Apple customers now on the front lines of 'creative destruction'

Apple customers now on the front lines of 'creative destruction'

Summary: Note to iPhone customers: stop whining about Apple orphaning your hardware and software. It's all a part of Apple's "creative destruction" of its own hardware and software base. And if you really thought about it, you might not want it any other way.


Newcomers to Apple products, both customers and developers, sounded off recently about Cupertino orphaning their investment in iOS peripherals using the 30-pin dock connector, and complained loudly about the abandonment of support for Google Maps.

Longtime Mac users would advise advise them to get used to the change and enjoy the roller-coaster ride.

According to generations of economists, "creative destruction," is the term that describes progress in an economy. Things change and there are structural winners and losers. What's good for some is bad for others. There's a rabbinic saying on the subject: "A heavy rain may be good for the fields, but is bad for the roads." And this concept is now applied to everything under the sun, including your iPhone.

See also: Apple Maps: You can't get there from here! | Woz: Apple Maps disappointing, but flaws 'not that severe' | Apple iPhone 5 first impressions Apple iOS 6 map flap gives Google geolocation advantage | iPhone 5 teardown highlights | Apple takes Maps to the precipice

The complaints about the introduction of the iPhone  5's new Lightning connector keep coming daily. Hotels that recently purchased mass quantities of clock radios with 30-pin docks reportedly are freaking out about the obsolescence. If you've owned several iPhones or iPods, you likely have a drawer full of adapters, cables and iOS peripherals, such as speakers, cases, boom boxes, and automobile systems. All use the now-orphaned connector.

No doubt, Lightning is better. It was necessary to make the iPhone smaller, but it has more technology built into it. According to Apple, the new connector is faster, bidirectional and more robust. You can see the giant, old and tiny, new connectors in this image from the iFixit teardown of the iPhone 5. Apple Insider reports that the connector will support connections to USB devices such as keyboards and cameras similar to the iPad's Apple Camera Connection Kit. Interesting.

It's a bit bewildering to hear the complaints from retailers, business owners and developers. The iPhone 4S is still being sold with the older connector. Apple in its July fiscal Q3 earnings call with analysts said that a total of 410 million modern iOS devices have been sold over time, and 45 million sold in Q3 alone. Certainly, the dominant installed base of iOS users will be using the older connector for a long while.

Meanwhile nobody is happy with the sub-par performance of the Apple Maps app, which is variously described as a "failure," "headache" or a "buggy wrong turn." All negative descriptions are clever and correct.

At the New York Times, Joe Nocera calls forth the mythos of Steve Jobs in a rant about the Maps performance as well as saying there's nothing new or innovative with the iPhone 5. Worse, he says, the move from Google Maps to Apple Maps is counterproductive and protectionist.

And you can see it in the decision to replace Google’s map application. Once an ally, Google is now a rival, and the thought of allowing Google to promote its maps on Apple’s platform had become anathema. More to the point, Apple wants to force its customers to use its own products, even when they are not as good as those from rivals. Once companies start acting that way, they become vulnerable to newer, nimbler competitors that are trying to create something new, instead of milking the old. Just ask BlackBerry, which once reigned supreme in the smartphone market but is now roadkill for Apple and Samsung.

Even before Jobs died, Apple was becoming a company whose main goal was to defend its business model. Yes, he would never have allowed his minions to ship such an embarrassing application. But despite his genius, it is unlikely he could have kept Apple from eventually lapsing into the ordinary. It is the nature of capitalism that big companies become defensive, while newer rivals emerge with better, smarter ideas.

While Nocera's thesis may be proven over the course of many years, it's doubtful that it can be seen in the short term. There are many question behind the "embarrassing application." Is Apple being "defensive," or is it implementing a technology extension that will be necessary for its future integration and quality? Or that it doesn't want to rely on an aggressive competitor its future product plans?

Protectionism isn't always bad. I've been to industry standards meetings and it's hard for the layman to imagine the minute engineering details that companies seek for their products, on the hardware side and for APIs. One of Apple's advantages in the market is its control over integration and the changeover for Maps may be seen in that light. There's a lot more to Maps than just the map on the screen: there's connecting the user to the map, the hardware to server-side network and to the advertisement network, and so on.

I would add that users and pundits become jaded over time and find it difficult to judge the impact of technology announcements at introduction. Of course, an evolutionary product doesn't have the same wow factor with each new iteration. Or we can't imagine the real-world use from a technology demo. I've heard this same complaint with Macintosh models, software introductions and operating systems.

Worse, it's sometimes hard to tell what is amazing. I recall watching an early demo of what became Google Maps (or something like it) at a JavaWorld San Francisco some time in the early 2000s — a script returned a map. It was shown in a small mini-booth by a couple of programmers. Cool. But when that map was tied in with GPS, a smartphone and apps, the whole thing became a fantastic solution.

A bit of history: Apple Board vacancy: Good riddance to Eric Schmidt

Longtime Mac users have had experience with "quick" hardware and software changes. For example, over recent years, Apple has been stripping away classic Mac vestiges for its now-OS X machines. And we are mostly happy with the result: faster and more robust machines, more powerful expansion and interesting new services.

Certainly, Jobs knew that change was hard and disruptive, but sometimes needed to be suffered. He killed the Mac licensing program in the late 1990s. He moved the platform to Intel. Apple has been aggressive in performance and compatibility

Apple keeps pushing hardware transitions such as the Lightening iPhone connector, or from FireWire to Thunderbolt, Core Duo to Core 2 Duo, and changes in the MagSafe connector. Or on the API front with the end of Rosetta (ask a Quicken for Mac user). This is a much different situation than on the Wintel platform.

What is the most strange part of Nocera's rant is his invocation of what Jobs would and wouldn't want. There's a good chance that this switch was green-lighted by Jobs, even in its current lackluster state. Such decisions aren't taken quickly nor lightly, even knowing that there was a slim chance that Apple could make up Google's technological lead of almost a decade in several years. It was Jobs who went ballistic over Google's invasion into Apple's turf and he knew that this fight wouldn't be easy.

Yes, Maps sucks right now. It will likely improve. Users should understand that creative destruction is a part of Apple platforms.

Topics: Apple, Apps, Google, iOS, Laptops, Operating Systems

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  • Hmmmmm

    Yes, there's something called "creative destruction".

    But there's also something called "fascism" and apple's model is closer to that.

    But for sure, keep telling yourself apple bullying everybody out of its increasingly closed ecosystem (and, worse, bullying competitors out of the market) is for our own good!

    Aaron Darc
    • Re: Hmmmmm

      Right on!
      Hector Munoz
      • The author is wrong!

        It's not creative destruction, it's planned obsolescence! That's not the same thing because Apple has done this several times when it doesn't technically advance anything significant for the platform.

        Changing the dock connector is one of those things. Apple could just have easily put in a microUSB port and gone along with the standards of the day. There is a global initiative regarding things like this that agree on a standard and work on improving and developing those standards going forward so everyone benefits.
    • Agree 100%

      Instead of having a normal micro-USB that would benefit everyone in the world, they opted to have their own little connector with almost no added functionality, mostly to preserve their dominance and refuse integration with other devices. Oh, and make lots of extra money on connector licensing and adapter sales.
      • They're all jerking us around.....

        Remember the mini USB? Got plenty of those left over.
      • EU Standards?

        Two years ago, the EU introduced a standard for cell phone charging, requiring micro-USB capability. Apparently, Apple's response this is micro-USB charging via an adapter, rather than plugging directly into the phone, which is allowed by the EU policy. Although Apple isn't required to include an actual micro-USB port directly on the iPhone, I wonder if the adapter will be standard for EU iPhone customers.
      • The problems with micro-USB...

        One of the problems with micro-USB is that you can't plug it in "upside down". Personally, one of the most frustrating things about the current 30-pin connector is that, in the dark, I've got a 50% of having the plug oriented correctly. To make things worse, because the plug is rather finicky even when you *do* have it oriented correctly, you can't just use the method of "try to plug it in and, if it doesn't go, then it must be upside-down" because it *might* be right-side-up and you're just trying to plug it a little crooked. The new connector, it just plugs right in... self-straightening, either orientation. Now, you may never need to plug your phone in in the dark, but I do that every night, so this is a welcome aspect of the connector, for me.

        Secondly, Apple doesn't want people plugging ugly 5-dollars-for-a-dozen-including-shipping-from-China micro-USB cords into their lovely phones. They want their products to look slick in all aspects (in fact, you can actually attribute Apple's resurgence to the popularity of the iPod, and the popularity of the iPod to the fact that Steve Jobs *insisted* that the headphones be *white* to match the device). If you're going to call that fascism, then at least call it a "fascism of style".

        Third, there's no telling what Apple is going to be able to do with the bi-directional capability of the interface. Right now, all we can do with it is sync and charge, but I'm betting that Apple has a lot more tricks up their sleeve with this.

        In summary, I'm willing to grant Apple a pass on this. When I get my next iPhone, I'm one of those dudes who's going to have to either buy a few extra cables or a few of the old-to-new-style converters. But the 30-pin connector is the same one that has been with us since the first iPod. 10 years! The things we need to do with our devices has changed since then (nobody needed to plug in a keyboard to their iPod). Apple has probably been wishing they could change the connector for years, now, but knew that there'd be this kind of backlash. I imagine that they just couldn't put it off any longer.

        Apple isn't the first tech company to have to ask their user-base to tolerate a transition like this, either. When Intel switched away from segment-based memory management to the 386-style addressing, that required that a lot of stuff be re-written or, at least, re-compiled. Intel kept an 8086 mode in their processors for a while but they knew that (as an Intel interviewer told a friend of mine when he was applying for a job there, and I quote...) "There comes a time when we must break from the mistakes of the past". I'm sure there are dozens more examples, but Intel is the one which leaps to my mind at the moment.

        Yeah, the connectors are expensive right now because the only ones available are made from Apple and those are probably guaranteed for a long time, and they're all shiny and awesome and packaged by doe-eyed virgins floating on clouds. Soon, however, Belkin and Griffin and countless Chinese manufacturers will have their sources for the internal electronics for those connectors and we'll start seeing much cheaper alternatives. Meanwhile, those of you who are sticking with your existing iPhones and iPods, you're in luck; there's about to be a *flood* of used 30-pin connector cables on eBay and they're going to get really, really cheap.
        • The ah-ha moment

          "Apple doesn't want people plugging ugly 5-dollar micro-USB cords into their lovely phones."

          Though I used iPods from the beginning, I've often why I've never really gotten on the Apple band wagon. I like the products well enough, and I think Steve Jobs had an amazing, if complex, career. But I'm simply not the kind of person who wants to spend a lot of money just to have a pretty cable. In fact, I'm sitting here now staring at my Apple iPod cable and my USB cable and trying to decide if one is "prettier" than the other. It's definitely one of the weirdest, and most meaningless, things I have done in quite some time.

          I have to remember this. It is a deep insight into the mind of Apple users. "[U]gly 5-dollar micro-USB cords." Amazing! In fact, I had to go back and check that I did not read this: "[y]ou can actually attribute Apple's resurgence" to the aesthetic beauty of their 30 pin cables. That's not quite what is said, but it kind of seems that way in retrospect. Just incredible!
        • Ability to plug something in upside down is a plus?

          I don't think so. You can't plug in a standard USB upside down, either. That's a big plus, because if you could, you would probably blow something all to hell and gone. That's why they've made computer ports irreversible for a long time now. Safety first!
          • Except if it works...

            I personally wish more things were reversible. I understand many devices are not smart enough and you could blow something, but if it was smart enough that would be great. Many times I waste room on a power supple because a bug clunky one only fits one way.
            However, we're talking about a "smart standard" that does not blow anything because there is no "wrong way" to plug it in. Definitely an improvement.
          • Nothing Smart in the Tech....

            Only in the marketing of the connector.

            It just has 8 pins on both sides. So which ever side makes contact with the phone, it works. Simple enough, but the pins are exposed unlike micro USB.

            It looks simpler, and better. But they deviated from a world standard, and are forcing their users (and accessory makers) to use this connector, only to make more money.

            A reversible connector is not a big deal. Has never been till now, before Apple marketed it. Most electronic products connect only one way like, USB, Ethernet cable, SIM cards, SD Card, Batteries of all sort etc.
          • How hard can it be?

            To plug the cable in correctly? Improvement? You forgot your cable at home and your superior phone runs out of battery (just like every other phone), tough luck!
          • Uhmm no...

            Yes, a keyed interface is important when polarity matters. How you fault a reversible solution as somehow bad is asinine.

            Seems you have it backward. Do you think plugging in a lighting cable will result in what you describe? Of course it won't. The reversibility isn't only for the CONSUMER directly but also for the design and manufacturers. If you don't have to worry about orientation then perhaps there is more freedom in design and manufacture? Have you considered that? I'll be you aren't smart enough to have done so. In fact I'll be you don't even understand it now that it has been dropped in your lap...
        • F**k me

          a bad case of fanboism if i saw one. I mean its so hard to deal with a 50% chance of plugging it in the correct way. life is sooooooooo hard
        • your 2nd paragraph... really

          "Secondly, Apple doesn't want people plugging ugly 5-dollars-for-a-dozen-including-shipping-from-China micro-USB cords into their lovely phones"

          @joe you forget one Major problem with that statement. Apples crap, along with 70% of the worlds crap is Made In China. So guess what buddy. You will still get the 5-dollars-for-a-dozen-including-shipping-from-China cords.

          Think harder before typing or re-read your stuff before posting. LOL!
          Free Webapps
        • Re: The problem with............................

          Quoting from you:

          "Secondly, Apple doesn't want people plugging ugly 5-dollars-for-a-dozen-including-shipping-from-China micro-USB cords into their lovely phones." Your statement.

          Last time I knew the Apple line is made at FoxCon which if memory serves me right is in China. Made in China for Apple to Apple specifications. By golly you can tell it's swell it was made in China! RRIIIGGGGHHHHHTTTTTT! NOT!!!!!!!!

          Oh, I get it , you just don't want the Chinese knock-offs! It's okay that the Apple product was made in China.
        • Opinion from the Devil?

          Joe@, you are simply defending for Apple! But then, you must be rich, too much disposable income, and last but not the least, put the corporate greed above function/cost/performance-to-cost-index. The micro-USB is perfectly fine: cheap, functional, smaller and neater than the new iPhone connector. If all OEMs have the attitude similar to Apple, we are all going to have a bunch of obselete cables and connectors in the drawers. Worst still, the new iPhone connector is a huge user-inconvenience. Imagine that you are traveling and want to borrow a charger for your smartphone, what is the odd of being able to borrow a charger with micro-USB connector vs a charger with the proprietary iPhone connector!!
          • I have a couple micro USB devices...

            The tips bend and crack and come loose all the time. I think my phone is charging and it's not because the tiny thing won't stay in the tiny slot. If Apple has a better idea I trust they know what they are talking about. Of the major tech company, NO one takes more creative risk than Apple. That does not equal greed, but an evolving vision. Just saying.
        • And this one not finicky????

          "...To make things worse, because the plug is rather finicky even when you *do* have it oriented correctly..." And then you think you are in luck with the new connector. They are hoping competitors will adopt their stupid connector and sue them out of business. Fat chance!!!
      • You think more than twice as many contacts is...

        "... little more functionality"? Believe what you will; meanwhile I'll do more with my Lightning connector than you'll ever do with that micro-USB connector.