Control of the entire hardware and software stack has been Apple's advantage with the Mac and the iDevices. That's enabled them to build an integrated customer experiences.
But as mobile device power grows become more powerful, innovation must include the back end infrastructure that powers services. That is the fight between Apple and Google. And that is where Apple is losing.
So where won't we see sparkling Apple innovation tomorrow?
Synchronization support. Apple has yet to figure out how to enable intelligent synchronization between devices. If I have 100 GB of music on my Mac how can I easily synchronize a subset of that to my iPad? What if I don't want every iPhone photo immediately propagated to every device I own? The synchronization interfaces are clunky and dumb and limit the pleasure in owning multiple Apple devices.
Storage products. Apple is been retreating from offering shared local storage services for years, canceling its Xserve RAID and server products. If an office of Macs wants to share many terabytes they must leave the Apple ecosystem and deal with traditionally obtuse network storage interfaces.
Data and filesystem integrity. Apple's HFS+ filesystem offers the ultimate in 1990s technology. Data corruption in files and directories is a fact of life in the Mac and iOS world. That won't change soon.
Web services. Apple's spotty record — eWorld, Mobile Me, iCloud — of online services is more than a branding problem. It's a failure of investment and imagination.
The Storage Bits take
Apple clearly has the ability to out-spend Google in leading-edge infrastructure technologies. But they choose not to.
They built an enormous 500,000 square-foot. data center, but what exciting new services has that infrastructure delivered? The Apple maps fiasco, the continuing failure of synchronization technologies, me-too customer web services — where is the innovation?
Apple's device-centric focus has created breakthrough products like the iPhone and iPad. But it is a paradox that as the devices get more capable, the supporting infrastructure needs to get smarter too.
Controlling the hardware and software stack today also means controlling the underlying infrastructure that delivers services to mobile devices. That's where Apple is losing control.
Comments welcome, as always. What areas do you not expect Apple innovation?