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 also: Eight 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.