Bloomberg News surveyed technology investors to discover that over 70 percent of them believe that Apple has lost its innovative edge, either permanently (28 percent) or temporarily (43 percent). It would seem that this perception correlates with the company’s stock decline.
So, this got me wondering. What would Apple have to produce to rekindle investor enthusiasm? What could be its next big thing?
Steve Jobs allowed that one reason for his success was a penchant for saying no. His goal, apparently, was to create a unique combination of hardware and software that “just worked,” and getting complicated things to work well together meant sticking to the principle that less is more.
The brief histories of the iPhone and iPad suggest an initial “revolution” followed by continuous improvement and refinement—as opposed to copy first then offer feature after feature with the hope that something sticks with consumers. Each iteration of Apple products is superior to its predecessor. Operations become faster and more elegant. Quality reigns supreme. And this strategy has been handsomely rewarded in the form of outrageous profits. People are almost fanatically anxious to pay Apple a sizable premium for the devices Jobs wrought.
There is much speculation, fueled to a large extent by Jobs himself and now by his successor, Tim Cook, that Apple has several major products in the pipeline. What could these be, and could they be as revolutionary as the iPhone and iPad?
I suspect that Apple’s “next big thing” will be a new combination of existing concepts and technologies, designed with exquisite attention to detail and ease of use. That’s the Apple way, one that investors have yet to figure out, it seems, but that millions of consumers recognize. Also, remember that many of these same investors went apeshit over mortgage-backed securities, sub-prime loans, and financial derivatives that no one could understand.