Apple ‘Lacks Courage’ For Innovation, Says Analyst (But Wait A Minute) – Forbes

Apple Watch Nike+ Run Club. (Credit: Nike)

Apple Watch Nike+ Run Club. The Apple Watch has changed the way I do everyday things more than any single device I own. (Credit: Nike)

Apple is headed for a “decade-long malaise.” That according to a recent memo from a Wall Street analyst.

“We believe Apple lacks the courage to lead the next generation of innovation…instead [it] will become more reliant than ever on the iPhone,” according to Andrew Uerkwitz, an analyst with Oppenheimer, as reported by Barron’s back on November 21 (and revisited a few days ago here, among other places). Technologies (areas of concern) cited by Uerkwitz include artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-based services, and messaging.

Apple will have shipped about 1.2 billion iPhones when the iPhone celebrates its tenth birthday in 2017, Uerkwitz added.

But wait a minute: This may seem like a trivial point against the long-arc, 10-year “malaise” thing but I wouldn’t equate the analyst’s argument with Apple being unsuccessful in the coming years. Consumers don’t buy Apple stuff because Siri or messaging are falling short. Rather, consumers flock to Apple devices because Apple strikes the right balance between build-quality, design aesthetics, innovation, and software compatibility.

New MacBook Pro: The new MacBook Pro is a good example. It hits all of the Apple sweet spots by maintaining a good balance of attributes cited above: build, aesthetics, and innovation. All running on top of the popular macOS. Yes, the new MacBook Pros are overpriced (opinion) but that hasn’t stopped it from selling well (and likely very profitably).

And innovation going forward? The Touch Bar is not a gimmick and not trivial, even though it occupies a thin slice of real estate on the new MacBooks. I’ve used it enough to see that it provides real utility. And this is just a first step. (Are more feature-rich keyboard Touch Bar displays next? Probably).

And how many PC makers will try to imitate the Touch Bar on laptops in the coming years? My guess is more than a few.

Besides, the keyboard has been screaming for change over the last 30 years. Apple is one of the few top-tier device makers (Microsoft being another) pushing to innovate and change the keyboard paradigm in a big way. I’m typing right now on a 12-inch MacBook’s butterfly keyboard. It’s the most radical redesign of a built-in keyboard I’ve ever used on a traditional clamshell laptop.

iPhone 7 / Apple Watch: Though I’ve been critical of the iPhone 7 (because it is essentially Apple’s second “s” interim upgrade in two years), I’ve been happily using the 7 Plus for the past month and a half. It doesn’t disappoint and is the best smartphone I’ve ever used. That’s no mean feat.

And let’s not forget the “iPhone 8” (or 10th anniversary iPhone or whatever it’s called). I expect that to be a wow-worthy redesign of the iPhone and put Apple back in the driver’s seat.

But more important for me is the Apple Watch. I think I’m one of the few proponents of the Apple Watch. I’ve been using the Watch from the beginning and now use the Apple Watch 2. More than any single Apple product it has changed the way I do things — from exercise to purchasing (Apple Pay) to email/messaging. This is not trivial innovation.

Apple could also come up with a viable pair of smart glasses, learning from the mistakes of others like Google.

And what about things like AI? That battle is far from over. Whether Apple leads or lags we won’t know for a while. But if you look at Apple’s November letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the company said it’s “investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation.” I’m not sure if that’s a sign of a company falling into a malaise.

 

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