The 'next iPad': Is Apple running out of ideas?

The 'next iPad': Is Apple running out of ideas?

Summary: Apple faces a difficult year with not the "new iPad", but the next iPad.


It has been less than a week since Apple announced the new iPad. Already speculation has begun as to what the next-generation iPhone will be called --- probably "the new iPhone" --- and what the smartphone will offer.

The next iPhone will be easy for Apple. A lot of what we expect today will be what will go into the device.

Slap in 4G LTE capabilities, beef up the battery if possible, and update the operating system to iOS 6, and include some funky new software technologies. Seeing as iWallet could be a reality, NFC-enabled payments are likely, and the usual incremental processor and memory increases are likely. Apple could redesign the shell and casing if there isn't enough that can go into physically inside it.

The next iPad, however, will be Apple's greatest headache. What could possibly be next, with technologies that must be available now or in use enough in a year's time for when the next iPad is ready for launch?

Y Combinator founder Paul Graham thinks Apple's creative innovation stemmed from the late Steve Jobs himself. Via Business Insider:

"I was talking recently to someone who knew Apple well, and I asked him if the people now running the company would be able to keep creating new things the way Apple had under Steve Jobs. His answer was simply "no." I already feared that would be the answer. I asked more to see how he'd qualify it.

But he didn't qualify it at all. No, there will be no more great new stuff beyond whatever's currently in the pipeline. Apple's revenues may continue to rise for a long time, but as Microsoft shows, revenue is a lagging indicator in the technology business."

But it's not about what Apple wants to give us. It's about what will subdue the growling underbelly of the consumer market.

The iPhone and iPad play technological cat and mouse. Each device passes the baton to the next iteration of its sibling counterpart. Bring the Retina display to the iPhone, and next it comes to the iPad. 4G LTE arrived in the iPad first as it holds a better battery life, while the next iPhone will likely follow suit. Rinse and repeat.

Apple could hit a roadblock if it cannot find enough innovation to wedge into the next iPad. If Apple does suffer a lack of innovation, could this iPad be the last one for a while? The company keeps its year-long record of announcing a new iPhone or iPad, but breaking consistency from hereon it would signal the company's difficulties.

Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple's design chief, in a rare interview discussed the process of how a new product comes about. Speaking to London's Evening Standard, he said:

"What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but then the next day there is an idea."

"Our goals are very simple --- to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it."

And there we have it: Apple's "get-out" clause. If it can't innovate, it won't innovate.

The next big thing to look out for is Apple's long-awaited iTV, which is expected to be a fully-fledged television rather than the Apple TV set-top box that the company currently purveys. The company may struggle to innovate, but if it breaks into an already-established market with a product of its own, there is all but no doubt that consumers will jump for the Apple-branded product anyway.

The iPhone 4S was "disappointing" in the eyes of analysts, yet went on to achieve record sales with 4 million sales in the first weekend alone. The new iPad went a similar way but with a warmer reception, as it sold out within days of its announcement and pushed back shipping dates by three or four days.

Apple receives 76 percent of its revenue from iOS devices, including the iPhone, the iPad and its lesser-bought sibling, the iPod touch. For Apple to maintain its $500 a share value and remain a global dominating force in consumer computing and electronics, it has to hold onto its iOS revenue stream for as long as it can.

Apple, simply put, cannot afford to fail to innovate with the next iPad.

Image source: CNET.


Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPhone, iPad, Mobility, Smartphones

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • You can "hold position" until a clearly-better idea comes along.

    Apple doesn't need to innovate with every device cycle; they're operating from a position of strength right now and until the next big idea comes along, they can hold that position of strength with just incremental improvements: More RAM, more CPU, more graphics performance, more battery life, a better camera, etc.

    Look at how long Symbian lasted in the marketplace with very little actual innovation!

    But once *ANYONE* has "the next big idea", the game changes. At that point, the company with that next big idea can take marketshare from the incumbent. So it's essential for Apple that they invent the next big idea, and relatively soon.

    Or, just like Symbian showed us, they can be entirely evicted from the market very, very fast.

    • No, they cannot...

      Benchmarks have shown the iPad 2 actually only had two strengths over its competitors...

      Out of all the common benchmarks the iPad 2 topped the Graphics and Java Compilers...

      It lost in RAW CPU and every browser mark but HTML5... Literally, the CPU heavy BenchIt and Stockfish, pretty much every benchmark favored the competition at roughly 5:1 ratios...

      Of course, modern GPUs trounce CPUs at every turn so Apple is presently in a position of strength, you are right about that.

      Where Apple has a problem is that it does not own Imagination Technologies and that company has already licensed their 6th gen GPU technology to both Sony and Samsung (TI cannot be far behind).

      What this means? Sony, with a successor to the feature rich Tablet S, sporting a Qualcom CPU and 6th Gen PowerVR, will effectively end the biggest advantage that Apple has in the GPU and the other two features are software based.

      I guess, my only question is, what took these people so long to figure out they needed the best mobile GPU on the market to compete?
      • You know the specs of everything and the value of nothing

        "Benchmarks have shown the iPad 2 actually only had two strengths over its competitors..."-Peter Perry

        I'm guess that you missed the memo - the one that explained that benchmarks are not the be all and end all in technology products?

        If you keep touting specs, Peter, and you keep ignoring software and hardware integration, an intuitive interface, hardware design, over all user experience, customer satisfaction ratings, the retail experience, iTunes, the App Store, and iCloud, you will never understand why Apple is so successful.
  • Paul Graham said "No" to the question can Apple continue to innovate.

    Obviously, that was one and only one opinion and that opinion did not come from Sir Jonathan Ive.

    New technology is always invented and I would, if I were a betting man, place my bets that Apple could harness any future tech and create new products in a way that continues the tradition of Apple products introduced under Steve Job's watch.
  • Not much left for innovation in iPad

    There is not much to innovate in the iPad left, besides better GPU, more RAM, even better cameras, less weight.

    Tactile surfaces are out of picture since these make image less clear and crisp and get micro scratches very easily. 3D screen is also out of option in the nearest years.

    In the future it is possible that Apple will be able to move from aluminium cases to "liquid metal" ones, for which the company has exclusive license for use in mobile devices. Apparently, not now, since this material is too expensive yet.

    The innovation will be on software side, where true 3D maps will appear, and possibly other things.
  • New case...

    The biggest complaint I hear about from iPhone 3GS owners, is that the 4 / 4S feels "horrible" in the hand. They are waiting for the next iteration, before upgrading in the hope that the next version will "feel" better.

    To be honest, I think iOS needs a facelift. The whole GUI feels "so 2007". There is nothing inherrently wrong with iOS, but next to Android, with its widgets and clean text and Windows Phone 7's "flat" Metro look, iOS somehow feels "old".

    That said, the experience in iOS is a lot more coherent than Android, as the developers of 3rd party apps have to follow a lot of Apple's guidelines in order to appear in the app store.
    • Interesting.

      You think iOS 'looks' old, and yet it's 'more coherent.' Which is more important to the user?
      • Depends

        There are two users:
        One likes "new"
        Other likes "coherent"
        Then there is a super-user who likes "new and coherent"
        World is very complicated...
      • Umm no

        Gimped does not = More Coherent! It just means less features and anyone that believes modern Android is difficult to use, hasn't used it!
    • RE: Next iPhone

      In all honestly, I don't think the next iPhone will be radically re-designed. Performance-wise, the 4S is already very good. If anything, I predict Apple does the following;

      Keep the same basic shape as the 4 / 4S but make it thinner (from 9.3mm to less than 8mm) and lighter using different materials

      Improve the processor performance incorporating a processor based on the Cortex A15 CPU & PowerVR Rogue GPU

      Add 4G LTE

      Add NFC

      Same battery life as the 4S

      Improved camera

      That's it. I don't think they'll use a bigger screen or change the resolution if for any reason other than to make it easier on developers. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. The 4S is a great phone and the sales for it are off the charts.

      As for iOS, I too think it's time for iOS to get a facelift, if not this year, definitely by next year.
  • Journalism, please?

    What prompts me to comment is not the article itself, which seems to be low grade link-bait tripe, but the inclusion of a quote from someone who Paul Graham claims "knew Apple well". That anyone would base anything off this comment is laughable: presumably Paul Graham knows who this is but you don't. For all you know, it could be Rob Enderle making that comment, and he's been wrong about Apple so many times that he's useful as an anti-barometer.

    For the record, I know Apple well and I think they will be able to continue to innovate without Steve Jobs. I don't expect anyone to use this comment as proof of anything, though.
  • Not much innovation left???? Don't think so.

    I you read Apple patents, you'll see they have quite a bit of futuristic technology they are working on including tactile feedback, 3D maps, advanced your controls, 3D user interfaces, etc. So saying that this could be Apples last great iPad is very short sided. This company was not just Steve Jobs, it is thousands of creative employees and under the guidance of John Ivie you can bet this company is just getting started. We all know Jobs was incredible and irreplaceable, but he had years to put in place a team of truly talented people behind this great American icon of a company.
  • Zack the soothsayer

    Apple has no ideas. That's the thought for today.

    This article was written in an alternate universe where "reality" is the opposite of reality in this universe.

    Harvey Lubin
    • Answer this...

      What revolutionary idea is on the iPad 3? Oh, sorry... the new iPad!

      Honeslty, a 3rd grader could have come up with these changes!
      • You're a second grader then

        Peter, your comment is literally wrong - seriously, show me a third grader who could do anything even remotely as complex as this? You are just slagging off thousands if not millions of people with hard won skills with a rubbish comment like that. As to iPad 3, the screen technology is new, it's not been done before - the fact that is a Samsung product, no doubt under Apple design guidance, tells you something.
  • As long as the culture remains, so do the opportunities.

    As long as Apple maintains a corporate culture that encourages innovation, then there will be opportunities for them to excel. In many other cases (like Symbian) the corporate culture turned against innovation and projects were quashed if they presented any challenge to the entrenched product groups.

    Also, the "next big thing" from Apple may only be peripherally involved with the iPad. It may be something along the lines of iTunes or another "service" as opposed to the hardware platform.
    terry flores
  • Brings me back...

    Your column reminds me of the days when every tech pundit was saying, "yeah, the (original) iMac is cute, but unless Apple can come up with something else new after that, they're dead meat"

    We heard the same after the iPod. And the iPhone. Not so much after the iPad, but here we are again - sure, the Cable/TV paradigm is ripe for revolution, but what will Apple do after _that_, huh?

    Somehow I think they'll come up with something else...the poor guys are just one step ahead of bankruptcy!
  • Companies change

    Sometimes for the worse, sometimes for better. This is certainly true when a founder passes away, as much as it is any other time.

    After Steve Jobs' first departure, Apple remained creative - some of the stuff they did, like the Newton, QuickTime, AppleTalk, and TrueType, were quite creative and definitely forward thinking. What they lacked was discipline.

    And discipline does not seem to be a problem this go around. Who's to say they can't keep going? It is hardly as though Mr. Jobs was the only one working in the design lab.
  • People, please!

    Think about what smartphones were like in January of 2007. Think about what Tablet PCs were like in March of 2010. Hell, think about what portable music players were like in 2001 and what online music stores were like before iTunes-oh, wait.

    It doesn't take an MBA from Wharton to look at Apple and realize that they are in the enviable position of making most of their profits on products that didn't exist 5 years ago. Anyone who thinks they're "running out of ideas" should feel free to Short AAPL. I'm sure it will be a, uh...learning, if not lucrative, experience.
  • The 'next iPad': Is Apple running out of ideas?

    Apple may run out of ideas but they can keep the cash cow going for a long time. Just add one small feature to the iPad every year. This year it was 4G. Next year it will be NFC. The year after it will be whatever the buzz word is. You will always have Apple fans willing to stand in line and buy the new iPad every year.
    Loverock Davidson-