What people mean when they say Apple can’t innovate anymore


‘Just because something isn’t meaningful to you doesn’t mean it isn’t innovative. It just means it isn’t meaningful to you.’

I will agree with this statement. I should not confuse innovation with usefulness. I can only deem usefulness through my own viewpoint and bias. The Apple of the past has provided me with more useful tools … iLife suite, Aperture, etc…

The current Apple seems to focus more on things to move iPhones rather than concentrate on solid “innovations” to improve workflow (eg: access external hard drives with an iPad ). The power of the Mac platform wanes as more attention is paid to iOS. Apple should spend more time and effort to making iOS more powerful and seamless- why the heck can I not create A folder on iCloud with the files App ?


Mitch, great article, I think you nailed the woes. One other item, when Jobs was around woe to the exec who played politics, I think this has changed and Apple is much more a “regular” company. Jobs’ force of personality focused everyone on creating a great product (not that there weren’t missteps) whereas today internecine struggles at the executive level have really hampered their software efforts (look at how the Siri team was ignored for so long). Jobs would not have allowed that. In terms of new billion dollar markets, the entire home automation space is/was in the perfect place for some Apple style innovation, we got lots of press releases and promises. Innovation by new players in that market was basically shut down for 2 years waiting to see what Apple would do. They didn’t do much. We FINALLY have some movement on the Homekit front but its still a rather weak player.
I think I am getting rather grumpy…


Fingerprint recognition never worked well for me. Facial recognition is a game changer. Lets hope they continue to support and expand its use.


You mean like this? (Also a available via keyboard shortcut identical to finder: cmd-shift-n)


For me, IBM is a case study of companies successfully reinventing themselves. They were floundering in the early 90s and reinvented themselves as a business services company, rather than a technology vendor.

Microsoft is another example, embracing applications, servers and the Internet in the 90s and the cloud today.

Both companies were redefining their focuses on their core identities. The core identities remain the same, though the expressions of those identities are vastly different.

Apple’s core identity is providing excellent end-user experience to people willing to pay a premium for quality.

Also: I’m going to refine a couple of the comments I made in the above article: Sure, the original Mac was revolutionary but it wasn’t enough to keep Apple prosperous. The 1997 iMac was a highly successful product, and the iPod was downright revolutionary. But NONE of these things were successful on the scale of the iPhone. Nothing has ever been as successful as the iPhone – from a business perspective. The iPhone’s growth, and its Android sucessors, literally transformed society, and it was so FAST.

Apple is a boutitque company that surprised itself with a mass-market hit. The thing to do there is NOT try to repeat the miracle again, and just go back to boutique business – with a big cash hoard – while continuing to ride the mass-market hit as long as it can. And the iPhone still has a few years in it, at least.

But will investors allow that?


Okay, now I feel embarrassed , but thanks for the screen shot.


It was underpowered and overpriced. Home computer enthusiasts preferred the C64s, Amigas and even Apple IIs and it failed to get a share of the business market, which went for the XTs.


Apple is no longer on the bleeding edge. I think that’s because stock market forces demand Apple grow revenue and profit quarter-over-quarter, therefore most corporate creative energy needs to be directed at the iPhone, the sales leader.

If the best talent is focused on one product to satisfy Wall Street, innovation will suffer. I’m OK with that, but I understand other’s need for radical change. Maybe the latest financial issue will jumpstart Apple to move forward with something sitting in the skunkworks, just waiting for the motivation and the talent to reclaim the much longed-for innovative label.

@fubar wrote:
I really miss Steve, that adorable misanthrope.

I miss John Belushi.


John Belushi?

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? That John Belushi?


@MitchWagner: Indeed


Apple’s two biggest problems for the future:

1.Apple has built its business until now with product categories that are very useful for normal people, but which are difficult for normal people to use. Personal computers in the 80s and 90s. MP3 players and smartphones in the 2000s. Great ideas but you needed specialized skills to set them up and use them – until Apple came along.

Now Apple’s competitors are making things that are just as good for normal people as Apple’s products. In some cases, as with voice assistants, the competition is just plain better.

  1. The iPhone was and is a one-off windfall. I’ve been struggling to come up with a metaphor for the iPhone’s business trajectory, and failing. Without the iPhone, Apple would be a very successful company, but not the world-dominating company it is today.

We’re now entering the post-iPhone era. The post-smartphone era, in the way that the smartphone ushered in the post-PC era. How does Apple continue to satisfy its customers in these new financial times, when investors are likely to be more micro-managey than they have been since the iPhone launched?


It is possible that the coming 5G era – if deployment is successful – will contribute to the elimination of smartphones altogether. Consider the amount of resources and the costly supply chain that smartphones require to provide us with their magic. What if network efficiencies (in the data network sense, and in the service provider sense) enable a “zero hardware” world, where all we need is high speed networking and a great display. I don’t think we have the architectures yet to do that, but tech companies who are not betting big money to minimize or just get out of hardware and into content and distribution will likely fail in the long run. Someday our grandkids will see an iPhone XR in an exhibit and say “wow, what a boat anchor – all that stuff inside it – and they bought a new one every year after taking out a loan – so old school compared to our bioscreens.”


I don’t even think of the iPhone as a phone. I think it’s the least used feature on mine. :smiley:

I you think about it, it’s a “device I can always have with me and do a lot of things with it”. And it’s very difficult to imagine how it can be improved. I don’t mean more megapixels in the camera or better speakers, I mean the next evolutionary step. You can go in one direction and try to make the device more powerful, more “computery” and then you have the iPad, but you lose portability. Or you can focus on the “always with me” and go are moving towards the watch. The phone form-factor is, IMHO, a sweet spot of usability and portability. And you really fail when moving in another direction. The watch? Forget about it. Google Glass, great idea, big fail…

I really would like to know what the “next thing” that replaces the iPhone would be…but I fail to imagine what it could be.


Interesting. But if we don’t have smartphones, what will provide the hardware? Still need atoms to move bits!


“zero hardware” is obviously hyperbole – my point is the outlay of immense capital and resources focused on producing smartphones can in theory be reduced toward zero as a limit. That’s always been the trend in technology, so no reason to think the trend will end.

Maybe we’ll have implants that activate the visual cortex – tiny hardware implants.


Well, Apple could significantly improve customer retention, lessen churn, improve satisfaction by delivering a “whole” product. Today a whole product has to include the associated services. I could easily see Apple getting an additional $200 - $300 per year on each phone in the US simply by putting together a reasonable and actually working “family plan”. What exists now is pitiful. Photos is a mess in a family context as is iCloud. Apple Music is overpriced and under delivers, it just was made available on Alexa. Clean that up, focus on an “apple” family experience and that would significantly improve their bottom line. They have been dabbling in this area with too many false starts, half hearted attempts that even the most ardent fanboy is weary and wary of anything they might do.

As I previously mentioned, home automation is potentially a huge market, if a player like Apple went in there and made a credible reasonable product. Certainly that market isn’t iPhone size, but lets get real, an iPhone size market comes along once a generation. Voice is another HUGE opportunity that they just have not done in a decent way. It could be so much more and we are so close. Voice represents the ultimate Apple interface, it is an interface that almost completely disappears.


Microsoft recently announced Project xCloud, a streaming gaming platform where everything lives in the cloud. Testing to begin this year. Some are expecting them to follow up in a few years with enterprise streaming - applications, spreadsheets, cad, etc. running in the cloud allowing us to work on any screen, a desktop, or tablet, or . . . phone.


I couldn’t agree more about firing people over Siri. Amazon Alexa makes a mockery of that for sure. In my opinion it’s one of the most embarrassing and obvious failings at the moment.

Having said all that, they were the first to market with such innovative tech in the first place. I just wish they’d pick it up and make it better.

Dark mode is good an all but it’s not helping me organise my life or saving me time.

However, to say Apple isn’t innovative is a hater statement all day long. They have been living in the future for so long it’s taken everyone else this amount of time to catch up.


I wonder what the downside for Apple Inc. would be if Apple licensed Alexa – since Alexa is really a device-independent service, why not, technically? Amazon is quite good at hiving off interesting services into standalone lines of business.

Besides, Bezos might need some extra cash these days for personal reasons.


I can’t see Apple licensing Alexa. Apple’s DNA is to own all the strategic parts of the technology stack. It’s why they only briefly permitted Mac clones. Siri is a strategic part of the technology stack for Apple.