Does Apple need to innovate faster?

Moderated by Jason Hiner | September 9, 2013 -- 07:00 GMT (00:00 PDT)

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.

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50 comments
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  • Innovate... no. Diversify yes.

    They need a fleet and not just a singular device to compete. When it comes to tech, they're good. Except for the whole mapping fiasco.
    mikedees
    Reply 2 Votes I'm for No
    • I don't think Apple needs a fleet.

      A fleet of devices yes, but not of the same device. Apple has a phone, that is enough for their model. I think perhaps two may be too many at this time. A server, a high-end desktop, a low-end desktop, a beefy laptop, a slim laptop, a high capacity ipod, a lightweight ipod, a 10"ish tablet, a 7"ish tablet. Is there room yet for a big-dog phone and a small-dog phone yet? I think there will be, but I don't think the small dog is small enough for starters (not small in size necessarily, but simplicity.)

      There are enough companies already who have a fleet of phones, a fleet of computers, a fleet of mp3 players with varying options and price points. Too many options leave many consumers petrified with indecision, Apple excels at telling customers what they want. They need to stick with the model and create a new catagory just as they've always done. I think when they find their killer features they will release thier TV, they should have a 48"ish and a 72"ish, maybe a 24" kitchen, but every size possible. There are many emerging markets; 3D printers, watches, glasses, biotech/implants; when they find their killer features they will open new simple categories and I think they should stick with this proven model of success.

      For me, I will stick with shopping obscure chinese companies looking for something no one [that I know] in the states has. I will poor over features, prices and reviews, such is my entertainment. I will recommend an Apple to anyone who will never want to dig beneath the skin of their devices. (I don't know if my dad will forgive me for recommending an iPhone to him, he talked himself into it though, lol.)

      If Apple becomes a company like every other company, when they only have a 10th of the potential customers paying for each device because they have 10 devices in each catagory. When they have to spend a 10th of their potential budget developing each of their 10 devices, only making them a 10th as good. When they become like every other company, which they will someday (hopefully not today), they will loose their edge, their appeal and innovation.

      My 2 cents.
      shadfurman
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
    • Innovation is important longterm

      but for now Apple make lots and lots more money than their competitors.
      In fact, they stand head and shoulders above the others.
      But it would certainly be nice to see something new from them.
      I'm NOT holding my breath for anybody else to revolutionize the tech world like Apple have.
      Apple is Apple, no one is like Apple.
      Mikael_z
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
  • bigger screen

    just have bigger screen and apple is all set because their ios gets a significant upgrade.
    rv498
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Yes
  • Apple MUST continue to be perceived as innovative ...

    ... regardless of reality. When Jobs returned to Apple, he fashioned the "new Apple" as a leader in innovation. Apple built up a reputation of producing premium products at premium prices. Apple products look really "sexy" - style over substance, if you will. This is one of the reasons why Apple customers are loyal - almost to a fault!

    Let's face it, I can buy a MacBook Air with an 11" screen and an Intel Core i5 processor for $999 or I can buy a Windows Core i5 notebook for as little as $499.

    For that extra money, the MacBook Air is prettier. It is more durable, it is lighter, it has a longer battery life.

    On the other hand, the Windows Notebook is more flexible. There are more vendors, more options, more applications. Some would argue that the Windows notebook is also more complicated to learn to use.

    These differences have kept Apple competitive and profitable despite the nearly 10:1 difference in market share between Windows and Mac OS X.

    Enter the tablet. By any measure, the tablet is a far simpler device to learn to use than either Windows or Macintosh computers and while far less powerful, a tablet can easily meet 90% of the typical consumer's needs.

    Apple had the good fortune to be the first to turn the iPhone into a tablet but it didn't take long for the Android smartphone OEMs to figure out how to do the same with their devices.

    Like Microsoft, Apple cannot live on the razor-thin margins that Windows and Android OEMs must live on so they must continue to foster that image of creating technically superior products at those premium prices. With Steve Jobs gone, Tim Cook (or his eventual successor) has a tough job ahead to avoid being just another tablet maker.

    Between the Amazon tablet line up (all models $499 or less) and the Samsung line-up (also all models $499 or less), the ubiquity of Wi-Fi and the availability of cloud storage, it is going to be more and more difficult to justify Apple's $130 premium for 4G Cellular coverage and $100 premium for incremental capacities greater than 16GB.
    M Wagner
    Reply 5 Votes I'm for Yes
  • Innovation?

    Krigsman, you're not really using the term "innovation" correctly.

    If "innovation" means "first", iPod wasn't the "first" MP3 player by a long chalk. What made the iPod special is that it EXPANDED the category, largely because of iTunes. MP3 players were a tiny niche market before the iPod.

    What you're really saying is: Apple needs to diversify. They need to create more market-leading products in more categories, categories that Apple either creates, reshapes, or greatly expands.

    This is a tall order, but lots of other companies have done it. And not doing this really does signal decline.

    Take Sony and the iPod for example. Sony basically invented portable audio with the Walkman, DiscMan, and NetMD players. It was assumed they were going to dominate MP3 players as well. But hamstringing from Sony Music prevented any Sony MP3 players from taking off.
    rtechie
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Yes
    • Innovation does not necessarily mean first

      Real innovation changes the game -- that requires a great product, brilliant execution, and marketing skill. Apple's past success relied on those three attributes and today is missing the boat.
      mkrigsman@...
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
    • Apple didn't invent the mp3 player

      But they innovated with how to use it. The click-wheel made it very easy to scroll through thousands of songs to find the one you wanted.
      rynning
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
    • Incorrect. The iPod reset the bar for MP3 players

      because it was the first one that didn't suck. It had fast transfer speeds, great capacity, an awesome user interface and a great music management software on the computer side. It was the combination of these USABILITY innovations that made the iPod the giant it was in the market.

      This always amazes me. Ivie pretty much sums up Apple's entire philosophy every time he describes a produce, and people STILL don't get it. Here, let me help: Technology is most successful when it disappears.
      baggins_z
      Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
  • Apple does not innovate

    Apple takes other people's ideas and polishes and markets them. Somehow they get patents for things with boatloads of prior art, which is baffling to me.
    john-whorfin
    Reply 3 Votes I'm for Yes