A lot of ink has been spilled about innovation in the computer industry the past few years, especially by Microsoft. But the Redmondites arent the only ones with a patent on the term.
Next in line is Apple Computer, which actually has some right to use the term, because Steve Jobs means what he says when the subject is innovation. The companys products have always been cutting edge in design. Notwithstanding the fact that the GUI and mouse were invented by someone else, the Macintosh did effectively turn those technologies into a popular product.
The question that has always nagged me about innovation, however, is this: To what end is innovation, and at what cost? The Mac, the first commercial graphical PC, was not only different, it also changed the way we used it and as a result changed the way we run our businesses and our lives. Thats innovation in its truest sense.
The latest Macs have also been touted as innovative, but in design only, not in functions that result in measurable productivity gains. Inside, a PC is a PC is a PC (and sometimes it is a gaming console). Many of us thought Apples Cube computer was way cool, but at its price, not too many consumers or enterprise buyers thought it was cool enough to buy.
The latest iMac, the one that got on the cover of Time magazine, has also been trumpeted as a triumph of innovation—and at its cost, its a triumph of chutzpah, too. All Jobs & Co. have done is polish the design of the original Mac. The function is still the same. In a way, its the hardware version of Windows XP.
What this says to me is that Apple, despite boasting a robust enterprise-ready operating system, is ignoring all that in favor of a pretty design. And besides garnering a lot of media attention, all thats going to do is put markets beyond its core graphics design, school and home customers out of its reach.
Innovation is going to suffer when the main concern of most PC makers is merely to stay in business. And that doesnt bode well for Apple. Admittedly, Id like to have an iMac or a Titanium PowerBook here in my office, but theres no way my IT department will pay the price for it. And in todays economy, theres no way most others will, either.
What should Apple do? Write to me at [email protected].