Is Apple Running Out Of Ideas?

By Mike Wheeler

In October last year when Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs passed away, Apple shares dipped slightly. There had always been a concern amongst business analysts and stock holders that if anything did happen to Jobs, the company might flounder. This was because most saw him as not only the face of the company, but the instigator and innovator who brought realisation to the ideas that made the company at the forefront of technology break throughs.

However, it was only a slight bump, because in the following months after Jobs' passing, not only did iPhones, iPads and iPods continue to be as popular as ever, but the company had a massive stockpile of cash, which as some punters with a sense of humour noted at the time, was more than the US government had on hand. And just six months later the stock had increased by a massive 52 percent, which told the world of commerce that it was business as usual. Not bad considering the past three years had been anything but boom times for the world economies.

However, two months later, one has to query the direction of the company under new CEO Tim Cook, after being left less than excited when watching the highlights of the company’s Worldwide Development Conference.

So what’s on offer? Well, they have a new MacBook Pro and Air, an updated operating system iOS 6, plus a plethora of apps. To which we say “and?”  Some of this stuff looks sexy and funky – especially its new map app for iOS 6 – but it also looks old hat with the impression that Apple is following, not leading the way. For example, the aforementioned maps app. It does look cool – especially the 3D view – but can’t we get that with Google Earth already via the iPhone or iPad? And what about Passbook App whereby you can aggregate all your passes in one place, such as movie tickets, or a boarding pass for a flight? Isn’t that similar to some facets of Square’s electronic payment service?

Then there was Power Nap, which updates your Mac when it is in stand by mode; plus updates for its Mountain Lion operating system, and upgrade to Siri, its virtual secretary service, which again doesn't exactly full us with excitement.

Finally, as mentioned, this conference is usually about software and technologies, but often there is a hint about upcoming hardware releases. This time around there was no mention of the iPhone 5, or the latest iMac (is there going to be one?). Overall, in a year where you think Cook would stamp his authority on the company and its products to assuage investors and consumers alike, the conference was underwhelming.  Was there enough to keep Apple fans happy? Sure. Would they have been drooling? I would be surprised if that was the case.

These all look like great updates, and Cook, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller and the company’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi all sounded enthusiastic, but there just didn’t seem to be any Wow factors, which has usually been synonymouswith Apple products.

Is this the start of the downward spiral of a tech company that has been leading the way for the past five years? Doubtful. This is more of a wobble, that won’t dent the confidence of Cook or investors – yet. Looking ahead, the release of the iPhone 5 later this year will offer a gauge as to where the company is heading as far as innovation and keeping itself at the forefront of leading edge technology – something that was a given under Jobs.

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