished and his input into the devices sold, Jobs was a stylist. Jobs was at the level of Henry Dreyfuss, but since most people don't even know who that was or the level of impact Dreyfuss' designs had on modern society, they have no frame of reference to properly classify Jobs' skills. So they tag him as "inventor" rather than his proper designation as "designer and salesman" - he personally did not build not electrically design a single product, but he personally oversaw the physical and operational attributes of all the products his company came out with.
in the headlines which are grabbing our attention these days you are correct.
By my memory is longer than the current internet memes (or as some one once put it "10 minutes ago"). He and Woz designed, built, and yes soldered many a circuit board in the early days working out of their garage. So like I said, very overrated, but not a complete sham.
Edison was a Class A knob-gobbling thief and the original patent troll. The only reason the motion picture industry ever setup in Hollywood was because Edison was viciously attacking the movie people in court over IP issues. The entire industry moved as far away as it could possibly get, just to put distance between them and make it cost too much to pursue them.
Edison and his 'Invention Factory' was the forerunner of the modern IP house with more lawyers and paid for judges on the payroll than hands-on workers. So you can thank Edison the next time someone lobs a stupid sueball at your favorite tech company.
Boo, down with Edison fandom!
a device that is hardly guaranteed success
Like Ellison and many others I have, for some or the other reason, doubts about Apple's future success with or without iWatch. Then again hardly any new product is guaranteed success, with the constraint that a strong brand, such as Apple, does indeed make success more likely.
the Apple of the 90's is not the Apple we have now.
and Tim Cook is certainly not John Scully.
the only thing that's the same between the Apple of the 90s and the Apple of today is that Jobs isn't running it. Everything else about the two moments in time is different. And for someone like Ellison, whom so many people seem to hold in high regard, not to realise that, is rather telling.
I suspect he knew that was the only way he'd get any headline action. Nobody reports the uncontroversial any more. Peak Apple? Peak journalism more like.
Right now Apple would be better of as a private company, rather than floated on the stock exchange. Being public they will be hounded by the markets to increase profits and cut costs every 3 months, not to mention creating killer products. Is that realistic, I think not! It's been the killer of many an IT giant.
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Edison = A man who made his money off of other peoples ideas, ripping them off where possible, sounds like a good comparison..
Picasso = An amazing creative person, famous for his paintings mostly... Not a very good comparison, Jobs created rounded rectangles.....
Now I won't discount Jobs's eye on the market, he saw the right time for the iPod, and then again with the iPhone.. sure the iPhone was crap, but he did sell them and help create a market where all phones are now touch screen...
Jobs was fired or demoted at least because he was disruptive, disliked and the products he took sole control over were not selling particularly well compared to the PC. Apple may well have gone bankrupt if the board had chosen Jobs over Sculley. As it was Sculley delivered some decent products and strong growth.
It was also Scully who licensed the Mac UI to Microsoft in exchange for Excel on Mac for two years. Apple was able to stop everyone but Microsoft copying the Mac, and the result was the bootstrapping of IBM's market position into the Wintel monopoly. And it was Scully who set the price of Macintosh a thousand dollars higher than it needed to be, creating a price umbrella under which Wintel could flourish.
Ives admits being inspired by Dieter Rams' Braun Products.
Jobs was fantastic Charismatic marketeer. Very much like Edison. Who didn't invent the Light Bulb and insisted DC mains was better than AC mains. Nor did Edison invent Cinema, though he claimed no-one could do it with out his Patents.
Maybe even if Jobs was still with us Apple would be close to "peak". There is a limit to how many times Apple can do what they have done. Ives on his own plagiarising 1950s & 1960s Braun/Rams can't save Apple.
What actually have they innovated rather than successfully marketed? Not the iPhone HW, nor its OS. Similar GUI did exist on prior niche products. The capacitive gesture GUI was slickly implemented. Is that innovation or just doing prior art better? In the 1980s the industry wanted handwriting recognition and ability to sketch / annotate rather than browse menus & content, hence they decided to use resistive rather than capacitive input (both existed!) for much greater accuracy. The best solution is to have both.
We may not be quite at Peak Apple, but even with Jobs the future might not be much different.
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