I know we live in ahistorical times, but it’s fascinating how quickly everyone has forgotten what Apple is all about. Sure, it has given the world some great new products and services, but it has also failed. A lot. Remember that iMac iteration that looked like a desktop lamp, or the Mac mini in a translucent cube? What about MobileMe? Apple has more than once sold major OS upgrades that rendered all its existing third-party software products inoperable. How many of us now use the VIP category on our mail accounts, or wish we could make the empty bookshelf icon disappear from our phones?
Apple was never known for being consistently right. It screwed up all the time. That’s because risking failure is the prerequisite for achieving success. It’s a truism not just at Apple, but for any innovator. Michael Jordan once explained that he’d been trusted to make game winning shots and missed 26 times, and that his repeated failure was why he succeeded. I don’t have a similar quote from Steve Jobs, but his actions revealed that he followed the same rule.
But that’s not the Apple we see anymore. Instead, it acts like a huge company that’s scared of a misstep, so it gives us incremental improvements in functionality, and new products intended to fill empty slots on distribution maps. Its advertising has gotten at once both generic and uninspiring. My personal take on the people in its stores is that they seem less like hip early-adopters of cool technology, and more like frustrated customers visiting a utility to argue about their bills.
Maybe Apple is focused on what it worries it might lose instead of what it believes it could gain?
Innovation isn’t about being imperfect or marginally right; it’s about having the vision and guts to be really, really wrong…for all the right reasons. Apple’s competitors are in the improvement business, and every time it gets stuck…