Look horny!

Seems an odd title to start with, but whenever I see certain reports by boards of directors as they make it to the press, then I am reminded of an old Dutch cartoon called ‘father and son‘ about the conservative father and the progressive son. It was a political cartoon by a man called Peter van Straaten. In one of these drawings a man is standing with a camera whilst the woman is standing not that dressed next to the fireplace, the by-line is ‘Look Horny’. It was hilarious! So was the published remark from the Apple board of directors “Apple’s (AAPL) Board of Directors has grown frustrated at the company’s lack of visible innovation.”

Be innovative in this light is as weird as being horny on command. We can all be innovative at times, but we are innovative with the means at our disposal. In his case this is about vision. Was Steve Jobs the visionary, or was he the man who could recognise it when it was shown to him? Let’s face it; we all have ideas at time. I remember coming up with something that is now called Facebook. Hold on, wait! I am not claiming I invented Facebook. In the late 90’s Warner brothers had these web spaces that were hosted through a provider called Angelfire. There was the Halliwell home, the Babylon 5 home, the Bat cave. All forms of addresses that linked the subscriber to their favourite series, or movie. It was free and it came with 20Mb space. However, it was completely static. I thought it would be a good idea to have something similar and to let these members talk to one another. Our benefit would be that we could talk to them all, a place for free advertising at the cost of one web server and a few additional costs. My boss stated that this was not our mission (which was true) and that this would never work (Really?). I think I still have the e-mail somewhere. I had no other means to pursue this idea and in the end it would never have been anywhere near Facebook, so it does not matter.

The moral is that if your boss lacks insight, things will never get pushed forward. It seems that Steve Jobs had this insight in abundance. Likely he was one of these true visionaries and the timing was right. Timing is all in that field, come a little too soon and it will not happen, come too late and you are a copycat at best.

Does the board of directors at Apple comprehend this?

Perhaps Tim Cook has part of these abilities, perhaps not. Perhaps there is no real innovation to be gotten. Let’s just face that between the cassette, the mini-disc and the iPad there were many years of waiting. The origin of the cassette recorder was around the 1930’s, which was PRE WW2 and would not be a consumer item until decently after WW2. So it took almost half a century to get to the Mini-Disc and almost a decade to get to the iPod. Will it take that long for the iPod to evolve to something truly new? There is no way to tell, innovation comes in many forms and a real breakthrough is needed to shape innovation.

I reckon the new Mac Pro is sure sign that innovation is not dead, this is however nothing more than displayable innovation with to a smaller extent an engineering level of innovation, yet, this is nothing more than a new step forward, not a leap forward onto a new train. As for ‘new’, let’s not forget that Cray had the round professional computer (read mainframe) first, the Cray CDC8600, which was released in the late 60’s, so is the idea Apple had truly innovative? The Cray version came with a bench around it, so where’s my chair Apple!

There is also a downside to innovation the way Apple does it. That part is becoming more and more visible with the iPad. There is now the iPad2 and iPad3. My iPad1 is great, I bought it to use in University and it does exactly what it needs to do and I was until recently quite happy. Developers make applications for the device and I have bought a decent amount of them. However, recently, more and more applications can no longer be updated. Even more irritating is that some updated applications will no longer work and crash as these developers only seem to consider the new iPad’s for testing and not the old ones. More important, new software often no longer works on the old models, so from that we could come to the thought that the innovation of Apple comes at the price where a device like the iPad, must be replaced after two years, which seems an expensive approach for consumers.

Now let’s take a step back. Innovation should not be a hype word. The dictionary states it as: “the act of innovating – introduction of new things or methods.”

So Apple is not really adding anything truly new to their cascading fleet of devices. There is even the idea that in the end this step like approach is a really bad idea. They seem to forget that the economy is in a slump and most of us cannot afford a steplike replacement of our devices.

I reckon the board of directors should also realise that the ‘innovative’ track of Apple has been an expensive one for its consumers; I lost close to $8000, whilst Apple was all too eager not to step forward on their failings and I am not alone. How is that related? Well, when you lose money, until something TRULY innovative comes, why would you purchase that brand? In my case my expensive laptop had to be replaced after only 14 months and as such I did not buy an apple. I am not alone; several around me had such an uncomfortable experience with the iPhone 4 that they have since moved to a non-Apple android solution.

So perhaps their board of directors need to focus on quality of the innovation, not quantity of innovations. In the end, they have nothing valid to complain about. Apple is in the bulk of the homes in one way or another. Whether it is through desktop (iMac), laptop (Macbook Air/Pro) or handheld (iPad/iPod/iPhone). If you talk to 10 of your friends then it is likely that 5 out of 10 have at least one Apple device and 2 out of these 5 are likely to have more than one device. Plenty of CEO’s would sell their first born into slavery for such returns. So in plain words, what are these board members bitching about? Is it truly about innovation or is it about simple greed?

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