Hey Apple, it's time to pick up your game!

Hey Apple, it's time to pick up your game!

Summary: Like the company or loathe it, Apple is an engine that drives innovation, and if it falters we run the risk of technology entering a phase of stagnation.

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TOPICS: Hardware, Apple
63

Apple makes some excellent stuff, but so do a lot of other companies, and I'm getting the feeling that unless Apple starts to raise its game in terms of innovation, the competition will soon have caught up, and possibly overtaken, with the Cupertino giant before long.

I currently have a myriad of Apple products in my life, ranging from several Apple TVs through to iPhones and iPads, all the way up to MacBook Pro. Apple's stuff seems to work well for me, and while I'd never go as far as to describe myself as a fan of Apple (because that makes me sound like the sort of person that would buy any old schlock, and that's definitely not me), I have shifted my gadget usage to one that is dominated by shiny things that were designed in Cupertino. And overall I'm happy.

But I'm noticing that my eyes are being drawn to other devices with increasing regularity.

First there was Amazon's Kindle Fire HDX. I've raved at length about this tablet, and I'm not alone. It's a fantastic tablet, and in many ways I find it better than the iPad. I like the user interface, I like the performance that the hardware can deliver, I like Amazon's more reasonable pricing for higher-capacity models much better than Apple's eye-wateringly steep pricing structure (paying $100 extra for $10 worth of storage is simply outrageous), I like the rich fullness of the speakers, and I like the case that Amazon has much better than Apple's default case.

Sure, that's my opinion, and your mileage will undoubtedly vary, but in my mind, the Kindle Fire HDX has shown us that it is possible for a competitor to beat Apple at its own game.

See alsoEight out of 10 businesses believe Macs are more reliable than Windows machines, claims new survey

Then there's the Samsung Galaxy S5. While I can't see myself making the switch to an Android smartphone – too many apps and accessories would need to be replaced, and that sort of hassle to my workflow is something I can do without – I can't help but be impressed by all the gizmos that Samsung have integrated into this device. Not only is the Galaxy S5 the flagship of the Samsung smartphone range, it is, in my opinion, the flagship smartphone, packing heaps of innovation into a single handset.

About the only downside to the Galaxy S5 is that by the time carriers get their hands on it, it will be loaded down with too much junkware, and updates will be slow (if not non-existent). We can only hope that a "Google Edition" version of the Galaxy S5 will be released featuring a pure Android KitKat experience. Only then will users really see how good this handset is. But unfortunately, they'll have to pay top dollar for the privilege of having a pure Galaxy S5.

Another place where Apple might end up being outmanoeuvred is voice control. Apple's Siri voice assistant debuted in October 2011 on the iPhone 4S (previously Siri had been available as an iOS application made by Siri, Inc., before Apple acquired the technology) and has since been integrated with increasing depth into the iOS platform.

But Microsoft has now unveiled its virtual assistant for the Windows Phone platform. Called Cortana, the system looks like it could be offer not only serious competition to Apple, but also Google's Now voice technology. Sure, all we've seen so far are demos, and I know well enough that demos are a long way from a final product, but if Microsoft is serious about Cortana, and doesn't make a "Windows 8" of things, then it would be foolish for any company – Apple included – to ignore what's going on here.

By now – almost two and a half years on – I really expected Siri to be a lot more than it is, but the only time I talk to it is when I inadvertently activate it, and then I just tell it to go away.

So, why is it that I want Apple to raise its game? Is it because I want Apple to have even more money (including more of mine) in the bank? No. It's because Apple has done more over the past decade and a half to invigorate and revitalize the tech industry than any other company. The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and its drive to make notebooks thinner, lighter, and more battery-efficient have changed the face of devices.

Like the company or loathe it, Apple is an engine that drives innovation, and the problem is that Apple doesn't work well when it's playing catch-up (just look at where OS X is after all these years). Without Apple's innovation I fear that technology will enter a phase of stagnation – the sort of stagnation that saw the iPAQ being the pinnacle of mobile devices, or smartphones having screens the size of postage stamps, of the sort of stagnation we are now seeing in the desktop and server processor market now that Intel doesn't have AMD driving it forward.

Apple, it's time to raise your game. For all out sakes.

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Topics: Hardware, Apple

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63 comments
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  • The lack of any new product categories at all

    is what has been bothering me. Apple had the ability to create entire new industries out of whole cloth - but if they go too long without doing it, they won't retain that kind of influence.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • Yeah well

      They lost that ability a few years ago when Jobs died...

      Jobs sold his own products and that's something Ive isn't willing to do! He thinks he can change things from behind the scenes and they will sell but, they're heading right down the same old path they were once on.

      Even though Microsoft hasn't done anything earth shaking in years, they're going to win by default because Apple is stagnant and Google has lost sight of who they were when people liked them.
      slickjim
      • default

        "Even though Microsoft hasn't done anything earth shaking in years, they're going to win by default"

        QFT. They've been incredibly slow at just doing the obvious (universal applications), taking several years longer than they should have, but they're rolling forward with a big bulldozer while Android and Apple are ahead of them on the same road sitting in Ferraris that are stuck in a traffic jam.

        In my honest opinion, Apple is too slow at integrating their systems (iOS, OSX, Apple TV, Apple livingroom), while Google made a massive mistake in pushing ChromeOS instead of Android for PC.
        Sacr
        • Markets

          Apple is consumer focused, which is dangerous. Consumers are fickle and you could end up getting old and boring in consumers eye's.

          Google and Microsoft have both consumer and enterprise offerings that actually make money. Microsoft more so, since they make billions in both markets.
          Sean Foley
        • Integrating their systems?

          In what way? Interface? Totally idiotic. Code? Totally idiotic. Data sharing? Pretty much already done.
          baggins_z
        • No

          Apple is isolationist at heart and then when you realize what you're missing by using them, you find that you need more than one system... So, they give you the option to install Windows on their desktops but, they give you under powered desktops!

          To me, they were a company that screwed their customers and left them in a position where Apple failing (A very real possibility these days) would leave people without a lot of digital items they purchased.

          I've gotten an HDCP stripper and backed up my 30 or so movies that are on their service but, not everyone will be so lucky.
          slickjim
    • WWDC is only 2 months away

      We are only 2 months away from WWDC 2014. Apple always unveils new hardware and/or software products at these events. It is VERY unlikely that Apple will do a special event to announce new products right now, with WWDC so close.

      So, hold onto you pants if you are anxious for new products from Apple. Two months is not a very long time to wait (and certainly no reason to worry that Apple is "DOOMED" because they haven't introduced new products today, April 4th, to meet your demands ;-)).
      Harvey Lubin
      • Regurgitating the same stuff year over year

        Might be working for Apple at the moment, but not really for the Fanbios......
        Boothy_p
        • Uhh, say what??

          If you have some coherent comment to make... please do.
          Harvey Lubin
          • You are utterly convinced

            With no basis in fact, that Apple are going to release some revolutionary new product in 2 months time, right?
            As you probably said before WWDC 13, when the world was presented with some new icons........
            Boothy_p
    • Same thing happened

      What is happening with Apple now is reminiscent of when Steve Jobs was forced out in the 80s. They had great products when Jobs left, but then started withering away later on. If Apple wants to stay relevant in a age where everything has touchscreens now, they need to get in the game soon. Apple should consider coming out with a Mac Pro tablet which would compete with the Windows 8 Pro tablets. Microsoft is doing a hell of a lot of innovating right now, and their new Cortana looks more sophisticated than Apple's siri. If Apple doesn't come out with any new products they will slowly but surely start declining. Apple needs someone back at the controls of their ship to steer it again. Apple right now is like ship on autopilot, meaning it can only go on for so long. I am not anti-apple, but Steve Jobs was the captain of the Apple ship.
      Pollo Pazzo
      • Wait, what?

        "What is happening with Apple now is reminiscent of when Steve Jobs was forced out in the 80s." Surely you jest.

        "They had great products when Jobs left, but then started withering away later on." The Mac Plus and Laserwriter were great, but they didn't make any money. They certainly didn't sell in large quantities and then were buried under the WinTel duopoly.

        "Apple should consider coming out with a Mac Pro tablet which would compete with the Windows 8 Pro tablets." Why? iPad penetration in the enterprise is huge with almost no effort on Apple's part, and those Win 8 tablets have likely sold less than a million units (source: http://www.dailyfinance.com/on/microsoft-surface-sales-double-irrelevant-tablet-market/)

        " Microsoft is doing a hell of a lot of innovating right now, and their new Cortana looks more sophisticated than Apple's siri." None of which mattes if no one is buying Windows Phones.

        "If Apple doesn't come out with any new products they will slowly but surely start declining." Duh, but anyone who things that Apple isn't going to come out with any new products is an idiot.

        " Apple right now is like ship on autopilot, meaning it can only go on for so long" Or so it appears to people on the outside of a famously tight-lipped company. There's a reason that Apple rumors, ANY Apple rumors, make news, Apple doesn't talk about stuff until they release stuff.

        "Steve Jobs was the captain of the Apple ship." Steve Jobs had great taste, and some of the best marketing skills of anyone since P.T. Barnum. He was also a colossal @sshole, and pretty bad guy at times (cf Wage-Fixing -gate). Yeah, Scott Forstall (another complete dick), Andy Rubinstein, and Tony Fadell are gone, but Ive, Cue, and Federighi are still there, along with a fairly strong corporate culture. Don't forget Bob Mansfield who's out of the limelight, but surely still an influence in Cupertino.

        I think when you look carefully you'll see Apple in 2014 is nothing like Apple in 1985. They're extremely profitable. They've got an enormous amount of money. They've got a very strong ecosystem that's, arguably dominate-in every metric that matters. Apple's been on top for so long that it's natural to think that they only way to go is down, but I was a Mac guy in the dark days of the mid-90s, and today is NOTHING like then.
        matthew_maurice
    • Oh, for crying out loud. Seriously?

      If Apple can't do it anymore, are you implying no one can? If they lose their influence it will be because someone else has come along who can do it better. So, what, exactly is your gripe?
      baggins_z
    • anti-convergence

      Apple wants you to buy the triple pack. Iphone, ipad, and Macbook.
      They are simply not willing to converge and make a phablet or a convertible tablet/laptop.
      Good for company profit, bad for users.
      Everyone is passing Apple and they are stubbornly chucking users under the bus with their non-standard ways. Stuff like stubbornly refusing NFC and trying to push out that ibeacon rubbish.
      Still refusing to let tablets with mobile connections make phone calls.
      How long can you keep users blissfully ignorant?
      warboat
    • The Apple fallacy.

      This whole concept of "Apple had the ability to create entire new industries out of whole cloth" is clearly inaccurate. Its grown into some kind of urban legend. And anyone who dosnt care either way understands that.

      I owned an iPhone for years and still own an iPod Classic 80GB. Great devices to be sure. But Apple having the ability to create entire new industries out of whole cloth is nonsense and I recognize that because it dosnt matter to me either way.

      What Apple did was one smart thing, and that one smart thing has been milked to the hilt to create a massively successful company in terms of earnings.

      What they did is recognize that touch screen was the perfect answer to a small hand held computing device that could be used as a cell phone. There was always the screen size real estate problem of where do you but the buttons to operate a computer that tiny, having no keyboard of mouse, and still leave room for a screen large enough to see without a magnifying glass.

      Touch screen that they had been working towards on their iPod touch was the clear and obvious answer. Steve Jobs said himself something much to the effect that the iPod touch was the training ground for the iPhone.

      It really is a great idea. BUT....

      Apple didn't actually do much inventing themselves.

      Apple didn't invent the mp3 player to start with.
      Apple didn't invent cell phones.
      Apple didn't invent touch screen UI.

      They just did the great work in recognizing that touch screen was a number one big problem solver for the micro device market. Good job.

      And what came out of that one good idea was history, all the same thing in one version or another. Pods, phones, Pads, all the same thing at the end of the day, just bigger, smaller, more features, more colors, thinner...whatever. Not entire new industries out of whole cloth.

      Just ONE very good idea milked to death. Profitably I might add.

      So those who still live in some kind of wonderland where Steve Jobs and pals sat around conjuring up amazing all new gadgets, I hate to burst the bubble, but that never happened. From the day after someone pointed out this really great solution of touch screen UI for small mobile devices, all its been from Apple since is "make it bigger!", "make it smaller!", "make it thinner!", "make it more colorful!".

      No such thing there of whole new industries. And those who think it was, or dream that it could be again might as well be hoping for that kind of lucky lucky lightning to not only hit Apple right in the head again but right in the exact same place again where it creates an idea that solves such a big problem and it dosnt hit them in some place that knocks them out or kills them dead.

      In other words, don't bet the farm on it.
      Cayble
  • I think the tech world owes a debt of gratitude to Apple, but...

    I also think their days of game changing innovations are likely over. Apple led the way with the iPod, iPhone and iPad, but no company could continue that kind of run forever. I see too many other companies innovating to think we'll go into 'tech stagnation' without Apple.

    But, I could be wrong, maybe they'll release some new products/upgrades to equal their past accomplishments. We'd all be happy with that.
    FrankInKy
    • Check your history

      Only innovation was making a cheap, legal alternative proprietary system to Napster that required their hardware. Apple was late to the mp3 player show, but won big because they had a method of legally purchasing content AND easily transferring AND managing it. Everything else has been a steady evolution of mp3 needs and leveraging, what had been for a long time, use our hardware or you can't pay with our software. For a hardware company, it is awfully telling when your claim to fame is your overly restrictive and dated software (aka iTunes). I know some people still like it...
      ikissfutebol
  • Innovation

    "Apple makes some excellent stuff, but so do a lot of other companies, and I'm getting the feeling that unless Apple starts to raise its game in terms of innovation, the competition will soon have caught up, and possibly overtaken, with the Cupertino giant before long."

    Welcome to 2011!
    Sacr
    • Too late

      Competitor have already surpassed them in most areas.

      Apple TV for one, Amazon is just the latest to beat them but, it has already been bested previously.
      slickjim
  • "...we run the risk of technology entering a phase of stagnation"

    Or... we end up with new companies stepping in with wholly new ideas that aren't constantly overshadowed by Apple and the media's obsession with one company...
    TheWerewolf