Before Steve Jobs passed, Apple used to be the company that made products that "just do." For example, the Macbook with OS X - it "just does." Extremely simple, with fewer customization options as you would see on Windows, but OS X arguably eliminates the extra "fluff" (i.e. extra features that either do not work or have little benefit, like in Windows; regardless of whether the features work, too many options can have the opposite effect of making the user feel overwhelmed).
Most of all, Mac OS X's UNIX foundation drastically reduced the amount of blue screens and computer crashes that mid 2000's PC users often experienced. All this to say, Apple provided innovation that each and every person deeply wanted - a computer that just works.
Which, of course, begs the question: Do people deeply crave an "iWatch?" A bigger iOS phone? There may be a small crowd, but is Apple really storming the market again, as it originally did with going head-to-head with PCs and destroying the competition? A bigger iPhone offers marginal greater utility. Additionally, look at Samsung. Are people really going wild over the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch? Arguably not - Apple is playing catch up.
However, let's take a look at what Wall Street thought about their announcements:
Apply Pay is hugely underestimated. Peter Thiel, in his recent book Zero to One, argues that tech startups that simply recreate a market may as well be forgotten (i.e. there will not be another Mark Zuckerburg of social networking - Facebook is already there as the world's social network and it is there to stay). Thiel applies the same argument to Apple. Apple has established dominance as the smartphone maker, and it is there to stay in its position. Thus, as I argue, it makes perfect sense for Apple to expand with Apple Pay, if Apple is staying as the world's top smartphone provider - why not, as with simplifying actions with the Macbook and OS X, simplify payment processing and take a commission? If people of all ages are already glued to their phones, why not capitalize on this obsession by making it even easier to pay for items, all while taking a cut of the purchase price?
All this to say, I definitely have mixed feelings about Apple's product releases:
- I believe Apple is playing catch up with Samsung's larger phones, essentially saying "We don't know where else to innovate, so we're going to copy Samsung's two main differentials: Screen size and wearables."
- Apple will, however, greatly boost earnings through its Apple Pay, a wildly underestimated feature.
- Apple's timing to release the iWatch is poor. In attempting to capture the wearable market (since, arguably, no wearable has even come close to market penetration), why would Apple delay the release until Q1 2015? Releasing the watch in time for the holiday season would be more practical.
- Steve Jobs might have been horrified with releasing the watch in Q1 2015, as opposed to the 2014 September announcements. Steve Jobs was notorious for grinding his employees to meet impossible deadlines.
- Apple's release of Yosemite (OS X 10.10) also is bittersweet. The operating system promised continuity and integration. The features worked great for updated Retina Macbook Pro's, but trying to integrate Handoff and Airdrop with an older Macbook Pro and a 5S has been a nightmare (personal experience). It just doesn't work. Steve Jobs likely would have never let a faulty product, as such, reach the market. He would rather release a low-feature product that works perfectly than a product full of features that's buggy (e.g. when the iPhone was first released, iOS lacked a simple copy-and-paste feature).
- Trying to watch the live stream of the conference was an experience. The audio was out of sync, and the Chinese translator's volume was nearly as loud as the keynote speaker's microphone. Just kidding - you only had that luxury if you could actually watch the live stream: For at least 80% of the live stream, users looked at a blank, buffering video player. Of all things, if Apple is trying to market its iCloud service, it should at least be able to handle a video streaming of its product announcement conference.
- The iPhone 6 Plus breaks easily. Apple has been known to produce flawless, quality products. However, a video has been circulating Facebook showing some kids breaking apart iPhone 6 Plus's with their bare hands.
TL;DR Apple is beginning to primarily employ sustaining innovation instead of disruptive innovation.
(All images belong to their respective owners).