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Innovation

Apple - Evolutionary or just reinventing the wheel?

John Gruber posts a gushing piece on the genius of Apple's manufacturing and marketing strategy. It got me wondering as to how evolutionary Apple actually is, and if there's any other company in the consumer electronics sector that could take so long to bring basic features to a product and not get massacred by the competition.

John Gruberposts a gushing piece on the genius of Apple's manufacturing and marketing strategy. It got me wondering as to how evolutionary Apple actually is, and if there's any other company in the consumer electronics sector that could take so long to bring basic features to a product and not get massacred by the competition.

iphonereinventwheel.jpg
If there’s a formula to Apple’s success over the past 10 years, that’s it. Start with something simple and build it, grow it, improve it, steadily over time. Evolve it.

The iPhone exemplifies this strategy. There’s a long list of features many experts and pundits claimed the original 1.0 iPhone needed but lacked. Ends up it didn’t need any of them. Nice to have is not the same thing as necessary. But things the iPhone did have, which other phones lacked, truly were necessary in terms of providing the sort of great leap forward in the overall experience that Apple was shooting for.

The iPhone is considered by many to be the apotheosis of smartphones. However, users will still have to wait until the summer and the release of iPhone OS 3.0 before being able to do things that every other smartphone can do - simple everyday things such as cut/copy/paste and MMS support. Anyone who considers the late addition of such basic features evolutionary needs to get out more. Sure, OS 3.0 update will bring with it some features that are evolutionary, but it still leaves me puzzled as to how it could have taken Apple so long to come up with a way to support such basic features. It seems to me that all Apple is doing is taking their time over reinventing the wheel. Also, Apple's design strategy for some features (for example, the modal notification boxes) is so last millennium that it seems to me more like regression than evolution. But again, the masses are happy.

The point of my post here isn't to bash Apple for this. Instead it's to wonder if there are any other consumer electronics companies out there which could get away with releasing a product that was missing some basic features. My take is that Apple is in an unique and enviable position of having a user base that's cool enough to do without certain features for as long as it takes.

I'm pretty sure there are dozens of companies out there who wished they had the kind of freedom that Apple enjoys. Unfortunately (for those companies), Apple's relationship with it's customer base (or fan base) is unique.

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