It happens every time Apple makes an announcement: “Where’s the really big difference,” shout the haters from the rooftops. “Where’s the innovation?“
Well, here’s the thing: When it comes to technology, “innovation” doesn’t mean what you think it means. Almost none of the technology we come to rely on every day for transportation, productivity, and entertainment, is actually a brand new invention. And very much of what we refer to as “innovation” is mainly a product of good design — the smart application of existing technologies to make life better for users.
Let’s go back to Apple for a moment. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, Apple didn’t invent the personal computing market: Olivetti invented the PC with the Progamma 101 in 1965, when the Steves Wozniak and Jobs were still in school. HP, Xerox, Wang, and IBM all offered personal computer models of their own. But it was the Apple II that made computing affordable and accessible to the home.
Which is exactly the same trick that Apple pulled thirty-some-odd years later with the iPod, and later the iPhone. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player. It didn’t invent the cell phone. It didn’t invent the touchscreen, or mobile e-mail, or that cool portrait/landscape switching that we now take for granted. What Apple did was combine these technologies in a way that had never been tried before.
The iPhone wasn’t the most technologically robust phone on the market — remember when everyone was up in arms because the first two iPhone models were only on 2G? But it was the first that presented a compelling case for how people could use a smartphone in their everyday lives.
The “innovation” was in optimizing their product to reflect the company’s very specific vision for how people should interact with technology. That vision continues through today: Even the Woz agrees that Apple is plenty innovative, even if its lack of really new products indicates a gap in inventiveness, which is a different topic.
And you see it again and again in all segments.
Uber didn’t invent cabs. It just invented a better way to call and pay for them that took advantage of the smartphone platform.
Tesla didn’t invent electric cars. It just invented a better way to manufacture them that lets them drive further, faster. (Although Tesla holds a bunch of well-deserved patents for their battery and charger technology — patents that theyopened up this week to encourage people to build on their inventions.)
Since CITEworld is an enterprise IT blog, let’s take a look at an enterprise IT company: Okta, the single sign-on cloud identity company which this week raised a hefty $75 million round of funding, today unveils a new user experience (UX).