The most common recent complaint about Apple, especially among the tech media and Apple enthusiasts, tends to be a perceived lack of innovation in recent years. Much of this is based on the fact that Apple made huge strides in several core computing and mobile tech categories from the late 1990s to the 2010s under the leadership of Steve Jobs.
While it is true that Apple hasn’t an iPhone or iPad-level hit since Jobs’ passing, it isn’t as if the company is standing still. The Watch has become a nice slow-burn success story, the Mac is still selling strong, iPad sales are turning around, Apple now has a fast-growing Services business, and they are closing in on becoming the first company in the world with a trillion dollar valuation, as well. However, while all of that can’t be dismissed, the lack of a slam dunk product over the last 7 years, some high-profile struggles with software, and the current negative impressions of Siri feed this lack of innovation narrative.
I wrote about iPhone 8 sales a few weeks ago, as reports were beginning to infer that the device was performing poorly so close to its launch. There is more grist for the rumor mill this week, as there are reports that Apple has scaled back production by more half. On the surface, this move seems to indicate that the phone is selling well below Apple’s expectations, especially when paired with Reuters’ report that the iPhone 7 is outselling the 8 right now. However, these individual reports still can’t be viewed in a vacuum. Let’s step back from the ledge for a second. and try to put everything in context.
Apple was doomed. Then they set stock records and became the most valuable company in the world. Then the price fell and they were doomed again. We were assured that they couldn’t innovate anymore. Then Phil Schiller told us Apple “can’t innovate my ass” (ironically while announcing a computer that would go three years without an update).