Has Apple lost its innovation?

Innovation-less

Note: This piece sprang from a discussion I had with Leo Laporte and Andy Ihnatko on MacBreak Weekly yesterday. Both Leo and Andy stated their cases far more eloquently and with far more experience than I could ever hope to sum up, so check out the video below for the entire conversation. I go over some oft-repeated ground here as well, but I think it bears repeating in this context.

When it comes to Apple and innovation, there are two equal and opposing lines of thought. The negative sentiment is that Apple is no longer that which dented the universe in eras past, that it is no longer capable of producing Mac-, iPod-, and iPhone-class disruptions, and is now simply coasting on the momentum of glories and ecosystems past. The positive sentiment is that Apple is still at the height of its power, pushing out manufacturing breakthroughs like the iPhone 5, interface reboots like iOS 7, and bold new computing designs like the Mac Pro. So which is it?

Both? Neither? Some oscillation or cycle? Apple is as it's always been, one part brilliant timing made vulnerable by price and focus, but resilient by culture. And that's what causes the perceptive dissonance.

The Mac paved over command lines and made personal computers more fun and more approachable. The iPod and iTunes destroyed the disc and brought digital music into the light. The iPhone and iPad flipped the table on the lazy, user-unfriendly smartphone and tablet market and made personal computing more personal, accessible, and mainstream.

The Mac was 1984. The iPod was 2001. The iPhone was 2007.

These major innovations were never year after year. The Mac was 1984. The iPod was 2001. The iPhone was 2007. They also each represented a movement into a massive consumer electronics business. Personal computers. Mobile devices. Mobile computers. They required prescience and patience and perseverance. They sat upon the ruins of Lisas and Newtons and ROKRs past, and they laid the foundation for entire lines of Macs and iPods and iPhone/iPads future.

Yes, Apple's focus on margins mean they can be undercut by cheap, which can be undercut by free. Yes, Apple's focus on a few products at a time means they can be blotted out by many options, which can be blotted out by floods of options. Yet free can be beaten by valuable, and floods by coherence. Disruption is cyclical.

That Apple has had so many revolutionary products, however, creates an expectational debt for more, and for faster, that's impossible to fill. What other massive consumer electronics businesses are left for Apple to disrupt in a similar manner, and of those, when is each one ready for Apple-style disruption. And of those, how many can Apple engage at once?

On the stage of D: AllThingDigital, Steve Jobs taught a master-class in Apple's go-to-market strategy. He explained how tough it was for the iPhone, and why it wouldn't yet work for an Apple television. He had prescience. He was patient. Apple would persevere. That disruption would wait until the timing was right, and if it was never right, Apple would be just as proud for never doing it.

Jobs failed with Lisa before getting the Mac right. He failed with NeXT before nailing it with OS X and the iMac. He held off on doing the iPad in favor of the iPhone, and then released the antecedent as the descendent. And Tim Cook, like Jobs before him, is still pulling the string on Apple TV and the living room.

Wearables - the confluence of traditional products like watches with informational delivery systems that include communications from the world around us and biometrics about ourselves - could be another such market. It may not be as big as the phone or tablet market, but right now, what is? And rumors of Apple entering it are at roughly the same stage as rumors were about the iPhone in 2006. Can Apple do it this fall? Could they do the iPhone in 2005 or the Mac in 1980? Were they willing to, given the products they could have launched compared to the ones they took their time to launch? Did they have to?

In the time between massive revolutions, Apple concentrated on and evolutions.

In the time between massive revolutions, Apple concentrated on and evolutions. Apple TV bought iTunes, and then iOS to the living room. MacBook Air made computers truly, ridiculously portable. Retina display took away the curtain of pixels and made content look real. Siri gave natural language not only a voice but a personality. Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X empowered regular users with what was previously only understandable to power users. Time Machine and iCloud made backup and restore something the masses might actually do. Taken separately, none of the equal the major leaps before, and each is easy to overlook. Taken together, they've meant every bit as much.

That's why, in the old days, there was endless talk of Steve Jobs having lost his touch. There were Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian, iPod Hi-Fi and G4 Cube, ROCKR, MobileMe, and Ping. There was the perceived failure to enter the netbook market or to offer an xMac. There was the iPad, dismissed as being just a big iPhone. And that's why, now, there's endless talk of Apple having lost Steve Jobs, and innovation along with him. iPad mini is just a small iPad. iPhone 5 is still a rounded rectangle. There's a perceived failure to launch a big screen iPhone.

The problem with generalized feelings like "Apple isn't innovating" is that they're tremendously hard to address in the specific. What would be different about Apple today if Steve Jobs were still running it? What market could Apple disrupt to iMac, iPod + iTunes, or iPhone levels today if they just seized the opportunity? What could they do to make their products innovative again?

"Apple isn't innovating" is to latch onto but incredibly tough to flesh out. It's first ten words. What are the next ten? What innovation specifically is lacking?

Would a bigger screen be innovative? No, those have been done for years. Would a thicker phone with a giant camera and 2 days of battery life be innovative? No, also done by Nokia and Motorola, and others. Would customizable backplates be innovative? No, Dell and Lenovo came in bamboo before the Moto X. Would pre-emptive, localized Siri be innovative? No, Google Now is already doing that. Would a thumbprint scanner? No again. Been there. Scanned that.

Wanting Apple to duplicate features we like from other products isn't innovation, but it can certainly lead to the feeling that Apple isn't innovating by omission. Yet, again, Apple's innovation has never been in being first. The iMac wasn't first. The iPod wasn't first. The iPhone wasn't first. They were better.

A bigger screen iPhone that serves North American geeks and people in emerging markets for whom the phone is their only connection to world and need to do more than 4-inches allows. A version of Siri that melds that personality with far more, and far more responsive assistive technologies. A thumbprint scanner that balances convenience with security and mainstreams mobile identity. A way to project interface into cars, and perhaps one day onto any display connected to the internet of things.

All of those would be better than, for example, doing a triangular display on an iPad just because it would be different. Or selling an iPod at cost just because Apple can lose money too.

Apple is now as they've always been.

Apple is now as they've always been. They're beatable and Apple better know it. They're vincible and Apple better know it. They're boring and Apple better know it.

Because sentiment has momentum too. It's what leads those not enamored with Apple to predict their doom, and those who love Apple's products to secretly fear that's the best of them are far behind. It's what leads everyone to look back through rose colored glasses and remember with great nostalgia a better time - a time that never really existed.

Anticipation of innovation is far more powerful than innovation itself. Macworld Expo 2007 was a moment the likes of which few companies have ever, much less several times, and likely we won't ever see again. It was Steve Jobs doing what he did best with the most impressive new product he'd ever launched at a time when the internet had made that knowable to far more people than ever before. It was the perfect confluence of presence and technology. Maybe when easy neural implants get broadcast over the interdimensional net Jobs Headroom we'll get that moment again. Likely not.

Of course, product leaks from phones left in bars to parts walking out of factories don't help with the whole mystique thing. Nor do sites like iMore which bring attention to them. But none of this is entirely new either.

Apple will continue as they've always continued. We'll get iOS 7 and iOS in the Car, the new Mac Pro and Mavericks, gold iPhones and the thumb-print reader, and next year we may just get the band. Apple will need to prove their prescience remains, and hold to their patience, but their perseverance is all but guaranteed.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Has Apple lost its innovation?

93 Comments

"Because sentiment has momentum too. It's what leads those not enamored with Apple to predict their doom, and those who love Apple's products to secretly fear that's the best of them are far behind."

In other words, if you spread the FUD thick enough people will start to believe it.

i think it's either already happened or isn't too far off, and i'm not insulting the company as almost all companies have this happen to them at some point. companies rise to relevance, dominate for a period of time, then fade into the scenery. it's the cycle of capitalism and it happens every day.

It's interesting to read through some of Rene's stuff as someone who's never touched an Apple product. I think he's absolutely right that just because Apple can't continually beat the whole world they are somehow failing themselves or their customers. More and better isn't a bad thing. Maybe it's unexciting, but if anyone is hoping for the same degree of change that was moving from a feature phone to a smartphone, then they are going to be disappointed no matter who they buy from.

In a wider sense there haven't been any real revolutions in quite a long time in the mobile device space. It's not Apple's job to make these things happen. Developments will happen but no-one can just force them to. Over in the Android space, things seem to be moving forward so quickly, but the reality is that faster and faster chips aren't innovation either. Thousands of devices of different price points and specs and physical sizes isn't innovation. So what are we talking about here?

Maybe it doesn't help that whenever release events come around people put up those renders with blatantly unrealistic stuff, like the wrap around screens and a camera that's basically strapping a DSLR to the back. It makes a good new device seem a lot less special.

Apple might be past their prime in terms of being the flagship face of new technologies to the public; the way they've built their refresh cycles makes it extremely hard to do that. But they'll always keep releasing very good devices that people want to use. The innovations are going to be smaller for the foreseeable future, and nothing is going to ever compare to the paradigm shift that was starting to carry around an honest to goodness computer with you all the time. But in a sector where there is almost no genuine innovation, even small things keep you looking pretty good.

"In other words, if you spread the FUD thick enough people will start to believe it." -- True that...

Innovate: to introduce something new; to make changes in anything established. Apple most definitely fits definition 2. Did they invent the personal computer? No, they revolutionized it. Did they invent the smartphone? No, they made it exceedingly better and more accessible to the average consumer. So, yes, Apple is still innovating by definition.

("Apple isn't innovating" is easily phrased. It's a four word accusation. - Psst, that's only 3 words.)

("Apple isn't innovating" is easily phrased. It's a four word accusation. - Psst, that's only 3 words.)

"Apple is not innovating" - Psst, that's 4 words is that better? LOL

I'm sorry, but even though Apple has a great personal computer, the one that revolutionized the industry and the world was the Windows PC, that's why it still has over 80% of the world market.

3. Did they invent the mp3 player? No, they stole the entire design for their iPod from Creative Technologies. Theft, so innovative.

Leo was more insufferable and obnoxious than ever. Even plastic lover Ihnatko felt the need to shut him up. Horrible.

Leo Laporte started an entire network that embraces tech of all brands. You'd know that he's critical of all companies if you were a regular twit.tv listener/viewer.

... and everyone knows that Apple has done nothing worth barking at.

Seriously. Apple still makes some of the best stuff out there BUT lets not act as if they have been keeping their lead. The lack of excitement towards Apple nowadays is deserved and all this deflection by attacking those willing to point out the obvious is embarrassing.

Leo does tend to play devils advocate just to keep perspective (or to force critical discussion) so I listened to the show AFTER reading the comments expecting him to sound a bit off. But what he said wasn't far off at all so I have no idea what people were complaining about.

Apple is in an "innovation" lull. It doesnt mean Apple cant innovate or that Apple is being lazy, it only means that right now nothing amazing is happening. That doesn't mean I wont upgrade my iPad but IF the Sept10 batch of products is waht we've seen in rumors then there is NOTHING there that makes anyone think "This is a required upgrade".

There's nothing wrong with Leo (or anyone) pointing out that Apple is in between innovations because it's true and Innovation isn't an annual requirement.

But the question that shut Leo up was simple. Rene asked him what he wanted Apple to do. And Leo had no answer... at all. Then he was asked if he wanted Apple to be Samsung. His answer was no. His were the typical responses of the "Apple doesn't innovate anymore" crowd. Frankly I don't see much innovation anywhere these days in the mobile space. You can't call a bigger screen, a faster processor, more memory, some goofy, useless feature, innovation. That's all evolutionary stuff. Feature creep is NOT innovation. Take one more look at the picture that shows what smartphones looked like before the iPhone and what they looked like after the iPhone. THAT's innovation!

"You can't call a bigger screen, a faster processor, more memory, some goofy, useless feature, innovation. That's all evolutionary stuff. Feature creep is NOT innovation."

So Apple isn't innovating anymore then?

As I clearly pointed out in my reply, I don't see ANYBODY doing much innovation right now in mobile. The fact that this was lost on you reveals the true motive of your reply.

Wow you're insecure. Don't quit your day job because you're a horrible mind reader. When someone asks you a simple innocuous question regarding your opinion, instead of freaking the fuck out, maybe just answer it.

And you "clearly" didn't point out anything, hence the question. Practice your writing more and your angry replies less.

"But the question that shut Leo up was simple. Rene asked him what he wanted Apple to do. And Leo had no answer... at all."

What an absolutely ridiculous statement. Rene didn't "shut Leo up", Rene took the cowards way out of a conversation. He deflected (as usual) and presented an unanswerable question because when it comes to true "innovation" is coming up with the brilliant ideas that we consumers DON'T know that we need.

What should Apple come up with next? How the heck should we (or Leo) know? We are CONSUMERS so it's not our job to figure out what they should do next. But it is our responsibility to point out when Apple ISN'T doing something. And nowadays then that is a whole lot.

Why do first party apps like iMovie.app or iPhoto.app suck so badly compared to the competing apps? Why is the iPhone still without a large screen OPTION (not requirement) when enough of the consumer base has clearly moved beyond 4"? Why doesnt the AppleTV YouTube channel offer a new video subscription feed?

Rene didn't outsmart anyone. He did what every other sycophant does. He shut down a conversation that clearly doesn't have a result that favors Apple (and proceeded to write an article in which his audience shares the same skewed view of the world which makes him feel undisputed).

I love Apple products but today's Apple definitely has issues worth discussing. So apologists like this are bad for discussions.

Issues? Explain. And if its "lack of innovation" or "delay in innovation" don't reply. Everybody here (willing to admit it or not) knows that apple is about to knock our socks off. "It's been to long since the last big thing" critics quote. Al i can ask you is how long was the gap inbetween the Mac and the iPod.....I rest my case.

What a load of bull.

If we consumers (including yourself) aren't expected to know what Apple or anyone should do next, as if we're a different from the humans that work at mobile manufacturers, then you can't claim that Apple or anyone has stopped being innovative.

Maybe there is no innovation to be had until technology goes forward. Maybe Apple has shitloads of ideas and is waiting for more RAM or faster CPUs, better battery technology, etc. Again, don't say "How the heck should Leo know?" and then claim that Leo or yourself should know if Apple isn't innovative anymore.

And I disagree that first party apps like iMovie or iPhoto suck compared to the competing apps. I say if you through a novice in front of iMovie, and another novice in front of Premiere, the novice will get a movie done in iMovie first. You are confusing "suck" with number of features. Apple's not competing with higher end third party apps, they're introducing people to the activities that lead people to learn the activity and then later buy apps meant for those who have more experience and want to go beyond iMovie and iPhoto.

Also, the consumer base hasn't clearly moved beyond 4". A portion of them have. If Apple wants to serve them, they will. But what does that have to do with innovation?

The only thing worse than sycophants and apologists are the haters, who will pick at irrelevant negatives and completely ignore the big picture and act like it's a crisis if Apple doesn't do a tiny little thing they want.

Leo Laporte is just pissed because he's bored and wanting for dazzling stuff to report on.
Evolution is not as exciting, nor is it good for the business of reporting tech news, than revolution. He wants non-stop dazzling news from Apple to make show content.
Oh, and he's also pissed at Apple because the Mac Pro isn't the way he wanted it.

What i'm looking to see is does Apple introduce a brand new product. What's the next product? What's the next ipad? I don't mean just a new version of an existing product. I don't know what that is. A microwave? A tv? A watch? A toaster? Whatever. What's the new product that will fuel the future. That's the big thing i want to see.

It's not Apple's responsibility to create new products every few years, they are an OS and hardware company. Do you expect BMW or Mercedes to create a new product every year? Let Apple be Apple.

Yes they do. Apple has shareholders to satisfy. Autos and consumer electronics are not in the same sector, aren't judged the same and aren't competitors so they aren't measured the same. It's apples to oranges. Car companies, except maybe Tesla, are not growth companies like Apple is/was. They aren't expected to have earnings grow at a rate similar to a cutting edge tech company. Merc/BMW/all car companies products have a long life cycle and the average American has a car for 10 years. Their products don't tend to be obselete in two years. The technology doesn't drastically change in two years (like 3G to LTE). Average American has a phone for a lot less. If they want to continue to have a stock price that goes up they need to grow profits quarter over quarter and quarters have slowed. Why? You can only sell so many phones and ipads and computers at a time and the sales growth isn't enough to sustain the prior rate of profit growth. That's why you need new products every so often. Ipod grew profits, then iphones, then ipads. The question is what's next. It's not about "letting apple be apple." That's a catch phrase with no meaning. No public company get's to just be. They have a board to satisfy. And the board has to satisfy shareholders. It's one of the reason apple now issues a dividend. Though controversial it's about satisfying shareholders. I'm sure you don't care but hey i used to own apple stock and I care and the market cares and shareholders care. Additionally there are very real threats to their dominance in their old strengths, phones, from android based phones which steadily gain global marketshare. And it's not like apple with and without jobs hasn't had some product flops in it's history. It can happen. So they have to be concerned with where the future growth will come from. And simply out of curiosity i still want to see if they have more to them or did the ideas die with Steve Jobs.

The idea that Apple will ever be the largest tech company is the world for more than a year or two at a time is probably why you shouldn't be a full-time investor. Apple has never attained to be that model. They are happy with their computers having a solid 10-15% of the market share. They are high end, once everyone has a product it is no longer high end, hence my BMW and Mercedes comparison.

If you think that it's Apple's job to wow you, then you're being a lazy investor. They are a tech company that DOESN'T INVENT ANYTHING. Why would you expect them to constantly be coming out with new things? THey take existing tech and make it work smoothly. That's what they do with computers, that's what they do with phones, and that's what they do with tablets; all things they didn't invent.

If you want to invest in a company that innovates, look to Qualcomm, Tesla, Space X, Intel, etc. These are the companies who are pushing the boundaries with new ideas.

Never said apple had to be the largest tech company. That statement is irrelevant and not responsive. They are happy with 10% bullshit. They'd rather have 60%. They'd much rather have microsoft's share of the market. If they are high end it's not based on low market share. If it was then ipod, iphone, and ipad would be products the cancel for not being high end as they all have high market share. So again you're point fails. it also assumes to know what Apple want which i'm sure you don't.

Why would they come out with new things? Because that's how they grow profit. That's what they've always done. Because no board wants stagnation

I never said apple's job is to "wow me." Again you've taken you're own perceptions and grafted them onto your straw man argument rather than responding to my comments about how a public company has to react to shareholders. And stating that they don't invent anything in ALL CAPS doesn't negate the fact that the stock has moved on one thing, profit growth, and the catalyst for profit growth has always been new product lines, entering and dominating growth markets. That's the difference between tech guys fighting for their love of all that is apple, the apple cult, and mature analysis of how a business progresses and continues to grow. Apple's not going to go away or die or fail but that doesn't mean that. And i don't invest in companies that "innovate." That's a stupid and naive investment plan because innovation doesn't equate to profits. Plenty of companies innovate and then incur ridiculous debt. I invest in companies for specific reasons, growth, dividends, safety. People invest in Clorox because it's solid. people always buy bleach. Qualcomm? Nah i can make more money this year investing in ST Microelectronics or Triquint Semi. Tesla? fine I like the cars. But as a stock right now it's meh. They have legal hurdles they need to deal with, they sell mostly in California and Washington but not the country over. Unless you were in the ipo it's not a great time to get in. And Space X? Ha ha ha! You're clearly not that informed because Space X is a private company not publicly traded. And do you really think in a climate where Nasa is getting less money there's a large chance of consistent profit from a company dependent on Nasa money for funding? That's silly investing. But buying a stock because the company "innovates" alone is a poor investment strategy. Lots of companies innovate things that don't sell very well for a variety of reasons. I know a pharmaceutical company that innovated, years ago they made a very effective AIDS drug that was so painful for people that they refused to take the medicine. Innovation but not an effective product. It's the thing tech blogs focus on but not investors.

That's a bit of circular logic there. You are saying that Apple needs to come out with a new product that obsoletes older products because in the tech industry, old products are obsoleted with new ones. Well, if there are no newer products, then the old ones won't be obsolete then, will they.

You still haven't made the case why Apple needs to come out with a new kind of product as opposed to an iteration of an older one.

Saying that "shareholders" demand it, is not a reason. Shareholders just want money. If shareholders demanded a cure for cancer, would we be saying that Apple needs to cure cancer now?

Incorrect. I said the products Apple sells are different than autos because their products tend to be obsolete in 2 years where as autos are kept for on average 10 years and still are not obsolete. That statement does not equate to Apple need new products because old products are obsolete.

Apple needs new products because Apple needs to grow and old markets are under threat from new players, example phones, old markets are shrinking, pcs.

I didn't make the case that Apple "needs" to come out with a new kind of product because i don't feel it "needs" to right now. Apple can simply coast on what it has for a while. But then it's not a great stock. But so could Blackberry, coast that is. It's not gonna fail anytime soon. Microsoft largely coasted for a decade living off windows and office. That doesn't make them great growth investment vehicles. Microsoft has enough customers that it can not make a new os and people will still use their product. They can live off windows, office, and xbox and be fine. But for a decade the stock hasn't moved much at all. So if an investor is looking for somewhere to invest it's not microsoft because unless the Xbox One starts to look like a world beater there's nothing that's out their to significantly push earnings more than expected, which will be the initial pop they get in earnings when xbox one releases. Apple will get a pop from releasing a new phone and that's great but that's priced into the stock. That's expected. It comes every year. What propelled the stock farther forward past 350, 400, 500, etc was the new product of the ipad and it's success. So from an investor standpoint, apple's not getting a big pop until it has a new product that propels growth past expected levels. And I can tell you over the next few years Apple will "need" an entirely new product to drive growth. What that is i don't know. Maybe it's a tv network, or a web based services that generates the revenue. Maybe it's storage or servers. Maybe it's car stereos or tvs. Maybe it's the next big consumer electronics product that we don't know. People invest in Apple for one reason, earnings growth. As long as they grow earnings people will buy the stock. But when it slows like it did earlier, people will bail. Notice most of this year the stock has leveled off. That's because investors saw earnings growth fall and they were simply waiting to get back in prior to an iphone 5 release when earnings will spike. It's a numbers game that's all. It's not precise. It's largely people guessing. But i have a good idea what they are basing their guesses on and it's completely different things for the i love apple tech blogosphere.

Yeah, no offense, I didn't read past the first two lines. Not sure what it all has to do with whether Apple is innovating or not.

Oh please, just because Leo Laporte threw his regular "Apple is not innovating" fit in the Macbreak Weekly podcast, there is no need to go crazy.

Today we saw Samsungs innovations:

They reintroduced the legacy menu button to their tablets.
You can open a floating app by drawing a rectangle to complete a command you already gave. Btw they already had this feature before.

They showed a smart watch with a UI that has more lag than movement, complete with a single day of battery life. It's only compatible with two Samsung devices as of this moment. I guess they didn't feel the need to prepare their "ecosystem" first.

The MacPro's "innovation" is interesting. It is using a GPU as a co-processor (not for graphics), and making it standard. I expect this style of computing to make its way throughout the entire line-up in the coming years.

" What would be different about Apple today if Steve Jobs were still running " - I think the better question is would Tim Cook have taken a gamble and produced the iMac, the iPhone and the iPad?

Jobs had vision. Granted it was his vision and you damned well better like it or piss off, but it was vision. Jobs was good at finding people and exploiting their talents. He could also do one hell of a keynote.

Tim seems like a nice enough guy, and he is the person I would want to run my company while I was on vacation. The man who will get things done just as you left directions for. He just doesn't seem to have the vision and risk-it-all style of Jobs. Also, his keynotes are about as impressive as mine, which isn't saying much at all.

I don't think apple is done innovating, I just think it won't be from Tim. I think Apple needs an unknown with vision. Someone as talented in software as Ives is in hardware, and no I don't like his idea of what is good software.

People need to let go of Steve Jobs. It's not like Steve Jobs did it all single handedly. Last I checked, Jony Ive, his team, and the OS team are still very much alive.

re: "Anticipation of innovation is far more powerful than innovation itself."

If you're an Apple- and/or tech blogger. And there's a huge Apple news lull.
Like the huge news lull between WWDC and the September Apple announcement.
And you need to fill those pages with content that will attract clicks.

The Gear is actually wearable though. Virtual Boy didn't even have a strap for it (good job Nintendo on that one! /s)

The problem I see with innovation is that once you innovate with something that changes everything is that people expect something new every day, week, month, and year with that product. Laptops rewrote the book on personal computing as did the iPod with how we listen to music, and the iPhone with smartphones, and, for that matter microwaves gave us a new way to prepare food. But let's face it, once a product hits a point like mobile phones have, no one is going to make big innovations to that product for years to come, much less year after year. Limitations of technology just don't allow it. Because of this, I don't think we will see much major innovation out of anyone with mobile for quite sometime. Smart TVs, smart watches (and other wearables) are still in their infancy and likely will be for a while unless some company makes a major break through making them mainstream, and the next big thing like mobile is now. Unfortunately for Apple is that right now those who say they can't innovate mean "with the iPhone," "with Macs" etc though those words may not be said out loud to the point that i would question that they even know what innovation is and how it works. My argument is that innovation is done here for now in most people's eyes but we have no idea what Apple, Samsung, or any other big name has in the pipeline and skunkworksright now. But I bet that whatever it is, they are waiting for that product to go mainstream first then blow it out of the water with innovation that makes it easy to use, perceived as needed or must have, and popular as hell.

Does it seem like Apple has lost their innovation? Yes! But Apple was working on iPhone and iPad for a long time before it came out and during this time no one was scrutinizing them about their innovation or lack thereof. So it was easy to work incognito. So when the products came out in sequence over a 3 year period people were wowed. Jobs said he had TV (according to biography) lined up as the next thing he wanted to "solve". So even he didnt have anything next for Apple to solve other then TV. So maybe .... just maybe the final years of Apple with Jobs was just the culmination of years of setup. So I ask why are you unwilling to give Apple the 3-5 years it needs to set up their next big project???

Rene,
I saw Macbreak weekly this week and although I can see why it feels like they have lost their innovation (as Leo keeps reiterating). I feel that Leo has really lost his belief in Apple. I can appreciate his love for "openness". But we don't buy Apple for "openness". We but it because we give want them to make certain decisions for us. And we can live with the solution they feel is the most elegant. Everyone is free to disagree but there will be one way to do things and that's the Apple way. If you don't want that then go to Android and you will get some of the good (more freedom), with the bad (freedom for someone to *uc* with your device).

Thanks.

Innovation itself is a moving target. For years electronics companies (not Apple) and car companies having been showing off concepts that they will never actually sell to prove that they are still innovative, even when they are not; while others put products on the market we don't actually need just because they can. Apple is two things to most people; the underdog that survived and succeeded and the ones that gave us 2001 (A Space Odyssey) like technology that worked. They are innovative because they made stuff we wanted. The iPod began the iPhone which begat the iPad.
To the question: yes Apple is innovative as long as they listen to the public to determine what we need to help us enjoy life a bit better and NOT to investors who have their own agenda.

I like a lot of what apple does, but I think they let things sit for a little bit too long. For example, I am one who uses facetime quite a bit, but google hangouts has been more useful lately because I can get several people in on a video call.

Also, I appreciate that they make everything run smooth, but would it kill them to let me have the option to set a different app as the default action for an event? Yes, their browser does not lag like chrome does, but I want to use chrome. Also, ringtones and sounds for notification events should be a little more open as well. Dumb, I know, but I want to change them to what I want. Can't I use an mp3?

I was an iPhone user for 4 years and for the last two have been with android. I want to go back to an iPhone but I like to be able to do what I want with a device I own.

Don't forget, Apple is not in the habit of designing devices that let you do whatever you want. Apple is all about polishing technology to make it as "appliance-like" as possible for the end user. I don't know about you, but my toaster doesn't let me say "heat the toast at 4 for 30 seconds, then crank it up to 9 for the last 30 seconds."

Apple's goal is for the product to become transparent to the task at hand.

Apple lost its "Innovation"? No, it's just lost something that was important to it. It lost the very particular person that would say NO! It's not good enough! or that is a piece of S**T! and would only say it's good enough when it really is as Good as it can be and would not let half baked products hit the market.

I agree with René wholeheartedly and experience this sentiment as well every day. On one hand, the term is used as a way to smack down sentiment towards Apple (as in a "What have you done for me lately?" attitude). On the other hand, it is undeniable that Apple's new products are, by definition, innovative (including its latest iterations).

Granted, the sentiment seems to be ingrained in a perception that Apple has to come forward with a product (or products) that will knock our collective socks off. Every day that does not happen, the negative sentiment keeps growing.

Personally, Apple has proven that their products are the ones that work for me, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt regarding any future product they launch, and I believe they will launch a product that's not perhaps iPhone caliber disruptive, but trendsetting nonetheless.

"Granted, the sentiment seems to be ingrained in a perception that Apple has to come forward with a product (or products) that will knock our collective socks off."

No. The iPod, the iPhone, the iPad were all greeted with sneers and ridicule from the tech press, and, as Rene puts it so gently, "those not enamored with Apple." Remember the feminine napkin jokes about the iPad? Remember John C Dvorak advising Apple to cancel the iPhone project before it ruined the company's reputation. Remember Steve Ballmer laughing out loud about the price of the iPhone? These products did not knock anybody's socks off until the public had them in their hands and found out what they really were. The only difference is that today the sneering and ridicule is directed at whatever Apple will release in the future. I can guaran-damn-tee you that next week's media event will be declared an epic fail.

Eloquently put Rene.

The pace of "innovation" outside Apple has increased more than inside. Much if that innovation like Samsung's new watch is nothing more than throwing crap at a wall to see what might stick. When I look at the current pace, at the Macbook Air, Logic Pro X, the upcoming Mac Pro and iOS 7 and Mavericks, I see that Apple itself is innovating faster than it ever has before. I'm happier with my Apple products today than at any point in the past 30 years.

Leo Laporte is still around?!!! I stopped watching many many MANY Podcasts because he was either part of the show or forced himself in .... somehow! LOL

Rene, you can do a lot more with your precious time and space on this fine site than these sort of discussions with him or a number of others like him!

With that said .... can't innovate anymore my A$$! Well said.

What? Samsung can innovate now with this shit? http://appleinsider.com/articles/13/09/04/samsung-shows-off-galaxy-note-...

Or, google and their dumb L-Team with their idiotic naming convention like kitkat? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23926938

Why don't you like Leo? Hes a great guy, he just has no patience when it comes to inovation.

Yeah it has a little bit in my opinion. Maybe because they only bring out 1 handset & sometimes you wait so Long for that, that when it comes out & it's only an S version & you know it's gonna be at least another year before something different comes out. I think Apple seriously needs to stop making iTunes the only way to manage files on your device. I hate no being able to just drag & drop or copy & paste in a 'Removable Disc' type way. iTunes can be a pain in the arse but anyway I digress a little......yes I think it's loosing some of its innovation they put too much focus into 'lighter & thinner' all the time. I'm not afraid to say that & I'm a Fanboy.

It is interesting to note the breadth of things that have already been thought of, but cannot be implemented yet. Nobody has really created anything conceptually new in a long time. It is all a matter of implementation.

Good article, Good read. What people fail to point out in android yes you get specs, Bigger screens 1080p, bigger processors, 3gbs of ram, and you always get promised on what the phone could do and in apple you don't get specs but you get quality, sophistication and they tell you on what the phone does not what it may do. Coming from a person running on Stock android and switching to the 5s. Hey gave android a chance but Its to much lag reminds me of when I had windows had to make the switch to mac and never looked back.

I think it's really sad that Leo who entire network was probably started because of Apple products and take a look at the shows on his network. iPad today, i five and Mac break weekly wouldn't have any of these show if it wasn't for Apple. He have nothing good to say about Apple period and personally I'm sick of his anti apple words , if Apple is so horrible why not just host all Android shows. He really need to shut his big fat MOUTH. Because people are really getting sick of him.

Leo Laporte has become a celebrity, but he is first a PC guy. I do wish he would hand the reigns of the TWIT Apple shows to someone else although he does serve as an anti-editor. I've watched him not know how to use his iPad while on camera talking about it. Embarrassing is too mild a word. I watch because Rene is a regular, otherwise I couldn't stomach it.

Thank you for such a well balanced article Rene. I watched the MacBreak Weekly show and was bored by Leo's argument - like a child stomping his feet.
Interesting that the Steve Jobs announcements are reminisced so positively; I watched keynotes where I was excited about new, innovative products but the audience seemed less impressed and the aftermath of negative tech articles was puzzling. However consumers speak with their feet (and wallets) and so Apple products sell out. Why? Because they are offer such a fantastic user experience.
The reason those next ten words are impossible for most, is that it is only true innovators and entrepreneurs know what we don't know we want. That's why we are consumers and companies like Apple are the innovators.

Sent from the iMore App

i think apple has done a good job with the ipods, i mean they changed the design and add new features, but for the iPhone, i think they haven't changed that much, i mean they just add 3-5 new things and that is,larger screen, A6 processor and more resolution to the screen, for the macs, i think they did a good job on the macbook pro, they added a high resolution screen, lighter, thinner and faster, for the macbook air they just put the new haswell chip and a better life, so is not really that much of a change

Apple HAS NEVER marched to the drum of consumers let alone other companies.

Has Apple lost it's innovation?
To anyone HATES Apple yes, and they hope so.
To those of us that KNOW Apple and love the products. ABSOLUTELY NOT.

That's like speaking the demise of SONY.

These type of trivial discussion draws the "NEY" sayers and "Apple HATERS" out of the wood work.

Another day with a Apple story. Negative like the rest of the worlds CRAP.
The masses of miserable drones and non thinking individuals that love misery love to comiserate and read bad news.

Why should this be any different day or article.

I own a Ipod touch so don't be calling me a troll. What has Apple innovated ever since Steve Jobs died. He was the Heart of Apple but now, there is no heart pushing Apple. He was the engine that made Apple but with no engine, u don't go anywhere. It's like a car, u are driving, engine blows up, you just keep rolling till you stop eventually. I don't see to much innovation anymore. Rene Ritchie, please tell me what has truly innovated with Apple since the passing of Steve Jobs?

The iPad/iPhone products were started in 2001. Jobs died 2 years ago. So tell me, how long do you think it takes to research and develop a product that will supposedly revolutionize the industry?

And "I own an iPod touch so don't be calling me a troll" means nothing. It's like saying, "I'm not racist because I have many black friends."

Steve Jobs is the only one who knew Apple inside out the most. The one who makes the product is the one who knows the most, Not Tim Cook.

How about the new Mac Pro for starters?

"Sometimes to take a major step forward, you have to completely change direction."

PCIe flash storage, dual GPUs standard, unified thermal core, etc.

For me the question isn't innovation as much as customer choice. It wouldn't be such a bad business decision to give Apple customers (I've been a fan since the 80's - a dark time for Apple) some new choices.

Other manufacturers are trying to lure customers with hardware customization - Moto X - screen sizes - Samsung - OS personalization - live tiles - widgets etc. People are obviously responding to these offerings. What's wrong with giving customers a little choice. I mean black or white?? C'mon - I can order a yellow phone with a blue front! If it had iOS I would have ordered a moto X!

However - I won't leave the Apple ecosystem because I think it's the best, but I'm often tempted by new hardware offerings.

Why wouldn't it be a good business decision for Apple to offer color choices or one or two new screen sizes in a market where consumers have so many other choices every month. Samsung is selling a lot of phones, and those should have been Apple customers.

Supply chain, profit margins, manufacturing, that's all Apples' problem - give me a large screen, yellow phone for gods sake - I'm not asking for the MOON, and neither are millions of others!

"That's why, in the old days, there was endless talk of Steve Jobs having lost his touch. There were Flower Power and Blue Dalmatian, iPod Hi-Fi and G4 Cube, ROCKR, MobileMe, and Ping. There was the perceived failure to enter the netbook market or to offer an xMac."

All of these were failures, though. Apple makes great products, but doesn't always make great decisions..who does though, right?

On a lot of issues, they've continually been behind the curve because they don't want to adopt something they didn't create; ie. widescreen displays, net books, HDMI, notification drawer. All of these things took them forever to adopt, some for valid reasons, other because they are/were being stubborn. Bluray? Quick replies to texts? Some things seem like they'll never come and some definitely won't. Like any company, you have to take the good with the bad, but it gets more and more difficult to support Apple when they refuse to cave to what the public really wants. As consumers, we're more technically advanced than we were as a whole ten years ago. They used to be able to say, "this is what you REALLY want." Now people know what they ACTUALLY want because someone else (Samsung, HTC, Nexus 4) are giving it to them and they see just how great the other side can be. Give me an iPhone with the display size of the new Motorola X without Apple's stupid, ludicrous top and bottom iPhone bezel and I'd be a happy camper.

Its a complicated question to answer. I see innovation from apple every year. Some has potentials for disruption. 2011 saw Siri, natural voice interface, it was truly an innovation if you consider the potentials but after 2 years and it is still in beta. iPhone 5 is truly an innovative product if you consider the attention to details and the engineering marvel it was. This year we saw iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks, New dynamic UI and the Power Management respectively. We will probably see the Mac Pro. Again we saw uninspiring products like Newsstand (Went no where except to the last home screen), Maps (improving but slowly) or passbook (Just one more app to be dumped in to a folder). The problem is either they weren't consumer centric (in case of iPhone 5) or didn't make an impact (yet) in areas they showed the potential (Siri - Voice based interface, Newsstand - Publishing Industry or Passbook - as an e wallet). but it is not an imminent problem, it can take one or two more iterations to really make the impact. With iPhone 5/5s and iOS 7 I think the stage is been set for something new, something big in mobile industry, after all apple is a company with a vision, you can't predict where they are heading until they reach there (at least thats what history says, who would have predicted a Digital music player and a curated store would put a dent on Music industry until a few years after the iPod actually did it, or iPhone with no apps, no 3G, GPS, uninspiring camera, no keyboard etc and less than half the features of what other smart phone of those days offering would do what it did to the mobile market until iPhone 4 or in the case of iPad, you got the point). Every time it has taken a few iterations to make the disruption. So we don't know what comes next.

The problem apple has now is changing market dynamics. In 2007 iPhone had a superior UX that justified the premium, similarly in 2010 with iPad. Now for the not tech savvy masses, Nexus 4 or even a $150 Lumia offers comparable experience in a lower price. Like in personal computers everybody dreams a Mac but end up with a windows PC, in mobile, now people are tending to dream an iPhone or iPad but ending up with something else because the competition is really caught up with apple and people no longer have that justification for the premium apple is asking for. Only thing that keeps the customer base tied is how much they have locked down to the apple ecosystem. It doesn't mean apple is not getting any new customers, the brand value still do wonders, but the growth is fading. Apple could fix that with the 5C even though that is not a permanent solution (I really think they are trying to fix another problem here, that is keeping a 2 year old phone in the lineup would eventually lead to OS fragmentation, or even slow down the roll out of new technologies, as they remain mainstream for at least up to 2 additional years from the day apple stop selling them, already we could see it).

Either apple should make a more compelling argument to justify the premium or they should create an entirely new product category at least in next couple of years to avoid a lull in the market. Until then apple is doing just fine. They are not in a situation where Nokia or RIM were in the year 2010, so they can still afford to buy some time, try out new market territories like China or India to improve the adoption and keep iterating on the products until they become ready for the next disruption, be it Mobile, Wearables, Living room, Automobile or even something that we don't know yet.

But I still have a wish that they would announce something next week that would put an end to this arguments

The problem I see is that Apple is riding on the laurels of past successes and pushing out little but slight incremental revisions of the iPhone 4 design. I wasn't enamored with the iPhone 5, as I have a 4S and held together and compared, I saw no reason to upgrade to the iPhone 5. All it really offered was LTE and a slightly bigger screen and slightly thinner. A lot of others went out and bought the 4 and 4S just based on cost alone. Where I work, there's only two people with iPhone 5. Almost everyone else has an iPhone 4 and that's close to 300 people in one work place. Granted, that isn't representative of the millions upon millions of Apple fans, but still, it's significant that all of these people opted for the 4 instead.

That being said, I'm waiting anxiously for Tuesday to see what Apple is going to bring us this time around. I really wish Cook would consider enlisted celebs or even pro athletes to present Apple products. He's got the charisma of chalk and Shiller isn't any more inspiring. Jon Ivey would be better to listen to than these two.

I've grown so tired of the "i" word. No company "innovates" at the pace that the tech media expects. Then again, most tech blogs regard changing icon colors and some minor GUI tweeks as innovative, so maybe they do.

Well said Rene. Naysayers abound. The past always looks better than the now. And the future too far off. Yet the reality is it's more like today. Apple has more stuff in them. I rather the way Apple does it and comes out with something solid. Samsung and et al., will probably have a new smartwatch by next month. But will it Wow!?

apple was run by a visionary with absolute powers..
Apple is now run by spreadsheet pencil necks..
Get used to it

Its not the innovation Apple has lost. It's lost its inspiration to innovate. Steve Jobs.

But it will recover...Apples always float.

Sorry DH, but unfortunately high fiber diets yield floaters too. Change is inevitable, even for Apple.

Will someone tell me if Apple knew iOS7 would be annoyingly slower than the previous OS6 on all their customers iPhone 4 &4S? Not to mention the monochromatic screen colors and hard to read calendar. My theory is that they must've known it, and iOS7 is an "upgrade" incentive to migrate to an iPhone5! Egads, if so then that's paramount to a Microsoft crime.