Apple Is A Follower

Apple never wanted to make the iPad Mini. It was forced to by an army of tiny tablets laying successful siege to its empire. Apple's conceded a lot of ground already. But it's not the first time this year it's had to play catch-up.

With every new release, it becomes increasingly clear that Apple is no longer the pace car for an entire industry. Maybe Apple's transformation from leader to follower was inevitable. But that doesn't make it any less jarring.

The iPad Mini is an obvious and bloated — both in size and price — response to last year's Kindle Fire and this year's Nexus 7. Before it came the iPhone 5, Apple's limp concession that people actually do want bigger phone displays. And before that? Apple Maps, a full-on admission that Cupertino had badly miscalculated the importance of first-party software. iOS 6 users are footing that bill while Apple scrambles to make up the seven-year lead it gifted Google.

Compare the Apple of 2012, then, to the Apple juggernaut of 1998 to 2010. That Apple didn't react to markets. It created them. Who wanted a tablet before the iPad? Who gave smartphones a second thought before the iPhone? Those products defined technology for a decade. Even Apple's retail operation — one of its most unheralded strengths — was an unthinkable undertaking before Apple thought it. And it still doesn't have any imitators.

Even Apple's iterations during that time took giant steps forward. There were MP3 players before the iPod, but none as user-friendly or as lovingly designed. The original MacBook Air was nothing special; just a laptop as overpriced as it was anorexic. The 2010 MacBook Air? A katana blade you could actually afford. Ultrabooks have only just started to catch up. And say what you will about the original iMac, but nothing had ever looked like it before, and nothing ever will again.

Apple is the company that transformed retina from a made-up buzzword to an industry standard. It's the company that knew what people wanted before they had any idea themselves.

Being so good for so long inevitably brings success, and success brings size, and size brings slowness. Besides, what's the rush? The iPhone sells great at 3.5 inches; why fuss with it? The Kindle Fire's a cheap little imposter; why sink to its level? Those are the questions shareholders and board members ask. It's hard to wonder what's next when what's now is such a cash cow.

And when you do finally notice that your marketshare is fading, that people are buying gigantic phones and small tablets recommending them to their friends, you find yourself in the unusual position of having to react. It's harder to work off of someone else's blueprint, and $US575 billion companies tend to have more chains of command to work through. Put it like this: it's easier to manoeuvre a rum-runner than it is the Queen Mary II. And Apple has spent the last several months tacking gradually towards the flares its competitors sent up a year (or more) ago.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with Apple giving the people want they want. It'd be crazy not to. And there's clearly still an innovation bug powering super-skinny iMacs and retina MacBooks in Apple's R&D labs. But more and more of the company's prominent releases are shades of other people's progress. It would have been unthinkable, a decade ago, for Apple to arrive this late to the party.

That's where we stand today, though. Instead of zagging when people zig, Apple lumbers huffily towards an anodised zig of its own.

Image: Jesus Diaz from Shutterstock/zdjeciarnia


Comments

    they need to spent less money on lawyers suing everyone. spend more on R&D, I really hope the next one is better than this year products they released.

      why would they want to do that when people will steal that R&D too! I am of course being facetious!

      Anyone who seriously thinks that that Apple doesn't spend a ton of money on R&D already must have being living under a rock for the past ten years

        Yep they are obviously paying those researchers that discovered they needed to make iPhone screens bigger a lot of money.

          I guess it really did pay off, as the iphone 5 sold faster then any previous model.

        They spend much less of their revenue than other tech companies, they are more about design tweaks of existing tech to make it work better.

        Google, Samsung, Microsoft put a hell of a lot more in R&D, and Google and Microsoft actually try and change the world and predict tech, Apple changes the world by fixing problems with old tech (not saying that is a bad thing, I do dislike Apple, but not because they copy, because they are hypocrites and they are trying to suppress our progress for their monetary gain).

    Were these other companies making a dent in the iPad dominent marketplace because people wanted 7", or was it because they were much cheaper?

    If it's the latter then Apple should have just dropped the price drastically of the older iPad instead of just making a smaller one that still can't beat the others on price.

      For me the iPad is just too big to lug around, I might as well use my laptop.

    "Instead of zagging when people zig, Apple lumbers huffily towards an anodised zig of its own." - Nailed it!!

    Ah I see that Apple bashing is alive and well

      and/or market commentry by a tech journalist. I believe you can find other blogs which provide all positive articles about one ecosystem, but it's not this one.

      @joseph - Its obvious and true. Apple lost momentum. If you want to live in a happy dream land where your favorite pet company doesn't get criticised, there are lots of sites you could go to.

    This just sounds like Apple must make ground-breaking, never-before-seen releases in every single update they ever release. They're not playing catch-up, nor are they leading the way in every product, but they are selling shitloads of everything because the product is still great.

    So apparently every tech company can only release groundbreaking things. If they don't then they're failing. If they change anything then they're copying (seriously, they're not allowed a slightly bigger screen because it's just following the competition now?).

    An article made to fuel debate and garner views.

      Just quietly, I don't actually think the iPad mini is going to sell as well as they think it will.

        I agree it's probably not the iPad for the masses, but I think it will be big in the education and business fields because of the portability and the hold that the full size iPad already has.

          I think if they wanted to be big in the education market they should have been more competitive in price

        They will sell heaps.

        I have friends who will buy anything Apple releases because they love their iPhone and iPad so much.

          Yes but even to fervent Apple fans, this straddles the line. If they already have iPads, why would they need an iPad Mini? It makes no sense to have both.

    Of course Apple are following, they have to lug all that heavy money with them. ;)

    Didn't really think was a well thought out article. It is completely unrealistic to expect disruptive innovation every 6 months. But apple continue to be 2 steps ahead, even with 27" widescreen retina display . The iPad mini is a great addition allowing apple to reach down to lower price points. As for the price being bloated - if u buy a Mercedes, u expect to pay more than a Toyota . An iPad mini and a kindle are two pretty different value propositions so their prices are different .

      There doesn't need to be "every 6 months".. That's not the Steve Jobs model at all.. but it is the Apple model now... and it will suffer for it.

      LOL, typical Apple fanboy drivel.

      Number 1, Apple are not 2 steps ahead. Exactly what are they 2 steps ahead in? Overpricing their products? Making restrictive OS's?

      Number 2, are you seriously comparing an Apple product to a Mercedes? Sure the iPad Mini and Kindle Fire are different value propositions but you can't say the same about the iPad Mini and the Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 outperforms the iPad Mini in practically every way, apart from the higher end Mini models that have larger storage space and 4G. AND it's significantly cheaper.

        +1
        I really cant see any justification for the price of the ipad mini when you compare it to the nexus7

    Sorry, what? Do you live in the same universe as the rest of us? Apple in 2010 wasn't almost a trillion dollar company. Apple in 2010 wasn't shipping a retina iPad, so undercutting that with a smaller cheaper iPad would have lead to cannibalisation, where as now it has product differentiation without the fragmentation of android. Try again.

      If you don't think there is iOS fragmentation, you're not paying attention.

    Yeah Apple seem to be going off the rails since Jobs' death last year.

    1. Larger screen on the new iPhone 5 to compete with all the large screen Android and WP7 phones
    2. Apple Maps to compete with Nokia and Google
    3. Smaller iPad to compete with Android tablets
    4. Notifications drop down menu

    The list goes on. Yes, they are slowly becoming a follower as their light bulb turned off last year.

    You need to rephrase that.. "Steve Jobs" never wanted an Apple Mini.. Apple certainly did.. they wanted to do a lot of things but Mr Jobs wouldn't allow it. Since his passing, Apple have been doing all the things they've been wanting to do for years now. It's like they have this big long list of things to do when Mr Jobs is out of the picture.. and now they are going through the list, crossing off the items one by one.

    Apple was going out of business.. then Mr Jobs came back and brought them to the cult level corporation they were in 2011. Now that he is gone and they're back to their old tricks, I wonder how long it will take to lose all that.

      Long live the beige PowerPad and beige PowerPhone coming out next year!

    I saw this earlier today:

    www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/23/us-apple-schiller-idUSBRE89M1IN20121023

    "Asked by Reuters whether the iPad mini's price could make it too expensive for some cost-conscious shoppers who have been attracted to the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire, Schiller said he believes consumers will see Apple's smaller tablet as a premium product worth paying for."

    All I need to say is that...I think Apple are delusional.

      And you havent been reading the news.

        What's that got to do with anything?

        Apple believes people will pay the extra money for the iPad mini because they believe it's a premium product. I think that's a delusional way for them to be thinking, because it's not a premium product.

          To people who don't know any better - and that's a good description of a lot* of iPhone/iPad purchasers - the iPad mini will be seen as a premium product.

          * not everyone. I accept that some people buy iPhone on its technical merits, build quality, UI and ecosystem.

          To a lot of people the Apple ecosystem is worth a little bit extra.

    "Apple is the company that transformed retina from a made-up buzzword to an industry standard" - Pretty sure the word Retina has been in common usage to describe "A layer at the back of the eyeball containing cells that are sensitive to light" since Johannes Kepler - a little over 400 years...

    Also, my own observation (which I'm sure I'll get slammed for) is that Apple do not "early adopt."

    No USB 3 until now that peripherals are widely available.
    No HD DVD or BluRay (possibly ever).
    No LTE until battery technology could keep up.
    Same for big screen phones.

    The only times I see this not holding true are when they develop (or have a large stake in the development of ) a new technology - like Thunderbolt.

    Apple tend to wait until they can see an actual market need AND that any required supporting technology is up to scratch - and then they try to do an "innovative" implementation.

    Doesn't always work but that's often where their devices' "Wow factor" come from...

      You're right, Apple doesn't early adopt. They leave features out that the competition is already using so they can release a new model a year later that is magical and revolutionary because it now includes those missing features.

        Yeah - I'm not a fan of the way they market their products.... Or the way they sometimes treat their customers....

        I particularly don't like one of their strategies - the one where they refuse to even acknowledge the existence of a product until it's official announcement. With reference to a somewhat inflammatory article published on here a day or so ago, it makes educated buying more difficult.

        Having said that, they are out to make money and I can't honestly say that they're doing a bad job of that... Or that I'd necessarily do it any differently if I were in their shoes....

        I am, however, pleased that they don't (with a few notable exceptions of late *cough*maps*cough*) release half-baked technologies just so that they can be first.

        Last edited 25/10/12 3:42 pm

    I think the author is ignoring a problem. Innovation and creation is actually hard work. Is it easy to think of innovations every year? Is could anyone consistently create new categories of technology every year? No. Can the author do it? No. On the other hand, closer to home for the author, could this author write ground-breaking, jaw-dropping, highly cited INVESTIGATIVE article, which could set the IT industry abuzz with his brilliant analysis/view points, consistently, every year? No.

    So why ask Apple to do the impossible? they are human too. Maybe we should not be expecting a yearly/half-yearly/quarterly revolution. Perhaps, as long as apple progresses over the long term, to create goods people love, that would be good enough. Of course, that in itself, is already extremely difficult already.....but that is another point entirely.

      They, as in Apple, are not human they are a company with many humans working for them. The problem is that Apple have marketed themselves as a company that is miraculous and groundbreaking. When they can't deliver, then people are disappointed. You don't really see other companies (for the most part) have this same issue (probably because they have been playing catch up). Now that they are playing catch up, people are comparing their product to the products already on the market. They will sell products not because the ipad mini is revolutionary or even groundbreaking rather because of the cult following Apple have.

    It is because Apple is loosing too much market share to Android they try to slow them down with law suits. If you looked at some of the things they sued Samsung for it just makes my blood boil. One claim was Samsung copied their "rectangle shape with rounded corners" WTF!! are you serious? how else is a phone supposed to look? This practice reminds of the school yard bully... the kid that is bigger than the rest in the class who picks on the smaller kids.
    Apple has been taking their customers for a long expensive ride for too long with the restrictive practices (ie. not being able to use micro SD to expand the memory. they make customers pay a hundred more to go from 16Gb to 32 when and the difference between 16Gb and 32 GB cards is about $20). They deserve whats coming to them for years of ripping off the customers and trying these dirty bully tricks to beat the competition. GO Samsung, GO ANDROID!! Rip Apple a new one!!

      And obviously you havent seen Samsung's design notes or samsung and google's attempt to use FRAND and SEPs to stifle Apple. If you dont even have a clue of what those two are - then im afraid youre more of a sheep than you think.

        Samsung's design notes never said "copy Apple" anywhere - otherwise those pages would have been shown in the court case. Instead what you had was a document that said that Samsung's designs were not good or could be better with Apple mentioned by name sometimes as a reference.

        Not really a big deal, as an external consulting company hired to produce design notes would have done the same thing. Said what's bad, what can be better and cite references and examples.

        I would like to believe most people understand that Google and Samsung's lawsuits against Apple are primarily retaliatory. If not, then where are all the Google and Samsung lawsuits prior to Apple suing everyone under the sun?

        Also, if you're going to belittle someone else then you should try to at least come across as saying something factual or intelligible.

        How do you beat someone? You look at what they're selling and improve on it. If you think you can just go your own way on everything, then you'd probably have a BlackBerry right now. They tried just being good at what they were doing and it wasn't enough, now they're playing catch up and bleeding money while doing it. No Galaxy phone has aped any version of the iPhone to a level where they would be indistinguishable to someone with access to each.

        You know what it takes to develop an industry standard? You know what it's like when a business says no to licencing it, but then tries charging more for a bouncing border in a browser?

        Last edited 25/10/12 8:30 pm

    Great article for Apple haters to quote from :)

    The iPad mini will sell there are slot of average users who will think it's a great bit of gear and well the market wanted them so they made one nothing wrong with that. There a business who care what it is as long as it makes profits.

    Apple have never been an original innovator, they have always relied on the second-starter advantage - where the first pioneers in a new tech make the mistakes, then Apple come along and (marginally) improve on the tech; lock it up in their walled garden and claim it as their own; wrap it up it a pretty, marketable package; and flog the crap out of it for an exorbitant price.

    That's why I find it so absurdly hypocritical that Apple would go and sue Samsung, claiming they did the exact thing that Apple themselves have been doing for decades.
    So why don't Amazon and Google sue Apple for ripping off the idea of a smaller-form tablet?
    Because they're busy coming up with new and innovative ideas, instead of repackaging and re-branding the ideas of others.

    Apple's biggest success is getting lightning connection in ip5, ipad mini and the 'new' new ipad ... being digital connection they will be able to take full.control of accessories market just with a flick of the ios switch ... watch this space!

      ... not that it really matters as all obsolete now anyways !!!

    The iPad Mini is definitely a "me too" product, but it is also a no brainer for apple. They can cover the market more completely, but only cater to buyers who make decisions about quality based on item price. To understand how Apple works, you need to take a step back from the technical details.

    iPad mini is a classic ''line extension'' play... taking a successful product and brand, and coming up with adjacent derivatives.

    And yes, I'm sure post-Jobs Apple looked at the sales of the 7'' tablets and realised it was such an easy space for them to extend their line and take market share.

    Nothing wrong with that.

    I did cough up a furball though when I watched the Apple iPad mini promotional video. So much inflated fluff about ''we didn't shrink the iPad we concentrated it''. Puhlease.

    Who's really following who because those ducks are a LIE!

    Amazon followed Apple into tablets since it didn't make one BEFORE the iPad. They also followed Samsung (who too followed Apple into tablets) & RIM into mini tablets, hell the kindle fire is a rehashed Blackberry Playbook. They didn't even start e-readers since the kindle came AFTER Sony's e-readers.

    Google followed Apple into mobile OS quite blatantly. In fact they're THE FOLLOWER of TECH. They weren't the first search engine nor the first email or maps service. They followed others into browsers in fact DIRECTLY behind Apple by using the Webkit engine for Chrome which in itself is just their branded version of the open source chromium.

    The raw data you quote like a business noob Brain Barrett doesn't accurately tell the whole story. You completely neglect the fact that in business it's net profitability ie THE BOTTOM LINE that counts. Do you think Apple is bothered that the total majority of smart phones use Android. Especially when they are puling in far more revenue out of their mobile OS market share. Android is just another tool by Google (email, browser, everything they do) to collect users info. Also when you break down that Android majority it's split up over 3 versions & made up mostly by the old gingerbread. Hell Jelly bean is the latest version & yet devices yet to released are going to be sold with the previous Ice Cream Sandwich, that's how muddied the waters are. Android users bitch about how manufacturers are out sync & lazy with updates (like LG) or how they ruin it with their skins (like Samsung's touchwiz). Plus let's not forget how Android laaaaaaaged until quad core A9's & dual core A15's at 1.5ghz came out. And it's still not as fast or as smooth as iOS or even WP7&8.

    As for the subject of mini tablets, despite what you say other than in stores I've never seen one being used out in the world, but I've seen plenty of iPads. Also for every Galaxy S3, I see about a dozen iPhones. Which BTW if bigger screen phones were a must have, then why is Samsung bringing out an S3 mini?

    Last edited 25/10/12 7:09 pm

      Hmmm ... wasn't the android company started in 2005 ? Sure iphone might have been released in 2007, but android was already being developed ...

    "Apple is the company that transformed retina from a made-up buzzword to an industry standard"

    Hahaha Gizmodo, I understand no one here bothers to research their articles but this is a new low.

    Here I did it for you, took me 2 seconds to check this.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retina

      @Jasonc07 - Do you know what the difference between a "word" and a "buzzword" is?

      The author was not claiming that Apple invented the word "retina".

    Apple made some impressive and risky moves this year with the higher res ipad and the A6. I like the ipad mini for the low weight & the industrial design. But I wont buy one because the device is not compelling (to me) with its previous gen cpu & screen plus its high price relative to the nexus 7. I suspect in the next release cycle apple will produce the ipad mini I was looking for; before then I'll have bought something else.

    yet people constantly complain about the gizmodo apple bias?

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