Has Apple lost its innovation mojo?

Has Apple has lost its innovation mojo? Yes, according to many pundits who weighed in immediately following last Tuesday’s announcements of the iPhone 5S and 5C. 

Comments from The Guardian were typical: “Once a company renowned for breaking new ground, Apple is turning into a typical American corporation” says the sub-head. 

treading water is what Apple has done ever since, sadly, it lost Jobs. Under the turtlenecked-one, we got the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, one after another. Since Cook took over as boss in 2011, there has been reiteration rather than innovation. The iPad, except smaller. Now with a sharper screen. In pink. Ho hum. 

Tech site CNET took a very similar line. The “5 disappointing things about hte iPhone 5S” are listed out: the screen remains the same; a faster processor – it’s only just a phone!; no improvement in battery life; still no 128GB model; a little catch up, no innovation.

The iPhone 5S has exactly what was expected: a faster processor and a better camera (one that merely catches up to the cameras in some other phones). Those features aren’t “wow” — they’re “meh.”

And news network CNN concurred. “Underwhelmed. That, in a word, was the response in many quarters to Apple’s rollout of two new iPhones on Tuesday,” its piece began. However, what followed was a more balanced round up of views. On the one hand: 

“Much-hyped iPhone announcements from the tech giant did little to stop (Apple’s) year-long descent into stagnation,” wrote Marcus Wohlsen in Wired, a CNN.com content partner. “Though the faster, sleeker, more powerful phone is unarguably cool, the steps forward are still incremental. And incremental isn’t what the world expects from Apple.”

One the other, however, 

“In most cases Apple does not walk on others’ paths,” she said. “They create their own and stick to it. This is not necessarily the easy way to do it in the short term, but assures that they remain in control.”,

quoting Carolina Milanesi, a tech analyst with Gartner Research.

And there were still others with a more subtle interpretation of innovation, such as the Innovation Excellence blog which wrote: 

I truly believe that the kinds of things that will come out of the BLE technology built into the new iPhone 5S in combination with the new fingerprint authentication will represent a quantum leap in the value we extract from our smartphones in much the same way that the AppStore that came along a year after the launch of the original iPhone.

And another Wired article with a more positive take:

The bottom line is that there’s a lot more to the iPhone switching to a 64-bit processor than hype. While the applications for it might be limited right now, Apple is paving the way for improvements that we’ll see trickle into the iPhone over the next few years. 

Forbes summed it up best for me with “7 reasons the new iPhones are starting to look good” (5 plays 7!). The bottom line for Forbes:

Innovation is unquestionably becoming less glitzy but that’s because Cook is updating Apple at the platform level. In place of Jobs’ charismatic feature, design and miniaturization-led innovation, he is giving his team space to build the boat: a device platform that is powerful enough to integrate many more services, gives developers more scope; allows the iPhone to interact with more devices around the body and in nearby locations. 

In the end this more subtle interpretation of the Apple strategy sounds to me more convincing. 

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