No one is unbeatable, and Apple knows it

Following its introduction last week, the idea that the new iPad was "unbeatable" began to get a lot of attention, primarily due to an article in Slate with that very title. Indeed, when seeing a product like the new iPad, it's easy to get swept away -- there's just so much technology wrapped in so beautiful a package for such an unbelievable price that it's almost impossible not to. I get that. But it's not true.

Nothing and no one is unbeatable. Not the iPad. Not Apple.

In an industry of titans, no one has ever seen the next big transition coming. IBM didn't. Microsoft didn't. Sony didn't. HP didn't. Yahoo didn't. Google won't. Facebook won't. And neither will Apple.

The only advantage Apple has is that they've been there before, prior to the second coming of Steve Jobs, when Michael Dell was suggesting they turn off the lights and return the money to the shareholders.

The Mac was beaten. Apple was beaten.

Because of that, I don't think Apple considers themselves or any of their products unbeatable. I think they actively fear the complacency that comes with that kind of thinking.

It's dangerous.

Apple literally wants to stay hungry and stay foolish in so far as they never settle for what they're doing now and relentlessly explore what they could be doing better in the future. The near future.

Apple is like Balboa after Clubber Lang clobbered him early on in the third Rocky movie. Microsoft took the PC championship from them. They'll never forget that beating and they're working their collective asses off to make sure the same doesn't happen in the rematch.

Like Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford address, once you know you're going to die, you achieve an amazing clarity. Once you know you can be beaten, you likewise develop an amazing freedom.

They're naked. Not trapped into defending the revenue streams of the past at the expense of future success. Rather they're relentless, almost to a reckless degree, about embracing it.

They ditched the floppy drive in favor of USB and the internet. They obsoleted the iPod with the iPhone. They cut into Mac sales with the iPad.

They've done everything every one of their competitors is terrified to do. And they've done it because they not only know they're beatable, but because they're intent on proving it again and again, year in and year out -- by beating themselves.

Tim Cook said as much during the new iPad keynote, and Steve Jobs has said it before.

That's what makes Apple dangerous.

The knowledge that they're beatable.

In response to: Slate

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments



I take my Apple stock money and buy Windows gear. BEtter product, buyt I dont mind making money off everyone.

You know Rene, you and I rarely see eye to eye. This is not one of those times. This was extremely well put, and is absolutely correct.
I worked for Apple in the late 80's during the dark times. I remember the looming feeling of having just been handed our collective hats and were just waiting to be shown to the door.
That feeling never left any of us. I no longer work for Apple. They laid me off in 1989 during that restructure, but the feeling of knowing that at any moment, no matter how hard I work or how good I was doing my work, that could all be taken away in a moment and the only way to keep that from happening is to never stop moving. So we don't.
Good article. Thank you.

Every time one thinks you can't stick your head up apples a$$ anymore, you prove us wrong, time and time again.

Let's see... he's the editor of a technology blog that revolves around Apple products. Gee. And the article discussed the fact that Apple can be beaten and need to stay on top of their game; if he'd said the opposite, then I could agree with the "up Apple's a$$" part. But uh... no.

Yes I realize this. And don't get me wrong, I like the site. But you can't deny, some of the fanboyism here is crazy. Like every once in a while you get the android outselling iPhone rant.

So basically Rene is saying Apple can be beaten, yet you're saying that he's sucking up to Apple. That makes no sense whatsoever, Mr. Stupid Anonymous Troll.

Did you read the article? Lol.
Funny you say one thing to go even slightly against the general belief and all of a sudden your a troll and illiterate and stupid and whatever else you nerds decide.

Kind of a douchebag comment considering you probably didn't read the column.
Can you read? Or write? Or are those crayons you use just for show?

Oh. And now your gonna try to insult me by implying that I can't read or write. Offly big of you to insult someone you don't know over the Internet. Maybe you should leave mommys basement and head out to the real world.
And honestly, what I said wasn't meant to be an insult to Rene. He does have good articles. I would agree that this article is a good one. Was simply stating that he seems to be up apples a$$. And yes I realize that this is an iPhone blog. Which is why I'm here. I like to follow news about the iPhone and apple in general. I like apple. But I'm my heads not shoved up you know where.
You people take things way to personally. just insulted Rene....a guy you don't know....over the internet. god forbid he have an opinion about apple on an apple blog. Would you rather he talk about that apple can't be beaten? don't be a tool...

What he hell is wrong with you guys. He put an honest unbiased opinion up. The day Apple falls, I'm coming back to this comment.
He is simply saying Apple IS beatable. If not, then why are so many Android phones outselling the iPhone if they were king? iPod might be the only market where they woudl stay king. Tablets are catching up too (price matters).
Pretty soon, tablets will have a diminsing return of almost zero. ESPECIALLY Apple tablets. What happens when Android market catches up? I refuse to say Google Play. Apple has to keep innovating because they don't want to be even with another OS. iOS has kind of stagnated lately.

No single phone is outselling the iPhone. No single company is actually. Of course if you release hundreds of phones a year you'll eventually outsell one phone.

In terms of innovation, Apple is great with 1st gen hardware and software; however, when it comes to updates, they're horrible.
Other than the high resolution display, there is absolutely nothing revolutionary or innovative in the new iPad or iOS 5.1. Nothing.
So, unless they invent an entirely new device category, they're going to be beat a lot sooner than you think...

They improved the ipad 2 greatly which is perhaps the most popular product out there. I see nothing wrong with that. Heck, the new shares little with the ipad 2 besides casing. They don't need to invent a new wheel every year. That WILL get them beat.
Be innovative, but be deliberate and patient about it. Apple has it down to a science right now.

I beg to differ. Apple understands that there is a large segment out there that will by the latest iWhatever. Do you think that the new iPad sold out to NEW Apple customer's?? A very large portion of their sales is due in large part to churn. People that bought iPad2 are trying to figure out how to sell the old so they can get the new. Same with phones. Apple sells 40 million iPhones a year, but how many of those are new customer's, and not people that "just have to have the new one" no matter what? Yes, it is impressive the amount of equipment they sell. I am curious to see how long this can go on. People now see the release cycle, and the "in between" phones may start to suffer. You get a new, then a bump, then a new. I wouldn't waste my upgrade on the middle device when you know brand new is coming. Which means a lot of people are paying full price for those. And one last thing. How long can Apple hold their price points?

16a15c35f6You can certainly see your slikls within the work you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren't afraid to mention how they believe. Always go after your heart. 18d

Ask those clowns at RIM how they are doing regarding updates........and don't think Android is seamless in theirs as well.
Keep in mind iOS 5.0 was a big jump from their last update. And no, I am not going to say they invented anything. Everyone steals from each other to the consumers benefit. Many of the features I enjoy on iOS 5 for iPad were introduced by Android. And in this case I am the winner.

People said that about every version of the iPhone and both previous versions of the iPad. Obviously, that hasn't happened yet. Apple is more focused on USER EXPERIENCE than putting the latest tech in their products. Clearly, wiz bang tech isn't working for any of the Android Tablets. Look at the Kindle Fire. It's a hobbled Android Tablet that is selling purely on price and user experience. Amazon gets it. When the others do, that is what will sell their products. Obviously tech specs matter a lot less to most people who aren't techno-geeks.

I think some of you guys need to look up the meaning of the word "innovation."
Apple was only innovative with the first-gen version of each of their devices. Every hardware and software update since has been merely evolutionary, not revolutionary.

Yes... but getting to that first generation is the biggest hurdle.
This is the phone Palm announced a mere 2 days before Apple announced the first iPhone.
And now Palm is gone... and Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world thanks to that first innovative leap.
Maybe the iPhone 4S doesn't look all that different than the original iPhone... but it sure as hell acts different.
Better hardware, better software... isn't that what every other company is doing too?

It doesn't matter how much the haters don't like Apple or their products. I'm typing this on a Macbook Pro sitting next to an iPhone 4S and my newly bought iPad2 just chirped with a Twitter update. All of these pieces of tech do something for me that nothing else I tried before did, while providing me with a satisfying user experience. As for Apple products being or not being "unbeatable", only a fool thinks they are invincible. The fact remains is that only the Kindle Fire has gained any traction with Tablets, other than Apple. Try as they may, Samsung, Asus, and Motorola aren't making it happen.

You come off very fanboyish.
Samsung provides the same experience for me, so what are you saying? The author is saying there could come a time where Apple becomes a Microsoft.

Look way back. Steve Jobs had the concept of the iPad in his head before there was technogoly to make it. To me that is amazing. The question, can Apple minds keep that concept going? Fanboy, or not, we are living in a great time to see what is next.

Nice article! Best summarization of I have read. Regardless of the naysayers, they make excellent products, and they will continue to.

No one can disagree with René on the subject because eventually he will be right.
The discussion point is rather whether we will love to see it or not. Personally I think Apple got quite a few years ahead of them primarily due the eco-system thingie that feeds itself despite some cannibalization : the growing hords of Ipad users will look into Iphones first and vice versa.
Very much like in the 1980s the buzzword in the emerging PC business was "IBM compatible", Apple managed to create themselves a new de facto OS compatibility standard based on 350 million devices in just 5 years time. All sold by the same vendor, unique in the history of computing !!!
To stay ahead of the pack they (need to) innovate as they always did. The major difference with the original Mac failure at the end of 1980s is that today, due to the volumes, they can offer technology at a price point that maintains the momentum. I remember myself looking at the Mac in those days : georgeous unreachable for a student. Today most of the students I see on the train while I commute have Macs !
And the Ipad2 is still a killer tablet (with a lousy camera :-) that will attract very different people, including some Android smartphone users who have kids who know other kids that have Ipads....
Bottom line : check again in 2020...

Apple will not fail through complacency. Been there, done that, and earned a healthy paranoia besides.
More to the point, Apple does not need that paranoia for motivation. Apple thrives on telling customers where they want to go. You cannot do that if you yourself are standing still.
Their danger is not complacency, but arrogance. The Apple of the past 10 years is characterized by huge bets, and a vision so in tune with what people want that those bets have paid off handsomely. At some point, however, Apple will misstep, simply because nobody is perfect. On that day, we will see what has become of Apple's other underrated skill -- when to cut their losses (Newton, Pippin) or to avoid a full bet entirely (Apple TV).
Apple's danger is that they lose that ability -- that their justifiable pride in their track record calcifies into hubris, leading them to double down on a product mistake after customers have told them no.

Apple is gud but not d best. Clowns out there seems to turn a blind eyes to all other things. Try out & u'll kno it.

Like we Greeks say, after Akmi comes Parakmi, in other words what goes up, eventually comes down. Nokia and the n95 with Series 60, Microsoft with Windows CE, Apple with IOS and the story continues...

Of course nothing lasts forever, but no company is better equipped to fight off complacency, than Apple is. Everything is in place:
Mass consumer mindshare.
Unrivalled logistics.
Successful bricks and mortar stores.
Industry-leading ecosystem.
The scars of previous eras(which motivate).
Long-serving figureheads at top in all areas, who know Apple inside & out(Cook, Schiller, Ive, Cue, Forstall, etc).
When Apple eventually falls off the mountain top, it wont be ANY time soon.

16a1543511cI wish more guys would write posts like this that are actually ineniestrtg to read and not boring like many others. With all the fluff floating around on the web, it is rare to read a blog like yours instead.keep updating your blog. thx! 195

Great Article... I like how you look at things.. Apple is definitely beatable only thing is no one right now knows how to..