Diminishing returns? No, I’m not talking about Apple’s hardware sales at a plateau and price drops and profits. The company still rakes in the major of industry profits. In this case, diminishing returns points more to what is new and different vs. major changes from Apple market disruptions of the past.
Let’s say for a moment that Apple ushered in the personal computer industry, then changed retail stores, the altered the landscape for how we buy TV shows, movies, and, yes, music. Apple is responsible for the smartphone revolution and its sidebar, tablets. Apple defines the very essence of notebooks, smartphones, tablets, and wearables (as defined by the basics; ears and wrist).
Every year and with every new product upgrade, update, or launch, Apple raises the bar with iterative innovations; far more so that jumps down the road of market disruptions.
Look across the line at an Apple Store and what do you see?
The iPhone looks much like iPhone circa 2007; flat slab of glass with rounded corners. Sure, it does more, I would rather have an iPhone XR for $250 more than a far lesser original iPhone, and capabilities are almost beyond belief, but little has changed in the form factor.
Micro-bezel screens? Face ID? Better-than-broadcast cameras? Sure. But the form factor remains the same.
Ditto for everything else. 80-percent of the Mac line is notebooks; a clamshell design that dates back to my first Mac– PowerBook 100, circa 1992. What do all notebooks look like these days? The Mac.
I saw a goose-neck iMac from 1992 the other day; the one with the hemisphere design and circular base– and marveled at how much everything about iMac has changed since then. Except it hasn’t. It’s still a flat display with keyboard and mouse.
We may have entered the era of diminishing returns, the doldrums of technological innovation with everything new and different is just a Everything Is A Remix, an iterative improvement over everything from last year.
Apple Watch? It still tells time from the wrist. Yes, it does more than that but the form factor has ties to the 19th century. AirPods? They stick in your ears and play music? Headphones date back to the early 20th century.
Apple works as hard as any technology gadget maker to up the game every year, to improve wherever feasible and possible and affordable, and every year we end up with, well, new. New improvements. New features and functions. New capabilities.
All stuffed into the same old same old of yesteryear. Diminishing returns, indeed.