TechSpot: Apple's 10-Year Run, where they succeeded and others were too lazy to innovate

In the decade we have been publishing TechSpot, we have watched an Apple resurgence from the joke that the G3 and G4 machines represented, to the Apple 'Mac vs. PC' debate -- during a time the company had better luck selling MP3 players than computers -- to today's ubiquity of Apple products in all forms of computing devices.

Coming from near bankruptcy during the 90's, it took several years to turn Apple around, but perhaps most important, it took several innovations and breakthrough products to rebuild their image as a tech pioneer. Today, Apple gets much deserved respect from its competitors, and within the industry, there’s unsaid expectation that they are the ones paving the way towards the next big thing.

During the past 10 years Apple has systematically attacked and conquered from several fronts. Here's a brief recount of those winning products, and where it applies, the industry incumbents that for one reason or another failed to innovate or at least failed to beat Apple at breaking products to the masses first.

Read: Apple's Near-Impeccable 10-Year Run: Where They Succeeded and Others Were Too Lazy to Innovate

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I don't see innovations, I see packaging up existing products in easy to use products and clever marketing.
Which to be fair is all the products needed to shed their nerdy geek image.

Now this sounds like I'm being down on Apple here but I'm actually applauding them for the way they made these products more accessible and better looking I genuinely do not think any other company could have done it.

Creative Labs pioneered the mp3 player and owns the patent for the GUI. Then Apple or Steve Jobs came along and stole it from Creative to create the iPod causing Creative too lose allot of money in the following years, even though Apple had to pay Creative a $1 Million. The Creative Zen was a better MP3 player than came out a full year before the iPod.

Uh ... no no, you're excruciatingly wrong. Creative MP3 players were absolutely horrendous. Don't try and be a hater unless you have something good to back it up with.

They weren't all 'horrendous'. I had both a Zen Vision:M and a NOMAD Jukebox, and both were quite reasonable for their time (especially the former).

I had a Zen and while it was a good mp3 player it was not any better than an iPod Touch first gen very far from it. The iPod was a less buggy experience.

Creative is where it is today because of awful and worst in the tech industry customers support. I would not touch a Creative product with a 1000 foots long pole. Not because they are bad products (hardware) but because i know if something doesn't work as expected (software, drivers) i'll get crap support from them.

Edited by LaP, Jan 17 2013, 3:44pm :

I should note, my Zen Vision:M is from 2006, the iPod Touch wasn't even out until late 2007 (it was up against the fifth gen classic iPod).

I remember a friend getting angry with me for not being able to figure out which of the multitude of buttons on his Zen played the track, within two presses I had enqueued his entire library. User friendly my arse.

To lazy to innovate? Innovation happens every day. Apple..or Jobs rather...knew how to take risks and push products. Others had tried to push ideas, but failed. Jobs was good at it.

Nokia innovated in the 90s. They put games on their phones and other manafacturers laughted at them.

They allowed you to compose your own ringtones and brought out pointless features like Operator Logos, Picture Messaging and a host of other features. The other manufacturers called them fads. They had arguably the easiest to use menu system that was graphical and their phones were durable, small and appealed to most of the market.

They cornered the market on mobile phones for close to a decade and then they sat back and got complacent. They waited for other company's to bring out the good ideas which they then copied or implemented months later. They introduced silly limitations into their phones for no reason and people "ignored" them because they wanted a Nokia.

Eventually the market caught up and then turned round and spanked their ass. They fought back by trying to sue for people copying them and by the time they started innovating again when it was too late. Now their clutching on on the skin of their fingers.

Reputation only gets you so far in the tech world. Sit on your a** and you will get left behind.

Apple came out with some innovative designs back in the 90s as well (with the original PowerBooks and software (specifically Mac OS) technologies). I personally like the design of all beige boxes Apple came out with (once again, in the 90s). They weren't just folded pieces of sheet metal/plastic like PCs. They always had style.

Who remembers Crystal Quest/Crystal Crazy and After Dark? Where's After Dark for Windows/Mac today? Mac OS was classy while looking creative at the same time.

When Steve Jobs came back, Apple became even more innovative, thanks to Steve's "drive" - unfortunately, I don't think Tim Cooke has it. Then again, how can Apple continue to innovate if they don't want to go away from "old" designs (there has only been minor change over the last few years across all their computer hardware range - time for some completely new MacBook designs Apple).

How different do you want the MacBooks to look now? The unibody has been best design improvement in laptops in a long time. A lot of other pc companies are mimicking the aluminum unibody styles now. The laptops have already gotten thinner. I presume you would want oval screens and holographic keypads or touch screens on the MacBooks.

Their success was in iTunes. It gave Apple a few years head start in building the start of their ecosystem. Look at it this way, Microsoft & Google are non-existent in a lot of countries outside of the US. Not Apple.

DoomsDayMayan said,
Microsoft & Google are non-existent in a lot of countries outside of the US. Not Apple.

You mean in terms of appstores, right? Cause in almost any other business sense, Google and MS are far more global.

DoomsDayMayan said,
In terms of ecosystem. Apple's iTunes is everywhere and Microsoft and Google are in a handful (If they are lucky).

+1 Where is our Zune HD, that thing was a beauty but it never made it here...

DoomsDayMayan said,
In terms of ecosystem. Apple's iTunes is everywhere and Microsoft and Google are in a handful (If they are lucky).

Yes, in terms of specific ecosystems - appstores, media stores perhaps. But certainly not all.

I mean, Windows is on most PCs on the planet ... that's certainly a hell of a global software ecosystem.

They've kinda slowed down lately, but hopefully they'll come back right up with better refinements like they did in 2007 with the iphone after 7 years of living on the ipod's success.

I think with $121.3 billion in the bank, they have a lot of room to grow and take a lot of risks if they really want to!

I worry that Apple have had their moment in the sun and that they're in a bit of a decline now. There have been no truly *innovative* / exciting products to come out of Cupertino in a good few years.

I really do hope they've got some ideas for the next big thing up their sleeves somewhere.

And like zhiVago I disagree with the slating of the G3 and G4's.. they were good machines!

Yeah, I agree. With their stock falling and no truely revolutionary product since the iPhone, what's to stop the decline. They need to redesign the iPhone and do something really, really special. I just can't think what, that hasn't already been done in phones or tablets.

You have to wonder now what truly magical innovative life changing invention can be done nowadays! Most innovations nowadays are reinventions or refinements of 10 or 15 year old concepts because the hardware and technology has improved so far.

The things that apple can improve now mostly is refinements to their software which they do really need. If they want their ipads/iphones to be post-pc devices, then they must act like it and give better integration and loosen up the api restrictions.

Honestly, even from CES, the best thing that I liked was the Occulus, which was a better reinvention of the old VR concept.

Th 4k displays, motion control, siri/google now are better improvements of older technologies. Seriously, I like technology like everybody, but after a long day, I would rather use my aluminum remote to control my plex media center rather than waving my hand or talking to my tv.

Technological advances are nice, but nowadays most are added on as gimmicks that might not used all the time. Kinect has much better purposes for medical tech for rehabilitation and other good uses. It's good for casual gaming too, but hardcore gamers are lazy and like to sit in one place and play.

The things that apple or any other big company can greatly revolutionize is really great battery life (24 hours+) for ipads/iphones, tactile responsive glass display like Tactus technology for getting popping buttons on your lcd screens, and a more smarter AI system with an improved Siri or google now.

You really can't invent another wheel, but you can reinvent the wheel to be better. Right now, most companies will be refining their operating systems, improving ecosystems, and doing normal yearly hardware improvement cycles.

If you really want major revolutionary advancements, then expect for self-driving cars to be very common, holographic displays, etc.

yeoo_andy_ni said,
Yeah, I agree. With their stock falling and no truely revolutionary product since the iPhone, what's to stop the decline. They need to redesign the iPhone and do something really, really special. I just can't think what, that hasn't already been done in phones or tablets.

One could say their last revolutionary product is the iPad...

Either way, I agree. Apple needs to get something new and revolutionizing out of their doors quickly.
Their approach at very incremental updates to their product lineups and their tradition of bringing something revolutionary every now and then forces them to bring something again.
iPad was 2010 and 3 years in tech world is like at least a decade in real world.

Even for fan's sake, I wanna see a really exciting product announcement again.
And I want the live stream, for flip's sake. Thank God they are doing that again. (at least in their fall media event they did, let's hope they keep it that way)

And for Christ's sake...
Where is Aperture 4?
Where is iWork '13? iWork '09, really? Oh come on!

They need to bring new software more often. I'm not talking OS X here. Actually, I quite preferred the slower release cycle (Tiger, Leopard, SL) in a way, but I certainly appreciate getting a new pack of features yearly now, that's kinda cool actually.

GS:mac

The keynotes and special events were quite unusual and got them a lot of press. They were releasing REALLY exciting new computers and products, and Steve Jobs was a real showman - he had a lot of supporters and really knew how to sell a product. I actually looked forward to every keynote he presented even though I don't buy that much Apple stuff... but I knew they'd invariably release stuff I liked, and Steve would pitch it so well.

Even if they have some of the business "knauss" that Steve Jobs had, I don't think any of the Apple senior executives have even a shred of the charisma that Steve had.. their enthusiasm when they get up on stage sounds scripted and forced - with Steve Jobs I always believed he was even more excited with each product he launched.

Ugh - it's a real shame. I hope they release something really different and interesting in 2013.

And I'll still keep dreaming about a baby Mac Pro - Mac Pro power, more compact case, some upgradable parts (RAM, HDD, GPU) but sell it BYODKM like the Mac Mini. If they ever release it, I'll buy one on launch day.

There's still Jonathan Ive, who was probably the second biggest face of apple after Steve Jobs! Most of the patents are shared under Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive. He appears in many of the videos and a lot of people do look up to him, but still he's not as popular as Jobs!

Chicane-UK said,
The keynotes and special events were quite unusual and got them a lot of press. They were releasing REALLY exciting new computers and products, and Steve Jobs was a real showman - he had a lot of supporters and really knew how to sell a product. I actually looked forward to every keynote he presented even though I don't buy that much Apple stuff... but I knew they'd invariably release stuff I liked, and Steve would pitch it so well.

Even if they have some of the business "knauss" that Steve Jobs had, I don't think any of the Apple senior executives have even a shred of the charisma that Steve had.. their enthusiasm when they get up on stage sounds scripted and forced - with Steve Jobs I always believed he was even more excited with each product he launched.

Ugh - it's a real shame. I hope they release something really different and interesting in 2013.

And I'll still keep dreaming about a baby Mac Pro - Mac Pro power, more compact case, some upgradable parts (RAM, HDD, GPU) but sell it BYODKM like the Mac Mini. If they ever release it, I'll buy one on launch day.


QFT. Every single line of this.

My next desktop Mac will probably be a Mac Pro, a smaller form factor would be much welcomed, then again I need lots of HDDs, so maybe not... Hmm...

And indeed, Jonathan Ive is truly enthusiastic about the products, if he actually demoed them and introduced them, that would be awesome.
Unfortunately he's not particularly interested in standing in the spotlight too much.

He's such a good presenter and so humble and cheerful. He can explain stuff really well and I'd adore to watch keynotes with him as presenter.
Oh God, I'd even think he'd be a sensible "Jobs replacement" as in not replacing him, but being a good presenter in his very own, unique and enjoyable style.

GS:mac

szo said,
There's still Jonathan Ive, who was probably the second biggest face of apple after Steve Jobs! Most of the patents are shared under Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive. He appears in many of the videos and a lot of people do look up to him, but still he's not as popular as Jobs!

Hmm... Actually Forstall was the most active guy around in terms of patent applications.

Have a look over here:
http://www.idownloadblog.com/2...01/scott-forstall-inventor/

GS:mac

I agree with the iPod, iTunes and the iPhone, but they didn't revolutionize jack with the tablet. Ultimately it was just a larger form factor iPhone, and still is. And how you can say the MB Air and Retina display's were revolutionary is beyond me. Those three are just the evolution of the tech that existed at the time.

The unibody chassis was very well done and unique. There are a ton of custom components inside the macbook airs and pros. The harddrive connectors were custom designed, similarly with custom batteries, thunderbolt connections, the glass multiouch trackpads (still the best - no pc comes close with any trackpad) and some other things. having the retina displays in a somewhat powerful thin sleek laptop is a big deal. I can agree that the ipad was a larger iphone, but the software ecosystem really got it going for books etc. The surface really did reinvent the tablet aspect much more with the thin type covers though.

Edited by szo, Jan 17 2013, 12:00pm :

The fact remains that no media player sold and dominated the market as much as the iPod/iTunes combination.

It's also a fact that it was not until the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 that the smartphone market boomed, and that the iPad was the first tablet that sold more than a few thousand units.

The MacBook Air was one of the first "Ultrabook" even before Intel and its partner PC manufacturers launched their own models.

The MacBook Pro with Retina display was the first laptop with a 2880 x 1800 display on the market. Other PC manufacturers are getting ready to launch their own models this year, but Apple was the first on the (mass) market.

Manufacturing is not always the same as designing it! They may buy displays from other manufactures, but they sometimes work together to originally design/modify the specs to suit their needs. Apple originally did design the specs for the retina displays for the macbooks and then sourced the production to lg, samsung, or sharp etc.If you think like that, then foxconn must be responsible for the all the cool hardware in the world. Most of these companies are sourced for manufacturing based on the specs of the original company like microsoft, google, and apple.

Someone who knows what they are talking about!

If people think samsung are designing super displays, then giving the iPhone first dibs while all the display engineers at Apple are apparently playing Temple Run they are off their heads!

Apple's engineers pioneer and prototype the technology then (because Apple don't own display manufacturing factories) they outsource the manufacturing - and then Samsung indirectly copy whatever they have done

szo said,
Manufacturing is not always the same as designing it! They may buy displays from other manufactures, but they sometimes work together to originally design/modify the specs to suit their needs. Apple originally did design the specs for the retina displays for the macbooks and then sourced the production to lg, samsung, or sharp etc.If you think like that, then foxconn must be responsible for the all the cool hardware in the world. Most of these companies are sourced for manufacturing based on the specs of the original company like microsoft, google, and apple.
Yes you are correct...manufacturing and designing are 2 different things. However the technology behind APple's marketing of Retina Display, was NOT DESIGNED BY APPLE. The IPS technology came from Germany...not APple or the USA.

Can we have some news articles that are worth reading instead of repeated articles that use search engine buzz phrases combined with flame-bait in what appears to be a quite desperate effort to drive traffic to Neowin?

jamieakers said,
Can we have some news articles that are worth reading instead of repeated articles that use search engine buzz phrases combined with flame-bait in what appears to be a quite desperate effort to drive traffic to Neowin?

There has been a short time between Neowin copy and pasting news articles from other sites (forum back page news style) and what we have now.

We did have original articles once that had a lot of value and were rather good to read, now Neowin isn't following a journalistic approach anymore, call it unprofessional all you want, it's only blogging we get nowadays, hence for news we should probably move on.

GS:mac

zhiVago said,
I'm not an apple fan, but come on, G3's and G4's were pretty good for their time.

I agree. Build quality was excellent, cases looked great and had excellent internal and external design (when compared to PC beige boxes of the time), the G4 ran Mac OS 9 apps (especially games) fast, displays were always very high quality (many still better than the lower cost non-IPS monitors today), and the list goes on...

I am not a big fan of the aluminum chassis' today to be honest.

Their success started when they allowed you to carry around/play MP3's.

The music industry at the time were closing down the likes of Napster for making MP3's available. I don't know HOW apple got away with it, but giving consumers the ability to "get around" the music industry was what made them succesful.

One could argue Apple's ALLOWED users to steal their music, and their success, was infact because they copied Napster at a hardware level.

Well they explain in the article that it was a mixture of the iPod and the iTunes Store that really propelled Apple to number 1. It was still possible to illegally download music if you knew how, but with the iTunes store it had 5 major record companies signed up at the start, and with their 99-cents-per-song model it was simple and legal to buy music.

Intrinsica said,
It was still possible to illegally download music if you knew how,

It was pretty easy to point itunes to your MP3 collection on your computer and download them to you ipod, without ever buying a song from the itunes store, or a record company.

THAT was the ipod's appeal, and apples success.

dvb2000 said,

It was pretty easy to point itunes to your MP3 collection on your computer and download them to you ipod, without ever buying a song from the itunes store, or a record company.

THAT was the ipod's appeal, and apples success.


So you're telling us that the iPod was the only mp3 player in the world at that time and that Apple basically invented it

dvb2000 said,
Apple [...] copied Napster at a hardware level.

Now that one I hadn't heard before. Neowin commenters are always good for a surprise when it comes to Apple news....

PmRd said,
So you're telling us that the iPod was the only mp3 player in the world at that time and that Apple basically invented it

No it wasn't by a long shot, but apple mass marketed it and put it in every consumer electronics shop across the globe. No other company made it so easy to buy (and listen to pirated music).

you never saw "other" MP3 players in any stores. You would really have to hunt them down on the internet, and most people couldn't be bothered.

dvb2000 said,
you never saw "other" MP3 players in any stores. You would really have to hunt them down on the internet, and most people couldn't be bothered.
this is absolute bull****. I had an mp3 player way before the iPod and I did not get it online

dvb2000 said,

No it wasn't by a long shot, but apple mass marketed it and put it in every consumer electronics shop across the globe. No other company made it so easy to buy (and listen to pirated music).

you never saw "other" MP3 players in any stores. You would really have to hunt them down on the internet, and most people couldn't be bothered.


Hardly ever saw other MP3 players in stores??? WTF are you talking about?

You should stop commenting now. Your posts are making even less sense all the time.

Creative Labs pioneered the mp3 player and owns the patent for the GUI. Then Apple or Steve Jobs came along and stole it from Creative to create the iPod causing Creative too lose allot of money in the following years, even though Apple had to pay Creative a $1 Million. The Creative Zen was a better MP3 player than came out a full year before the iPod.

Davin Peterson said,
Creative Labs pioneered the mp3 player and owns the patent for the GUI. Then Apple or Steve Jobs came along and stole it from Creative to create the iPod causing Creative too lose allot of money in the following years, even though Apple had to pay Creative a $1 Million. The Creative Zen was a better MP3 player than came out a full year before the iPod.

THIS! and this is exactly why i called bs on apple's claim on the mp3 player. innovation my southern cheeks.

Oh what a load of crap - outside of the United States many people were still on dial up, broad band was relatively expensive and data capped. The appeal of the iPod was a great piece of client software that allowed easy ripping of ones music collection and an easy way to synchronise between your mp3 player and computer. Add on top of that the easy to use interface on the iPod and the huge (for that time) storage thanks to the use of a hard disk inside. I really wish people would actually realise what the time actually was like rather than pull things out of their backside.

Side note: I didn't have an iPod at that time, I had a flash based mp3 player with a few hundred megs storage on it which my parents bought back from their visit to Canada. It was a pain in the ass to rip music, a bigger pain in the ass to copy it across given that I had to deal with the built in storage plus the extra storage rather than pooling it together as a single pool of storage. Apple succeeded because the competition sucked so badly just as Microsoft succeeded during the 90s because the competition sucked so badly.