Apple isn’t an innovator – it’s more than that

Anthony Caruana
16 October, 2017
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I normally write the editorial first thing on a Friday morning. Typically, I think of a few topics and ideas the day before and then decide what I’m gong to write about. But Friday was a little different. I was running far later than I planned, as I caught up with a friend over coffee. We started talking about innovation and, in particular, Apple’s position in the emerging virtual and augmented reality markets.

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he though Apple’s efforts in the augmented reality business would take a year longer than expected to come to fruition, as the technology needed to create a really great experience simply has not been invented yet. Of course, this could all be subterfuge on Apple’s part in order to throw competitors off the scent or to reduce the over-hyped expectations of a market that expects new products every six months.

When we look back at some of the best products Apple has released, and things we know it is definitely releasing, there aren’t that many products that are truly new. Apple isn’t an innovator when it comes to inventing new technologies.

What makes Apple special is the user experience it delivers.

Let’s look at the new iPhone X. I don’t have one (no, really – I’m not part of the tech elite that Apple blesses with new products ahead of their official release), although I have started to receive a few cases for the as-yet unreleased smartphone.

It has an edge-to-edge display. So does Samsung.

It has a camera that can be used for facial recognition. So do a bunch of computers running Windows 10 (it’s a feature called Windows Hello).

It supports lots of augmented reality applications. So do many Android phones, like the already released Pixel 2.

Where Apple differs is that it controls every piece of its supply chain and how all those things come together. Even the Secure Element chip that stores the verification data used for Touch ID and Face ID is a commodity component (Apple calls it the Secure Enclave). But Apple ties the pieces together.

None of the pieces that come together to make an iPhone or Mac or Apple TV are particularly special. What makes Apple’s hardware special is the company’s ability to see beyond speeds and feeds to create user experiences.

That might sound a little wishy-washy. But anyone who’s used a Windows 10 system, having come from a Mac, knows two things. Windows 10 is the best version of Windows ever produced by Microsoft. And there are still things about using Windows 10 that are frustrating. And most of that frustration comes from how third-party software and hardware works.

Apple may not be the inventor of novel hardware – in that sense it is not all that innovative. But I think Apple brings more to the table than just a bunch of pretty pieces of hardware. It brings functional design – where the objects it creates are great to use.

Now, if only it could get iOS cleaned up, so features aren’t buried under the different tap, tap and hold, and force touch gestures.

One Comment

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  1. Jamie says:

    Disagree, I think Apple have lost the plot and are releasing mediocre ‘meh’ products now.

    My Mid 2012 MacBook Pro is an absolute dog running High Sierra (I’m rolling back to Sierra before I want to destory the machine), whereas a PC of the same age runs Windows 10 perfectly plus it is SUBSTANTIALLY faster even though it has a slower CPU and half the cores (MacBook is an i7, PC an i5).

    I also consider the iPhone X to look horrible, the screen notch is a design disaster and just looks rediculous.

    Once my iPhone 6 dies I may look at updating to a 7 or matbe an 8 but to me the X is no-go as it just exudes poor design and lack of thought.

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