Shortly after the release of Windows Phone 7 in late 2010, I took the stance that Apple was falling behind in terms of innovation. Lately, it seems like a lot of people are starting to agree with me. Apple stocks have been taking hits because investors, as I heard one say on TV, are recognizing that nothing truly innovative has come out of the Apple camp since the passing of Steve Jobs. Yet, as investors, consumers, and technologists, we’re waiting for lightning to strike for the second time—“Please Apple, radically change our lives again!” We’re still waiting for some earthshattering new release, oblivious of the fact that the innovation currently propelling Apple forward isn’t even coming from Apple.
Let me repeat this – the innovations currently moving Apple forward are not being designed or manufactured by Apple.
Where is today’s innovation coming from?
Let’s look back for a moment at how Apple has transformed the tech industry since the turn of the century. The iPod was introduced in October of 2001, changing the way people listen to music. In 2007, iPhones hit the market and people started carrying their computers around in their pockets. In 2010, it was the iPad, which offered a more portable alternative to PCs and laptops. Then, in 2011, Jobs died. Since then, Apple has given us the finger-print sensor and the 64-bit app processor—cool enough, but not exactly revolutionary.
The innovations catching people’s attention these days are almost exclusively in the form of mobile apps. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful whether app development can sustain a platform’s market viability or lead to products that are seen as truly revolutionary to society as a whole. As fun, engaging, and useful as many apps are, they also tend to cost less than $1.00—and that’s if they’re not free.
The most impactful innovations these days are coming mostly from third-party hardware companies who are creating wearable devices that monitor and record various behaviors and biometrics, like the fitness companies FitBit and Nike+. Integration with medical devices, automobiles, and farm equipment—these are just a few innovative technologies that have the potential to revolutionize our lives and the ways we incorporate computing into them. These are the kinds of inventions that keep tech people (like the ones I work with at Aptera) speculating.
What does this mean for Apple’s future?
But I doubt this will mean Apple has to cede its role as one of the main players in the device industry any time soon. The thing about all those interactive and biometric devices is that they’re kind of expensive. One of the primary reasons Android has been such a successful mobile operating system is that it runs on low-cost devices. Folks buying those devices are not typically buying the more expensive apps; they aren’t willing to drop $100 for an attachment that connects their device to something else. Apple users, on the other hand, are more likely to be the type who would shell out a large chunk of cash for a cool gadget.
We can’t expect a single company to completely redefine society on a regular basis. The supercomputers we carry around in our pockets will almost certainly be the basis for many great future innovations. Companies like Chevrolet, Case IH, or Siemens Healthcare are going to find ways to use these devices to redefine transportation, banking, and individual healthcare. The question is, will we even recognize these advances as revolutionary? Or will we instead take scant notice of them as we acclimate to the brave new world they’re laying the groundwork for?
Of course, as the joke goes, nothing is as hard to predict as the future. Apple just may burst the market wide open with some crazy new gadget none of us ever imagined. I’ve even heard rumors they might purchase Elon Musk’s company, Tesla Motors. Who knows what kinds of innovation that could lead to?
I want to know what you think. Do you have any predictions about what the next tech revolution will look like or where it will come from? If so, share them with us in the comments section.
Matt became the leader of our largest practice at Aptera in May 2014 after eleven years of experience in the industry and one year of experience at Aptera. He specializes in the development of cloud-connected mobile applications and serves on the planning boards of the M3 and Cloud Development Conferences. In addition to his expertise developing apps for mobile devices, he also has a strong background in enterprise-level web applications and enjoys presenting at local and regional events on different software development topics. When Matt’s not creating mobile apps or spending time with his wife and three children, he coaches baseball at Wayne Trace High School.