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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Apple’s new products aren’t even cool anymore

    Apple Inc.’s so-called “Special Event” on Wednesday began with a bold statement from CEO Tim Cook.

    “We’re about to make some monster announcements,” he claimed.

    There were indeed announcements made, and indeed some of them could be called monstrous.

    Monstrously disappointing, maybe.

    Apple has long been the archetypal innovative, consumer electronics company. One could argue that they are the reason we even have consumer electronics companies to begin with. But Wednesday’s uninspired event confirmed that the sun is setting on Apple’s golden era of innovation.

    The world changed forever when Apple brought personal computers to the masses. Portable music was revolutionized when thousands of songs could suddenly fit in an iPod the size of a slim billfold wallet. And of course, the explosion of the iPhone created a world where the entirety of human knowledge fits in our pockets, just a touch away.

    The lineup of new products announced Wednesday, showed a distinct lack of such world-changing technology.

    Take the iPad Pro, for example. With a larger screen, removable Smart Keyboard and stylus dubbed the “Apple Pencil,” the iPad Pro feels a lot like Microsoft’s Surface Pro, the iPad’s biggest competition.

    Or the new Apple TV, which is supposed to be exciting because it now has a motion-sensing remote that allows users to play casual social games. That would be exciting, if I were a 10-year-old again and had never heard of the Nintendo Wii.

    Even the iPhone, without question Apple’s most important (read: profitable) product, lacks any innovative new features. The most impressive hardware upgrade is in the camera; the new iPhones can shoot 4K video, meaning most people can’t even playback their cell phone videos in full quality on their less advanced TVs at home. But not even this notable feature reflects any innovation on Apple’s part. The Samsung Galaxy line has had 4K video capability since 2013.

    All of the other announcements made at the Apple event fell somewhere between gimmicky and lifeless—more iPhone colors, an Apple iPhone upgrade plan, new Apple Watch bands and expected processing upgrades.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple products. I’m typing this up on a MacBook and I just sent a text message from my iPhone. I’m openly an Apple fanboy.

    My reverence for Apple is the reason I’m particularly disappointed with the company’s lack of innovation as of late. Ever since Steve Jobs died, the company has lost its vision.

    Jobs was the reason Apple pushed the limits of consumer technology. Once, when asked how much market research he had done during the development of the iPad, Jobs responded, “None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

    He knew that the key to success was not to give consumers what they wanted, but rather to show the customers what they were going to want.

    Dr. Anne Stringfellow of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship spoke of Jobs’ knack for creating trends in technology: “To be really successful takes figuring out latent customer needs, that is, needs that customers themselves are unable to articulate. This is where Steve Jobs excelled.”

    Without Jobs, Apple hasn’t been able to recreate the innovative drive that defined the company for so many years. He never would have accepted the trend-following that dominated Apple’s recent announcements. In fact, in 2010 Jobs said of the iPad: “if you see a stylus, they blew it.”

    So there you have it. Steve Jobs, the patron saint of Apple, would have thought Apple “blew it” on Wednesday.

    Jobs wouldn’t be alone in this. After the announcements were made, Apple shares dropped 1.9 percent. Investors were less than thrilled that Apple announced nothing but the fact that they’ve resorted to playing catch-up with competitor’s products.

    Apple makes high-quality products with immaculate design and sleek user interfaces. The decline of its innovation doesn’t reflect a decline of the quality of its products. Apple will continue selling millions of iPhones, it will continue dominating markets and it will continue making massive amounts of money.

    But I don’t expect Apple to continue changing the world. And that’s a shame, because the world as we know it exists because of Apple.

    Follow Graham Place on Twitter.

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