Apple has always been a company that prided itself on innovation. In reality, Apple has been really good at taking a technology and creating products that are usable and accessible. Take the example of the Macintosh. Apple took the innovation of a graphical user interface pioneered by Xerox and turned it into a hugely successful product offerings. I think that Apple really stumbled in the late 1980s when it decided that it would sue Microsoft for patent infringement by violating its intellectual property rights by using the Macintosh “look and feel”. Eventually the lawsuit was settled out of court. Microsoft actually invested in Apple as a consequence.
This is when I started worrying about Apple’s future. If a company holds on to its past success in defining its future, trouble will follow. And for many years, this adage seemed to follow. Apple struggled as it watched its fortunes diminish as the Windows platform became dominant.
But things started to turn around for Apple with the iPod because Apple started innovating again. Again, like with the Macintosh, it wasn’t the first company to try to sell an MP3 player. However, it was the first one to innovate on ease of use that made this device easy to figure out. The second innovation was around business model with itunes. The same can be said about the iphone. Integrating ease of use and the web together into a phone was well conceived. Now that Apple is opening the iphone to third party developers, there is a potential to evolve into a platform beyond the obvious cell phone/web platform. I liked John Simonds’ blog that covered this topic this week.
What do you think? Does turning important ideas into workable implementations the same as innovation? Is innovation only about bringing something never conceived of before to the market? For what it’s worth, I think that building on great ideas and making them sing is what innovation is all about.