Does Apple need to innovate faster?

Summary:It's been quite a while since Cupertino's last game-changing product.

Michael Krigsman

Michael Krigsman

Yes

or

No

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

Best Argument: Yes

82%
18%

Audience Favored: Yes (82%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Apple has lost its edge

Apple is one of the most innovative companies in the world. Based on the vision of Steve Jobs, it has created products that truly changed the world, such as the Macintosh, iPod, iPad, and App Store. Despite these accomplishments, Apple’s pace of innovation has slowed, causing the company to lose its edge as a market leader.

Aside from creating products that delight consumers and creating an entire industry of app developers, Apple’s relentless and rapid drive for innovation has made investors wealthy. When the company released the iPod in 2001, Apple had less than $5.5 billion in revenue and its stock price hovered around $20; the company’s total market capitalization was $7 billion at that time. Today, Apple’s market capitalization is about $500 billion and its stock price is currently around $500.

Although Apple’s growth has been incredible, the long-term numbers mask intense weakness over the last few years. Since Steve Jobs sad passing, Apple has released extensions to existing products rather than anything profoundly new.

Product line extensions represent a natural evolution for established brands. For example, Apple has released new iPhones, faster laptops, and better screens on the iPad but nothing game changing since the original iPad.

Although lack of innovation may be fine if your company sells detergents or other products that don’t change much over time, it's the kiss of death for a technology company that relies on innovation as the foundation for its existence. Once again, numbers tell the story: Samsung has taken over as the largest smartphone vendor in the world and Android has claimed over 50 percent market share of smartphones.

All of which proves that, yes, Apple needs to innovate faster.

There's more to good timing than simply being first

In an article on the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, our ZDNet colleague Rachel King used the headline " Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch  looks rushed, missed the mark ".

My position for this debate is easy: "What's the point of being first, if you're just going to do a rubbish job?"

Apple has come out with poor products in the past, but it's also come out with some stonkingly good ones. I would suggest that "faster" isn't the right way to look at the temporality of consumer-facing tech product design. The trick has to be to hit the most appropriate time.

If Apple is being "too slow" in terms of their innovation, it might not be their problem. We might not be ready for what they have.

Related coverage:

The Rebuttal

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Is Apple getting old and slow?

    It's time to start our debate. This week our debaters will argue whether Apple needs to be quicker on its upgrade cycle. Debaters ready?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    I'm set

    Apple is losing its luster.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    Ready here

    The question is "why"?

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Apple's quiet time

    Can we start by all agreeing that it's been a slow year for Apple so far? How much has this dearth of new products hurt Apple?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Apple is slowing down

    Apple has been slow this year, despite the importance of 2013 as a point in which the entire mobile market is growing and evolving rapidly. For both consumers and the enterprise, mobility and the consumerization of IT have changed the game on how we work, play, and communicate.

    Apple was once the leader, innovating rapidly and bringing the most interesting products in the world to market. Today, the company lives on past success and future promises, without the innovation we expect.

    So, yes, the lack of new products has hit Apple hard. For proof, look no farther than Apple’s poor stock performance, which is truly a measure of confidence in the company

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    No rush

    Coming back to my opening argument, why do they need to keep rushing products out of the door?

    What they have out there product-wise is great. The only thing I think they are missing a trick on -- and really need to fix -- is the size of the iPhone's display. It's way too small compared to the real action in high-end Android devices.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Why so quiet?

    Why do you think Apple hasn't made any major product releases so far in 2013? Will the company make up for it with a big fall?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    It misses Steve Jobs

    Under the guidance of Steve Jobs, Apple truly sweated the details to make sure everything was great before releasing a product. This worked incredibly well because Jobs had the vision and genius to create a stream of products that were genuine game changers. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad were so far ahead of the competition precisely because of Jobs’ ability to peer into the future and touch human needs so deeply.

    Today, Apple continues that relentless drive for quality, but has fewer world-changing ideas. Since Jobs set the bar so high, the company is reluctant to release products unless they are “insanely great,” to use his term. Apple’s strategy is to release only the best products, regardless of how long it takes. In the absence of world-changing ideas, however, that strategy does not work because innovative competitors are not waiting around.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    Few needs

    My best guess as to why they haven't is that they haven't found any particular need in the market to fill. I'd struggle to buy into the idea that they have some sort of internal crisis without that particular idea filling the rumour mill.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Apple's mobile position

    What are the most important data points that tell us about Apple's current state in the mobile device market?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Smartphone market share tells all

    The best indicator is market share.  According to IDC, Android has 75 percent of the smartphone market, compared to Apple’s 17 percent. In addition, Samsung holds a much larger share of the world smartphone market than does Apple.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    Profit margin and loyalty

    In smartphones, I'd say the two most important data points are:

    a) How much profit they make compared to the other manufacturers? They do very well at this holding most of the profit.

    b) How good their customer loyalty is -- i.e. how many customers they are leaking from iPhone to Android and Windows Phone, and how many customers they are leaking from iPad to Android.

    That second point becomes more important this holiday season.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Rival gains

    While Apple has been stagnant in 2013, what are the biggest challenges that have arisen from its rivals?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Competition from all sides

    Both Google and Samsung now offer phones and tablets in various sizes, experimenting with various form factors, sizes, and operating system features. In addition, Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia signals that company’s intention to be a major player in the smartphone market.

    As Apple sits still, competitors are extending the concept of mobile devices and releasing numerous products. Samsung even introduced a smart watch ahead of Apple’s anticipated offering.

    The ecosystem threat is equally significant. As Apple slides, the Android and Microsoft software environment will grow. Email, music, and other services tempt buyers to each platform and exciting hardware is an important part of that equation.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    Crowded territory

    This question talks more towards market maturation than product development. We're past the point where we (as in vendors and customers combined) are choosing what these things should look like and what they should do. We're now in a place where competitors loop around each other picking ideas and making incremental improvements.

    That then is Apple's biggest problem -- they had a lot of territory to themselves, and now other companies are fighting them for it.

    This is, of course, great for us as customers of Apple and Apple's competitors.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    The pressure is on Apple

    Updates to the iPhone and iPad product lines are imminent. Do you expect that Apple will do enough to keep up its mobile rivals?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    No radical changes expected

    Second guessing Apple is a no-win task, given the company’s legendary secrecy. Most likely, Apple will release cheaper phones and enhance its iPad line with more storage, faster processors, and better screens. These changes are product line extensions rather than true innovation.

    Although better hardware is great, especially at low prices, none of these changes come close to the full-blown innovation the company delivered in the past.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    Biggest iPhone, iPad needs

    Apple's biggest problem with the iPad is that it's looking a little expensive compared to the increasingly capable and attractive Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab 2 tablets.

    With the iPhone, the biggest problem is the screen size, as mentioned before.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Mac changes?

    Beyond phones and tablets, do you expect that Apple will make a big update its to Macs? How important will that be to the Apple's development, with the computer market being in a such a slump?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Don't count Apple out

    Apple announced a new high-end Mac earlier this year. It is a magnificent achievement, even with a price tag that relegates the product to niche status among video and audio production facilities.

    As with phones and iPads, new Macs will offer better features and components, starting at reasonable prices. Even though the computer market is less interesting these days, it is still important and Apple will not be left out.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    Stay the course

    It is quite nice being a MacBook customer and not being constantly bombarded with new products, or a million variations of a single product!

    I presume you mean the "PC market" rather than the "computer market" -- smartphones and tablets and moving pretty well.

    No one, yet, has done a better job of moving from the lacklustre PC market into the rich-in-profits post-PC market. That could only happen with properly-applied innovation, which lends credibility to a "slow and steady wins the race" approach.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Software showdown

    With iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks releasing soon, is Apple doing enough to innovate its software platforms?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Incremental updates

    iOS 7 brings a new user experience with lots of feature updates. It’s all good, but does not change the world. Incremental updates are wonderful but we should not confuse them with deep innovation.

    OSX Mavericks is the same story – better features, streamlining, and lots of nice-to-haves. Will these changes offer intense greatness that demand we upgrade? No, they won’t.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    Stability first, new features later

    The core OS cadence for desktop and mobile is probably OK. That is an area where people really need stability, rather than new features.

    Where innovation needs to be faster -- and then it's probably more about "improvement through iteration" in true software engineering terms than just "innovation" -- is in the apps. I'd like to see Siri substantially better, their mapping products better, etc.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Tune in to Apple TV

    How about Apple TV? With the momentum around Xbox and Google Chromecast, how much does Apple need to do there?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Return to the glory days

    Apple TV is really about two things: hardware and ecosystem. Although Apple can certainly do great, wonderful things with hardware, it has lost the window of opportunity where hardware alone can shape the market. Today, the Apple TV must include relationships with movie studios, television networks, and other content providers. However, these groups are gun shy, after learning the hard way, with iTunes, that Apple can reshape their market in ways that are unattractive to them.

    However, Apple is one of the few companies in the world that could announce products and an ecosystem that change television and movie distribution as we know them today. If that happens, especially a low cost, then Apple may be able to reassert its dominance and former glory.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    Google's the biggest threat

    For me, Google is following Apple with the Chromecast by releasing a device along similar ubiquituous computing (ubicomp) principles.

    Microsoft's approach with Xbox is totally barking up the wrong tree. The cable companies will never allow a strong Xbox proposition to sit between their content and their customers. For another thing, the Xbox makes one TV in the house special, whereas the reality is all devices are becoming TVs.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Wearables

    What about wearable computing? Will Apple make its entrance into this market this fall and do you expect that it can jump in and lead the market?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Great future but...

    Wearable computing is important and Apple will release products in this market. Its ability to lead the market depends on price, features, software, and integration with the ecosystem. If an Apple watch is reasonably priced, has lots of sensors (for health and motion, as examples), fantastic design, and shares data with other services then perhaps it will take off. No one doubts Apple’s ability to do this well, but the wearable market is still too new to make solid predictions on whether consumers will buy these devices in massive quantities. 

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    No market...yet

    I can see why Apple isn't moving into the wearables space. The only big sector of that market is smartwatches, and that is *exactly* the part of the market that you don't want to rush into. (See my opener and reference to Rachel King's piece about how ropey the Samsung Galaxy Gear seems to be.)

    Again: don't be first, be best.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Apple TV -- sets

    And of course, we have to talk about the mythical Apple HDTV set. Is it coming this fall? Would it be wise or a folly for Apple to do it at all?

    Posted by Jason Hiner

    Must be incredibly good

    Everyone has a television, so the market is clearly large. However, the real question is whether Apple can release a TV that is just so incredibly good that millions of people will dump their current set and buy one from Apple. The features needed to do that are a Steve Jobs vision and genius question, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Michael Krigsman

    I am for Yes

    No way

    I don't think Apple will ever do a dedicated TV set. Apple tends to build new markets and own them first. There's already too much action in the TV market.

    Matt Baxter-Reynolds

    I am for No

  • Great Debate Moderator

    Applause

    Thanks to the debaters for setting up Tuesday's Apple announcement and thanks to you for joining in. Don't forget closing statements are posted on Wednesday and my final verdict will be published on Thursday. Don't forget to vote and please add your comments.

    Posted by Jason Hiner

Closing Statements

Apple is lost

Michael Krigsman

It is sad and hard to acknowledge that Apple’s glory days of innovation are past. My worthy debate opponent argues that Apple’s products are so good that short-term product delays don’t matter in the larger scheme of Apple greatness.

This tempting argument is wrong, however, because the company has run out of “insanely great” ideas. That the real problem and explains why the company once known as the world’s innovation king is now relegated to product line extensions and little more.

We all miss Steve Jobs’ vision and he did change the world. Today, sadly, Jobs is gone and Apple is lost. Sure, the products are still great but they are not fundamentally new. The recent announcement of new iPhones just confirms the verdict: innovation is history and new products are nowhere to be found.

Please vote yes and send a message to Apple that we want more!

They're doing fine

Matt Baxter-Reynolds

I'm writing this a couple of hours after Apple has announced the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C . What have they innovated?

They've brought in a new 64-bit processor -- the first of its kind in the mobile space. They're trying to take an end-run around local user security by making biometric authentication easy. They've also introduced new photo features to cement the cameraphone/smartphone combo front-and-centre in the user's digital life.

Most importantly, though, the iPhone 5C is taking the identity of the smartphone and reworking it into a new fashion trend. Splashy, pastel colours with mix and match cases. A (hopefully) new way of making a post-PC device's software look in iOS7.

Is this really not fast enough? Apple are innovating -- I'm not sure whether what we're expecting at technologists is that well matched with the non-technologists in the market actually need?

Trust me, they're doing fine.

No longer the undisputed market leader

Jason Hiner

The Apple innovation question is top-of-mind following the launch of the latest iPhones. Is Apple still doing enough to be considered a market leader in mobile devices? As Matt points out, the company has never been on the bleeding edge. It's mostly focused on being really good at bringing important innovations to consumers at just the right time that they are ready for them and when those innovations can be delivered at a reasonable cost and in a customer-centric way. 
 
Nevertheless, Apple is under intense pressure from Samsung and other Android device makers. Companies that used to simply follow Apple's lead on every move are now iterating faster at refining and introducing features in smartphones and tablets. Apple remains one of the market leaders, but it's no longer the undisputed market leader.
 
So, Michael gets the win on this one.

Topics: Great Debate

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

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