When Will Apple Wow Us Again?

January 19, 2017
Ashley Rondeau

IPhone_and_iPhone_3G_(Yutaka_Tsutano)I didn’t really “get” the iPhone until I held it in my hand when a friend let me borrow his back in late 2007. The first thing I did was bring up the dialer and just that little action was amazing: I was tapping on a flat area of glass and the tiny computer in my hand was actually responding. Much like turning on my first Macintosh computer or rotating the iPod clickwheel, a piece of technology had blown my mind.
Unfortunately, that was ten years ago and my mind hasn’t been blown by tech since. It’s been a rough decade.
By now, I’ve tried the latest smartphones, tablets, VR, 3D, game consoles, internet connected washing machines; all the magical tech that we’re all surrounded by everyday. Some devices have been quite impressive, don’t get me wrong. Modern gaming graphics get a low whistle out of me. Google Glass was a fun time while it lasted. And I even clapped when I first saw a car park itself. But I haven’t thought “oh, the world is about to change” like I did when the iPhone came out.

Is Apple a Services Company Now?

This question seems silly to say, in theory. Apple just came out with a bunch of new, cool hardware including wireless earbuds, the iPad Pro, and updated their MacBooks and Watch(es?) with new features. Soon we’ll see a home speaker powered by Siri to compete with Amazon and Google, probably a Google Glass type of wearable done better, and perhaps the much rumored iCar that none of us normals will be able to afford. But even if each of these come to fruition, will they really “wow” anyone anymore? After all, all of these things already exist in one form or another.
At the end of the day, Apple hasn’t come out with anything new that has “wowed” me like the iPhone. Fundamentally, its made a bigger iPhone to watch movies on and a smaller iPhone to wear on a wrist.
The Wall Street Journal seems to think Apple’s next big thing is its software, not its hardware, and it has a point. The article cites Tim Cook who said Apple’s “services business has nearly doubled in the past four years, on track to be the size of a Fortune 100 company….” This includes services like Apple Pay and of course the App Store. And this is the prudent, smart direction to go. With smartphone sales tapering off as the world becomes saturated with iPhones, software is where the money’s at.
It’s a smart decision, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I miss the old Apple.

When Steve Jobs passed, many said Apple would suffer due to the absence of his innovative foresight. That hasn’t really happened. Apple’s stock is up by over 100 percent since Cook became CEO and though revenue has dipped recently, overall its annual revenue has doubled in the last five years. As a company, it’s doing fine.
But Apple wasn’t just another company under Jobs. Perhaps due to his magic or due to the tech climate being just right, it was at the forefront of consumer tech innovation and provided us with those “wow” moments that are missing today. Now, Apple is just another boring tech giant like Dell or Microsoft or even Palm, according to former Apple engineer Bob Burrough. He said that “at Apple in 2007, organizationally it was the wild west…because the organization wasn’t the priority, the projects were the priority.” Apparently, that’s not how Apple is today, and we, the consumers, are poorer for it.
Apple has mounds of cash on hand; more than enough to weather a flop or two. I miss the old Apple that was willing to put out a Newton or LISA that flopped but paved the way for the iPhone and Macintosh. Now when Apple flops with the public, it’s because they removed a headphone jack instead of because they took a big swing at a crazy idea and missed.

Be more like Nintendo, Apple.

Nintendo had a flop recently: the Wii U. But instead of playing it safe on its next try, Nintendo decided to swing big again with the just announced Nintendo Switch. Nintendo knows they can’t risk becoming boring when they’re up against two gaming giants like Sony and Microsoft. Also, Nintendo is flush with cash due to its previous successes and can take a risk or two. Well, all this applies to Apple fifty times over (Apple has over $230 billion cash on hand) and yet, nothing amazing. No risks. No big swings.
I know Apple will do just fine. Software is great business (we should know!) and Apple heading in that direction only means a better iOS and better app platforms to build on. But if Apple could try to blow our minds with some new hardware soon, perhaps something completely unexpected, that would be pretty alright with me. Here’s hoping.

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