The iphone 5 came out last Friday and I am not impressed. I was hoping for something really innovative and impressive from Apple, like a transparent phone or a projected keyboard, and instead we got predictable evolutionary refinements: thinner, lighter, faster, etc just like most tech. products. The iphone 5 is better than the 4, but so are most new flagship smart phones. There is nothing revolutionary about the iphone 5. The improvements are similar to those between the Samsing sII and SIII, and yet people are not lining up for days living in a collective hysteria over the new SIII. The iphone 5 is truely a testament to our collective need to run with the herd, even if the herd is running towards a cliff.
Clearly Apple has been able to create an aura around its products that transcends logic and reason. By now it seems that many people will happily shell out $700 dollars for anything new, no matter how good or bad, as long as it has the Apple name on it. For many people Apple is cool and the social status the is confers is worth any amount of money. By now the iphone is technically similar to its rivals, except that it costs more, is more closed, has a sealed battery, and no memory expansion. The iphone also has some advantages over its rivals, such as smooth operation, but not enough to justify the mania.
I thought that Apple would have trouble after the death of Steve Jobs, but for the moment it has done extremely well, mostly driving on the sheer inertia set up by Jobs. The company has been able to take the formula established by Jobs and run with it. Apple has the team, the aesthetics, and the cool factor set firmly put in place by Jobs.. I also suspect that Jobs bequeathed several conceptual ideas before his death that Apple can still use in the future.
None the less I suspect that sooner or later the lack of Jobs input will hurt the company. Until now they have been able to continue with the product line set up by Jobs with a few evolutionary improvements, but if Apple wants to continue its phenomenal growth it will have to open up new product lines, and in that case Apple will be moving into more uncharted waters without the guiding hand of Jobs. The smart phone market is fairly close to saturation, so just how many more iphones can Apple sell in the future to justify ever expanding growth? And it Apple ever loses its cool factor due to the loss of Steve Jobs it will have to compete more on price and features.
I saw the Apple 2012 keynote address and it was tedious and boring for the first time in Apple´s history. The lack of Steve Jobs´master touch was evident. Instead it looked just like every other corporate presentation. Entirely forgettable.
As an ironic side note, the company so loved by the oh so progressive and enlightened politically correct left of center crowd had not a single woman or non white speaking at the presentation. Just a stream of white men. Personally I could care less, because obviously Apple is going for talent over being PC, which I approve of, but none the less it shows a certain irony to Apple and its supporters. Of course irony and hypocrisy are nothing new to those who are PC.
One can play an endless speculative game of “would Steve Jobs have done that?” with current Apple products. One feature on the new iphone 5 that I suspect he would have vetoed is the new “lightening” connector. By now Apple has convinced manufactures to create a ton of devices for the old connector. It was a growing standard, and then Apple abandons it for a new incomparable one. There is an adapter but it costs a scandalous $30, does not come included with the iphone % ?!?, and I am not sure that it will work very well with all those music docking stations that people have bought. Apple must have had a damn good reason to undermine their standard, and I think it has to do with forcing people to upgrade with their wallets. Of course Apple has a long history of making their older products incompatible with the latest and greatest, and Apple fans have shown great forbearance towards these inconveniences. I have not doubt that Apple customers will shell out money for overpriced adapters and new music players in droves.
This brings me to the point that for many Apple is a kind of religion. Most Apple users are probably non-religious, but I find that non-religious people so often end up worshiping a movement or something in the end. The need to blindly believe in something meaningful has not gone away despite being an atheist. So many on the left end up treating political correctness like a true fundamentalist treats the holy tenners, with brittle and emotional responses to factual challenges. Worshiping Apple seems to fill the spiritually empty lives of many people. Steve Jobs is their prophet, the Apple store is the pilgrimage cathedral, the employees with their blue shirts are the priests, the products are the objects of veneration, and there are rituals like waiting for hours outside to be able to buy the new Apple product, fellow Apple users are co-coreligionists in a community. Like a good cult the Apple ecosystem is even designed to exclude outsiders while permitting absolute compatibility with fellow Apple products. In the end for the Apple faithful it does not matter if technically their products are better or worse. It is faith that decides the issue.
With Jobs gone and his masterful hand not on everything Apple produces we will have to see how the company fares in the future. Until then we will have to wait and speculate.