Apple changed everything? Yeah, right.

Apple spent the last decade fixing people’s mistakes

Photo by Jesus Belzunce/Flickr

My fellow Macleans.ca tech blogger Peter Nowak is a fine journalist and a compelling writer. His ideas and opinions are always interesting, and always worth reading.  But he’s off his nut when it comes to Apple.

Yesterday, after news of Steve Jobs’ resignation hit, Peter wrote:

“No company—probably not even Google—and certainly no individual has made as much of a difference or changed the way things work over the past 10 years as Apple has under Jobs”.

Huh?

Apple’s gargantuan success over the past decade is inarguable. Jobs is clearly a genius of form and function, an incredible leader, a brilliant marketer. He has an uncanny sense of what we will want, and then he creates it. As a businessman, he’s a titan.

But has he made a bigger difference to the world than any other individual of the past decade? Osama Bin Laden must be spinning in his grave.

And Apple has “changed the way things work” more than any other company? The comeback to that one is so obvious that Peter name-checks it in his assertion—Google is very clearly the revolutionary company of our age.

Before I back that up, let’s deal with Peter’s argument. What, exactly, has Apple done to “make a difference” and “change the way things work”? Well…

“The iPod has changed how we buy music.”

Okay, sure. And Zappos has changed the way we buy shoes. So what? Apple brought meaningful evolution to the music industry, but wasn’t it kind of inevitable? We figured out how to digitize and download music all by ourselves. Apple’s innovation was in seamlessly integrating a snazzy device with a convenient online store that sold music at a perfect price point. If the iPod and iTunes never existed, online music sales might have taken years longer to develop from the ashes of Napster. But it still would have happened. And it still wouldn’t have been that big a deal—at least not in a grand-scale-of-human-history sense.

“The iPhone changed the world of telecommunications” by “prying the phone itself and its data capabilities away from the greedy, clammy hands of wireless operators.”

True. But who really cares how their pie is cut? So now you’re stuck in a three-year contract because you got an iPhone, as opposed to 2004, when you were stuck in a three-year contract because you got a Razr. The power balance between hardware companies and telecom outfits is only relevant to you if you’re a hardware company or a telecom outfit.

But let’s set aside the power-shift the iPhone brought within the mobile industry and focus instead on the device itself. It’s a marvel, I agree. The impact of apps is wildly overblown, but mobile email, mobile web, and GPS are things that smartphone owners use every day. They have indeed changed our lives. And they would have anyhow. Blackberry addicts, largely corporate customers, were already hooked before the iPhone. But Jobs consolidated existing technologies into a wonderfully elegant and (almost) affordable device. He may have jumpstarted the popularization of the mobile Internet by a year or so. Hats off.

Finally, the iPad, which is:

“doing much to drive computing toward a post-PC reality.”

Just what does that mean? I’ve questioned the iPad’s “magical” properties before (and faced the inevitable onslaught). It’s some months later, and I’ve yet to notice any real impact of the gadget. I know folks love their glowy pads; I know they surf around on them from the couch and enjoy how they feel in their hands. But what difference does the iPad actually make in our lives? If your iPad went away tomorrow, what would you be unable to do? Tablets are not the written word’s savior or the future of the digital age. They’re just a different kind of computer that adds comfort while subtracting control. I’m glad we have them and I look forward to them getting cheaper. It’s not unlike how I felt about USB keys when they came out.

Add it all up, and Apple’s biggest impact has been aesthetic. Their products look great and have changed the way lots of other things look. But that’s just it—Apple is all about things. It’s essentially a hardware company, and it’s ill-prepared for a world where objects mean less and information means more. There’s no new God-gadget coming from Cupertino—all Apple can do once it’s done sticking cameras on things and offering them in different colors is to release cheaper iPhones and cheaper iPads, devaluing their gear until the gee-whiz factor is totally gone. This has already happened to the iPod. You probably have a three-old version in a drawer somewhere.

Google re-invented advertising, the economic engine that powers television and newspapers (or used to). Google solved the central problem of the Internet by organizing the biggest-ever library of content into an easily searchable resource that, more often than not, finds exactly what you were after. Google popularized cloud computing, which will bring the influence of the Internet into our physical lives in ways we are only beginning to comprehend.

More than anything, Google has been an accelerator of the greater ambitions of the Internet. Ten years ago, techno-utopians spoke of a future where anyone could be a publisher. Google made random blogs findable and made reader visits bankable. Ten years ago, we heard starry-eyed predictions that any kid could soon have the tools to become a pop star or a filmmaker from their own basement. Now, thanks to Google’s acquisition of YouTube, we take it for granted that this is so. Google preaches “openness,” not because it sounds good, but because the more open and accessible the Internet is to us all, the more money Google makes.

Google is surely imperfect, prone to the odd mistake or bad policy. But while Apple spent the past decade perfecting the work of the previous century, the mass-production and mass-marketing of unnecessary objects, Google was pioneering something new: a data-driven economy fueled by the input of individuals you wouldn’t dream of describing as “consumers.”

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown




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Apple changed everything? Yeah, right.

  1. i agree with your central message that google has revolutionized our modern age more so than apple. apple is just a hardware company. Though it certainly enjoys the euphoria brought about by its enormous success in electronic products, it is unlikely they can keep this trend forever. I remember back in the days when Nokia was dominating the market, look how quickly it has declined since. To Jobs’ credit, Apple already achieved a ton. 
    Google on the other hand is a very different animal. Barring any major disasters (destruction of all google headquarters everywhere on the globe by some angry god), their service will continue indefinitely because it provides us information in an information age. Even if google dies, its concept of bringing information to everyone will never die. Even in a very distant and futuristic world, it might not become obsolete even if everyone’s brain gets a computer chip which can possibly still use google as a search engine for information.

    • Apple is a hardware company?  Don’t they make operating systems and a variety of software?

      • Yeah, for their hardware.

        • And that makes my statement inaccurate and yours accurate how?

          • Think of it this way… Ford builds seats, and those seats are designed and created to go into Ford cars. Is Ford a car company or a furniture company? Apple is (somewhat) similar in that its software is designed and created to specifically be used with Apple hardware. The software is not really meant to be run on any other platform… even iTunes is just an interface between the Apple device (iPod) and the “other” system (Windows).

  2. Well I’m certainly not going to argue with the article on whole, but there is one thing I think is missed here that Apple has done that is important: accessibility for people with little time, patience or understanding of computer technology.

    With an Ipod and only the most basic of computer skills, you can access Itunes and buy your music quickly, without hassle and with little thought.

    • I think you’re on to something there, but I’m going to go a little further and argue it’s not Apple that did that, I’m going to argue that that’s something that came specifically from Jobs.

      If you look at the tech Jobs was involved with, from the old Apple ][ and it’s BASIC computer language, to the NeXT computers, to eventually the iphone/ipod etc, what they have in common is attempting to make the interaction with computers take less effort from the person.

      Personally, I’m no Jobs fan, as the guy always was primarily a salesman who happened to be able to sell himself to tech guys who were smarter than him.  However, I’ll give him credit for knowing that you can’t underestimate the public as a whole, and driving the tech guys to making products that fulfilled those needs.

      • Jonathan Ive

  3. I would say that the iPod, iPad and various ‘i’ things are the latter part of the what Jobs and Apple has done. To the above article you have to add the popularization of the GUI and just the idea that you can have your own computer at home. Apple changed all that by actually making and selling the product. They were there first and made Microsoft possible. Berners Lee invented HTML on a Jobs NEXT computer. 
    The above article is incomplete. The game starting influence was sooner.

    • In fact Google made it’s first bucks on crawling HTML pages ;) You could even say, if not Apple, Google wouldn’t exist :D

    • Actually, if you’re going to talk about GUI’s, it was Xerox who developed this innovation for the Alto. Funny…back then, Apple sued Microsoft for copying their GUI concept, to which Xerox then sued Apple. 

      • … and both suits were thrown out. Xerox’s suit failed because although it did great work on WYSIWYG, it hadn’t come up with such UI commonplaces as drop-down menus, overlapping windows, non-generic icons and many more – and in any case Apple had given Xerox stock in return for those innovations it used. Apple’s suit failed because it had unwisely agreed to let Microsoft copy details of the Mac UI without fully appreciating how much they had given away. 

        What was the point you were making?

  4. I think your article is accurate.  Nothing in the ipod, iphone or ipad were new.  Apple just happens to have a knack for doing things better, such as a better sony walkman, a better palm pilot and a better laptop.  They also have a knack for making them cool to the young crowd.
    Same goes for the earlier incarnation of apple – their 2e and mac were an improvement from the ibm pc.
    They’ve yet to invent anything themselves – except maybe that wheel on the front of the ipod. But they have a knack for putting it all together, and leading the market with top-of-the-line products in their product lines.

  5. it’s a rare guy who can see and say that “the emperor has no clothes”.  i appreciate the genius of Jobs but he is not the messiah, and apple does have some serious challenges as the cult worship will diminish.  well done jesse!

  6. I’ll try again, posting this for the third time:

    I think you’re missing the aesthetic – and it’s not that Apple makes beautiful gadgets, it’s that Apple is making the computer disappear, and it is exactly this disintermediation that rattles the cages of the technogeeks.

    Thwim and PhilKing have the sense of this.

  7. “There’s no new God-gadget coming from Cupertino—all Apple can do once it’s done sticking cameras on things and offering them in different colors is to release cheaper iPhones and cheaper iPads, devaluing their gear until the gee-whiz factor is totally gone.”

    Would you have said something similar, like: all Apple can do once it’s done adding whizzy animation effects and glowing UIs is to release cheaper MacBooks, prior to their creation of the iPod?

    Would you have said something similar, like: all Apple can do once it’s done adding noise-cancellation and automatic playlists is to release cheaper iPods, prior to their creation of the iPhone?

    Would you have said something similar, like: all Apple can do once it’s done adding higher-resolution cameras and voice activation is to release cheaper iPhones, prior to their creation of the iPad?

    I don’t see any reason to predict that Apple’s imagination will fail them at this point. That you and I can’t see what the next hardware gadget might be is a testament to our *own* failures of imagination, not Apple’s.

  8. I guess this article is ok if you are a google fan-boy or the like. What i dislike about this article is that huge swaithes of innovation are cast aside with faint praise, yet the points that are arguable in favour of the overall premise of the article are embelished with (a little bit too much) rabid ranting.

    based upon the premise and argument in this article everything is a fixed copy of something else. How can apple’s app store and iOS eco system be anything other than innovative ? yes the technology that enables it is probably not “that” innovative but the concept is genius. Take a set of devices .. mp3 players, phones, tablets. glue them altogether with a best in class experience and millions of apps and revolutionise the phone market overnight. Before the iPhone people used to buy their phones solely based on what (usually) pointless features some far off korean company had squeezed into their handset you bought it and that was it for 18 months or so. Then came the iPhone the hardware had the stuff you needed without any gimmiks but the phone was all about the OS, the experience. An experience that would continue to improve over the next 18 months, and one that resulted in a continued investment from the owner. Come time to upgrade 18 months later, do you really want to wave good bye to that investment. It is genius as a business model and everyone has copied it. Yes parts of it existed before but the innovation was bringing all that together into one concept. 

    What cements this totally biased piece is where it uses google as a counter to the proposed polished plagiarism of apple. That stinks, google has desperately failed to innovate over the last decade, where it has innovated, it has failed (Wave, buzz etc the list is long) google’s three biggest products apart from search are ads (mainly acquired) android (copied from iOS) and Plus (copied from facebook) the exception being google’s “innovative” circles which the jury is still out on (TL;DR they suck). Google are a search company that makes money from adverts, any innovation they do is surely linked to the pursuit of this aim. Apple are a product company providing high end consumer electronics any innovation they have (and continue to) make is surely in the pursuit of this…

    • I submit that Google Maps and Streetview are far more technically impressive than anything Apple has done in the past ten years.

      • you are actually being serious here aren’t you

      • I agree completley. Google helps vastly more people do vastly more things in a day than Apple could ever dream of.

  9. Looks like you’re confusing aesthetics with simplification of form and function (the result of thoughtful interaction design). You, and many people who know how to use today’s desktop computers, often don’t get why a more limited computer would be any better.

    Touch computing removes a level of indirection in the human-computer interface, and the net result is many more people can figure it out and use it, it widens the userbase.

    Google? Honestly I believe they really stagnated after making search and maps great, and making everything go back to monetization via advertising is making products suck.

    • Are you sure? Google was the biggest factor in “Web 2.0″ taking off due to Gmail and ajax. They changed email and the way we, developers, approached building apps. It would have happened eventually but they are continuously pushing the envelope [even now in leading the WebKit development efforts].

  10. It’s easy to minimize accomplishments.  Witness:  ”what has google really done?  they took an existing idea (yahoo/alta vists/etc search) and made it better”
    I sense you are just irritated by Apple’s success and notoriety.  It can be fun to be the skeptic and the nay-sayer I suppose.  And perhaps grab a few page views…..

    Apple has 4 major accomplishments that rival Google’s impact (primarily having great search):
    1) iPod/iTunes
    2) iPhone
    3) iPad
    4) App store

    Just like Google’s search, all had been done before.  But Apple took them to a level never before seen.  Were these advancements inevitable?  Yep.  So was great search.  So what?

    • I don’t think comparing four products to a method of organization that essentially runs the entire web is apt. Google’s algorithm and cloud computing are the means of the modern web. Without it, these devices would be totally irrelevant. (Yahoo and altavista would not deliver the user experience we have today) However, there were devices created before these – mp3 players existed before the ipod, smart phones were around before the iphone, tablets existed before the ipad, and even palm had an app store back in the day. Apple has made these items appealing to the masses, but if they did not exist, alternatives would be available. Without google, we’d still be on geocities webrings.

      • but your premise is just conjecture, its just your opinion and like the author above you just assume that your premise is fact when it isnt at all. google doesnt run the entire web, many people succeed on the web without google. google’s algorithm (?) i.e. paid search and cloud computing !?!? their cloud computing is niche compared to others (S3 anyone) and without them, these devices would be totally relevant. The app store would still exist, iTunes would still exist and to say that alta vista and yahoo would not deliver the “user experience” we have today. What exactly do google contribute to user experience? ads? shit loads of ads? Yes. but user experience? really ? are you sane ? without google we would probably still be using the far superior alta vista. which seems to have been the beta max of the internet age. without google we would just have someone else providing search and pushing ads but maybe their mantra wouldn’t be so Pius. the above is only true in your mind. 

        • Alta vista was far superior? That’s plain nuts. Google blew it out of the water, both technically and in terms of business success.

          • the only thing alta vista got wrong was their business strategy. the page submission turn around and the command interface were far superior to anything google offered, it was THE search engine of the mid to late 90′s but they screwed it by focussing on things other than what they were best at.. search, if anything google probably wouldn’t have succeeded if alta vista hadn’t made such a disastrous choice to chase the “portal” fashion of the time. To dismiss alta vista proves to me that you cannot have ever spent much time on the internet in the mid to late 90′s, the command interface was awesome and is still supported.. shame that the index (even though affiliated with yahoo) just doesnt have the content in it anymore. in terms of business success, there is no denying that google were superior but technically, nah not in alta vista’s hey day, and even now google’s command interface is poor by comparison. 

      • see duckduckgo to get an idea of how altavista or even yahoo could eventually deliver the same user experience as google does.
        duckduckgo is a ONE man project and it still delivers pretty _good_ results.
        this article is biased.

  11. both Jobs and Google used other’s innovations and  added their own business and marketing genius’s to create business empires. As such they stand out as business giants.

    It’s just petty to belittle either’s achievements, however, the imperial nature of both organizations tends to engender defensiveness and hostility.

    Ironically, the net that transmits the data, and the software that powers many of our smarter phones and devices runs on a kernel created by oft ignored Linus Torvalis, who 20 years ago created an operating system called Linux and gave it away.  While Gates, Jobs et al seized the spotlight and acquired barely conceivable fortunes,   Torvalis lived comfortably and worked on projects like the arm processor.  While the big shots tried and continue to try to copyright and patent the world,  Torvalis consistently worked to make it a freer and more productive place.

    But let’s remember  Jobs certainly made the world a more beautiful and productive place.  In fact, may he not be one of if not the greatest industrial designer ever?

    • er…correct me if i’m wrong but…Jonathan Ive designed the iPod

      • and pretty much everything else apple has produced since their revival. 

  12. Steve Jobs is almost dead, Apple has been decapitated, now back to reality.

  13. Bill Gates has touched and empowered more people and companies. Yes, hate me for saying that, but it’s absolutely true. 

    Apple does it better, but less. 

    Mohammed Yunus enabled and freed more people in developing nations.  That’s why he got the Nobel, and Jobs did not, and will not. 

    I just switched back to Apple after 25 years astray, for reasons that don’t serve the conversation (code, developers, compatibility). And I really like a lot of what I’m experiencing. But not all of it. 

    Apple still has not made the computing experience seamless and wonderful across the board, yet most pundits and fans seem to ignore that. 

    Apple made the MP3 player work great. Diamond Rio was first, though, in 1998. Well before the iPod. They made it better, but after the model of the Rio and many others. 

    Apple made Linux/unix more friendly and usable. Well after many other attempts. They made adequate much better. 

    Apple made the tablet pretty sweet. But only after 2 decades of tablet computing to show them what sucked and what didn’t. 

    Apple incorporated multi-touch. They didn’t think of it, design it, or create it. Some guy out of NYU inspired the shit out of people and Jobs saw the potential–along with Microsoft and everyone else. Jobs did a better job of incorporating it. 

    Watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ac0E6deG4AU

    I have deep admiration for Jobs. I hate to see him wasting away. I love his vision for the new HQ. I’ve been impacted by both his passion and reputation for treating people like heroes or assholes, nothing in between. And I’ll miss his presence. 

    But the fawning over Apple as a revolutionary company is absolutely misplaced. It’s an evolutionary company, and should be lauded for that.

    • OSX was based on UNIX/FreeBSD/NetBSD not Linux, and was created by jobs while he was at NEXT.

      • yes, my bad, meant unix though there are elements in Darwin that linux shares. The point is that they innovated on top of other innovations. 

  14. Good points all round but I disagree with your point on USB sticks, when they came out it was a game changer, and I couldn’t do much without one, and certainly wouldn’t go back to the floppy or Zip drive!

  15. “The impact of apps is wildly overblown…” That means you aren’t using them enough. According to my iPhone’s Settings>General>About , I have more than 200 apps of which I use 40 or 50 every day. I would prefer not to do without most of them. Perhaps you would be better off with a simpler phone.

    • Hallmark of a mac-head–sneering condescension.

      • I don’t know. The last two times I went to the pharmacy and asked the pharmacist about possible drug interactions or side effects from our prescriptions, they whipped out iPhones and consulted an app. Clearly, Shoppers Drug Mart has found a use for them, anyway.

        • There’s also a restaurant that uses a stack of ipads as menus. It’s called gimmickry.

    • That’s because Blatchford is one of the best.

  16. I hate Apple (they manufacture expensive status symbols, not products with good value), but I’m not sure I buy the argument here. You fault Jobs for fixing other people’s mistakes, but couldn’t the same argument be extended to Google? After all, google was not the first search engine. Remember the days of Alta Vista, yahoo, lycos, etc. etc. Google just had the best algorithm.

    Similarly, you suggest that itunes was an inevitable development. Why was itunes inevitable, while google ads were not?

    • iTunes was inevitable because it was clear that in the not distant future everybody would be getting their music via the internet, because the mp3 was simply a better and more efficient medium to get music. Somebody was going to come along and figure out a way to monetize that in a legal way.

  17. You Mr. Brown have absolutly no clue. But thats ok, we need people with one and people without.

  18. My critique of Peter’s position would be simpler: While I agree
    that Apple has had massive influence, I’m not convinced the more
    positive sounding phrase of “contribution” is appropriate.

    This is said from the perspective of a political activist that fights
    to ensure that owners of technology control the technology they own.
    My reasons range from it being what I believe is right in a just
    society, to being a question of “ownership of the means of production”
    in a knowledge economy. I believe that fighting against private
    citizens controlling the technology that they own is unjust as well as
    anti-capitalist.

    Mr. Jobs more than any other individual, and Apple more than any
    other company, has been the most visible on the other side of this
    political fight. Yes, there are other political actors such as Sony and
    to a lesser degree Microsoft, but these other entities haven’t been  as politically successful as Jobs/Apple.

    Google’s political influence has been mixed, but I would still put them as an overall positive for the time being.  It would get a little too subjective for me to suggest whether Google’s positive on sometimes/often being open has been greater than Apples negative on opposing IT property rights, but the fact the +- sign of the numbers are different says enough.

    I also disagree with Jesse as I believe that far more than
    aesthetic, it has been the political influence of Apple that has been
    their greatest impact. Many people who may otherwise be activists and
    freedom fighters in other aspects of their lives have been perfectly
    willing to give up freedom for aesthetic/convenience/whatever as they
    boot up their Mac or iPadLocked devices.

  19. I don’t see why we need to compare Apples to Oranges (or Googles) they’re pretty much two different companies doing two different things for the world and I don’t think they should be in competition. Google focuses on Software that helps organize information into an easily accessible form that we can then use to live our lives better. Apple focuses on hardware that helps us uses that software to help us live our lives better. The two are nothing without the other. Apple is stronger because of Google and Google is stronger because of Apple.

    You want to know what the 1st, 2nd and 3rd most used tasks are on my iPhone are? Gmail, Google Search and Google Maps. And if you asked me if I wanted a Android phone I’d just chuckle and laugh because there’s no one single phone hardware out there that runs Andriod that can compete with the iPhone. The touch is slick, the phone feels slick and solid and the UI is good too. Combine that with the App store and you have everything you could want in a device that fits into your pocket.

    But if you took away Google Search and Maps from the iPhone and gave me a worse search or map app, I would probably switch to an Android phone simply for those two things. It’s that important to my day to day life now. (As sad at that is)

    So lets have less of this Apple VS. Google talk and more of what can Apple to do make Google work better on their platforms and what can Google do to make their products work better with Apple platforms. Because we’ll all be better for it.

  20. Apple:  
    - widely acclaimed marketing strategies  
    - a reportedly superior computer  
    - a savvy and cool culture centered on its product  
    - and after 30 years, a market share that has climbed to 10%?  
     
    This has always puzzled me.  
     
    Of course, the company is still richer than God, but considering what they charge, it’s not surprising. It’s like the corner fruit vendor in the Depression selling apples at $100,000 each. “You’re not going to sell many apples at that price,” warns a passerby. “I only need to sell one,” retorts the vendor.  
     
    So far, Apple has managed to sell far more than one apple, but that could all change, now that Jobs has stepped down. Why continue to pay exorbitant prices in order to claim kinship with “the cool guy’s team,” when the cool guy’s no longer on the team?

    • Your comment is well taken.  However, there are factors that you’ve not addressed that provide a different perspective on the landscape.

      First, that 85% (I’ll even call it 90% for the sake of argument) market share for Windows is heavily slanted by corporate and government use.  “Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft,” and that culture won’t leave corporate IT any time soon.  (There is also the side issue that a world of Macs would need fewer IT personnel, so the same people who pooh-pooh Apple products often have a vested interest in preventing Apple from disrupting their sinecures.)

      In the consumer market, Apple has a staggering 90% share of the $1000+ personal computer market, and that is not counting iPads and Macs Mini.  What this means when you look at who is buying computers and for what, it means that Apple utterly dominates the market for home computers above the e-machine/appliance/nettop level.  One surmises the other 10% are the technically savvy hardcore gamer and modding demographics.  When people want performance out of their computer, overwhelmingly they turn to Mac, despite Macs being ostensibly underspecced.  “They Just Work” would appear to be a more salient filter than bullet points full of memory bus speeds.

      Under $1000 in the consumer market, it’s safe to say that Apple still has a small market share.  I would be surprised if it were even 10%.  It’s just Macbooks, Macbook Airs, Macs Mini, and the edu-iMacs.  So what did Apple do?  Rather than competing on ever-shrinking margins, Apple has released the iPad and its market reach has grown like a den of Tribbles.  Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’”  Steve Jobs knew people thought they wanted simpler, more powerful computers, the “faster horses” of the information age.  What Jobs intuited, and the true fruit of his and Apple’s design vision, was that people don’t want “computers” per se at all.  What people really wanted was “listen to music” and “email others” and “make home movies” and “surf the web” and “take it all with me without a hassle.”  And Jobs’ response was to ditch the e-machine market entirely and come up with a better way to give those customers what they really wanted, rather than what they thought they wanted, in a form factor so intuitive it requires nearly no instruction at all to use.  The iPad era is truly only beginning, and Apple (and Wall Street, by the look of AAPL’s value) is wagering that the sub-$1000 computer is going to become a very niche appliance in the foreseeable future.

      Google’s contributions to the modern age of tech are considerable and in general I agree with the article as far as that goes.  But what Apple has done is something that will not be appreciated for its true import for years yet to come — but eventually.  Apple is making the computer disappear, while still giving us the output the computer makes possible.

      As for price, I’m not even sure that is going to stay a discriminant.  Everyone knows Macs are more expensive, right?  Why is it, then, that no other maker of ultrabook PCs can compete with the 2011 Macbook Air on PRICE?  The best ASUS and Sony could do against the Air was $1600-1800 for a model congruent to the $999-$1300 Airs.  And how much does that $499 Dell e-machine really cost in money, desk space, time, hassle, and additional components compared to a $499 iPad 2 that does everything the user used to do with the Dell?  Macs may still be a poor choice for the bargain-basementest users, for tinkerers, and for high-performance gamers… but for the rest of us, product by product Apple has introduced an affordable, well-designed, well-built, elegant, and intuitive solution that Just Works.  We’ll see whether that trend continues.

  21. This will cause much wetting of pants among the legion of Apple fanboys.

  22. I still think it’s just hilarious that Apple is called “innovative” for making the iPad. They literally just took an iPhone, made it bigger, heavier, and removed many features. I’ve never understood how that’s considered an improvement.

  23. This article is out to lunch and barely worth responding to.  Apple’s innovations are legend, innumerable, and often imitated for decades.  The only mistake Peter Nowak makes in his assessment is focusing on the last decade.  They brought the following capabilities to the masses: Portable computing.  Graphical user interface.  WYSIWYG editing.  Desktop publishing.  Mousing.  The click wheel.  Micro hard drives.  Podcasting and iTunesU.  Solid-state memory computers.  Small footprint computers. Recyclable computers, Multi-touch displays and trackpads. iTunes store software distribution platform. Fanless computers.

    They achieved all of these advancements while delivering among the most accessible and elegantly designed hardware and software in the industry.  In fact, many of their advancements are a *consequence* of endeavouring to produce such devices.  The focus on accessible design is not merely an aesthetic priority, it is an imperative goal that drives innovation.

    • Don’t forget “Target Mode”. Then again, I guess this never made it to the masses. Still – hands down one of the best things ever!

  24. A Ferrari serves no practical purpose. It makes huge profits, does nothing for the environment, and nothing else for the goodness of the world. Yet all other cars aspire to be it in some way.
    Everyone knows the arrival of the motorcar would have eventually given rise to a car similar to a Ferrari, but it would have looked, felt and driven different. What’s more, the same argument above would have applied to that unknown car too.
    My point is, there is a contradiction to any action that you can debate the semantics around. What you cannot dispute is the fact most computerized electronic devices and interfaces we use today try and mimic the look and feel of the industry standard – Apple. Even Google mimics Apple’s simplistic approach and you can see it in their android smartphones.
    Ferraris are not remembered for the nuts and bolts that went it making them, but the end result of something being greater than the sum of its parts. While Microsoft and Google remain the workaholics of the IT industry upholding the backbone of the information technology space, Apple is the company that gives it some definition and paves the way for things to come. That to me is value.

  25.  I do hope to see more after the ipod, iphone, ipad, and apple TV. It is really a pity if I see Apple do nothing after its previous movement under Jobs. The new leader should do something to make Apple become more stable and special. Google is really an ambitious giant!

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