Apple Misses The Innovation Sweet Spot

It’s rumored that the next iPhone will have a fingerprint sensor and a new processor and come in new colors, gold (!), and others. If this is what passes for innovation at Apple nowadays, I can totally understand the dour outlook on Apple’s innovation.

Look, I get that Steve Jobs was a smart guy. He had a lot of ideas. But I’m sure that Apple is stuffed to the brim with great ideas and people. Or maybe not.

The last guy I knew who worked at Apple got shut down and kicked out because he had too many ideas – he actually spoke his mind on things. Maybe the atmosphere isn’t really all that innovative. Maybe Steve ran that place so tightly and stuffed it with so many yes-men that none of them can come up with a single true innovation since he left. Maybe he designed that place from the ground up to need some kind of guru-like himself to make innovation happen, and Tim Cook is not that guy?

Who knows. All I can say is that this stuff is not innovative if you ask me.

Back in 2006, I ran a brainstorming session focused on mobile, and the fingerprint reader was one of the least interesting of the many, many interesting and cool innovations we came up with way back then. Here’s one of them. That’s seven years, folks. Tell me how one of the most supposedly innovative companies of the 21st century is only now adding these highly uninteresting (at least to me) options to its phone.

It occurs to me that Apple is really not innovative unless you look at their mobile user base, which is typically behind the curve. It’s the mass market. It’s funny that while Macs appeal to the high-end techies and designers, their mobile products are really very dumbed down, unlike the Android devices, which range from the highly technical and customizable to the dumbed down.

So there you have it: innovation is really in the eye of the beholder.

What does this mean? It means that innovation cannot exist as a product disconnected from its users. You could spend all day brainstorming and inventing great new things, but unless those things are a near future innovation for your intended user base, it is doubtful that those products will ever see the light of day, at least likely within your time frame at that company. Those are great for generating patent applications and filling up your future product pipeline. Still, if you, like me, prefer to see your ideas in real product form – out there in the world helping people and/or making money, then you have to consider your audience. You have to range your innovations (to paraphrase a famous Panasonic tagline) just slightly ahead of your intended audience’s time. Too far, and it will never be productized. Too near, and you will be accused of not being innovative enough.

Personally, these “innovations” from Apple lag even behind all of the others. Let’s hope that, for Apple’s sake, the real iPhone announcement contains something in the sweet spot, and these rumors are just the gravy.

We need to see some real steak from Apple.

  • There are two new iPhones on the horizon — the iPhone 5S and the iPhone5C

  • The iPhone 5S is purported to have a fingerprint sensor and other improvements

  • Both phones are expected to hit shelves in September

via Apple iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C Rumors, and Release Guide – ABC News.

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