Waiting for the magic

Today marks the first anniversary of Steve Jobs’ death. But I’m not going to talk about Jobs. Because Steve Jobs wouldn’t have wanted you worrying about what Steve Jobs would have wanted.

Wait, then does that mean not worrying about what he wanted is worrying about what he wanted?

Uh, I’m just going to assume it’s not.

Instead of talking about Jobs, I want to talk a little about the last year. Despite the insistence by a number of pundits that Apple would quickly crash and burn without Jobs, the company seems to be chugging along as well as it ever has at its own pace.

But what is the company’s real pace? Some people seem confused about that.

Many have complained…

Well, hang on. I hate the “many have said” construction. Frequently it’s used to take exception with an idea without naming names but I want to be clear who I’m talking about. Dan Lyons, for one. Rebecca Greenfield. Practically anyone writing for Forbes.

That’s just a few. I don’t have all day to devote to this.

The complaint by these people is that Apple hasn’t introduced a truly new design since Jobs died and, the thinking goes, that shows the company has lost its innovative spark. It’s true that the iPhone 5 and the 4S before it are evolutionary not revolutionary improvements on the iPhone. As was the new iPad and the Retina MacBook Pro.

So, they say, because Apple hasn’t introduced a new product line in the last 12 months that is destined to remake an entire market, innovation in Cupertino must have died with Steve Jobs.

This kind of commentary reflects a startling lack of knowledge of Apple history and an infantile level of patience.

Contrary to conventional belief, Apple has never churned out ground-breaking products on a yearly basis. When Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he remarked on how it was the third time Apple was reinventing an existing product category, having previously reinvented the personal computer with the Mac in 1984 and the digital music player with the iPod in 2001.

The iPad was much less of a reinventing since the tablet market prior to 2010 consisted of a few sweaty factory floor foremen and a few even sweatier Microsoft fanboys.

Think about that. Not the sweaty part, try not to think about that at all, but the size of the tablet market just two and a half years ago compared to it now.

The fact that Apple was able to reinvent two product categories and jump-start another in a span of nine years is nothing short of astounding. To expect them to do it again in the year since Jobs’ passing is unrealistic at best, self-indulgent claptrap at worst.

It’s possible, if incredibly unlikely, that Apple is done innovating, that we’ll never see it reinvent another product category. But you’d have to wait a few years to make that assessment credibly and these pundits don’t want to wait that long. They want to be first to have called Apple’s decline and why not when there’s a remarkable lack of consequence for being wrong?

Speaking of suffering consequences for being wrong, throw my name onto this bonfire of vanities. Why? In 2006 I was interviewed for the documentary Welcome to Macintosh and when asked to speculate about a post-Jobs Apple I said:

I don’t see Apple being able to continue at the pace that it’s going right now.

It’s not the dumbest thing I’ve ever said. There’s a lot stiffer competition for the title than that. Just ask my wife. But my lack of faith in a pre-iPhone world looks silly in retrospect. And here we are a year after Jobs and Apple is going at the same pace it was going at under Jobs which is a hell of a lot brisker than it was in 2006.

So, hey! I was kind of right! In that Obi-Wan Kenobi “point of view” kind of way. Which is to say “wrong”.

Apple has spoiled people. Like Veruca Salt (the character, not the band of the same name), they want a golden goose and they want it now.

The company knows, though, that if you want to do something right, it takes time. I don’t know what Apple might have waiting in the wings that might surprise and delight us, or even if they have anything planned at all. I do know that 12 months is not enough time to judge their ability to deliver something amazing.

“We are the music makers…and we are the dreamers of dreams…” – Willy Wonka