Daring AppleA lot of Apple's moves get regarded by people, who are tech-savvy enough to regard such things, as inexplicable, foolish, or both. These include things such as the exclusion of 3G from the iPhone or perhaps the glossy screen and looks-like-a-fish-types-like-a-cow keyboard of the new iMac. The fact is that some of these decisions truly are bad decisions from every aspect imaginable, but that, would I rather an Apple that was daring and produced things like the G4 Cube that eventually flopped out or would I rather Apple become a dinosaur and let its products stagnate simply because they seem to be good enough? No! I want Apple, not Krusty.
Way, way back, Apple chose a very tricky business for itself when it chose to bundle its hardware and software together into a single package. Of course, back then, it was the norm, so it wasn't a difficult choice. But, it stuck to this model against all odds while the rest of the industry moved on to the split hardware-software model, and it failed miserably. Why? Well, even with the benefit of hindsight, I can only guess. And my guess is that, not only did it stick with a hardware-software bundling model which didn't work out, but it also stopped radically innovating. In the present day, Apple still sticks to its hardware-software bundling model but what it has changed from its doom days is the radical innovation bit. It's doing it all the time now.
If you were a casual bystander in the year 2001, then you suddenly saw Apple introduce the iPod, a digital music player done the Apple way. If you waited a little longer, in January 2002, you saw the weirdest and coolest personal computer ever - the iMac G4. 2003 was to see the introduction of a revolutionary new line of laptops - the 12", 15" and 17" PowerBook G4s - arguably, the most lovable laptops Apple has ever made, apart from the TiBooks. Meanwhile, the iPod mini was becoming a smash hit in 2004. In 2005, Apple unexpectedly replaced its best-selling line of iPod minis with the nano. Think to yourself - would Microsoft or Dell or Sony have done this? No. What they'd have done is introduced nano side-by-side with the mini and just fattened their line-up, offering customers more choice, not wanting to risk losing any sales in case people really did like the colours on the mini and would not like the black and white of the nanos. Then, in 2006, Apple switched to Intel processors, abandoning the PowerPC chip that they'd used ever since time began, and also dropped the 12" notebook that was oh-so-popular (and still is!). In 2007, they came out with the iPhone.
These are all huge risks that Apple took. Some of them hit the mark perfectly such as the move to Intel processors while others were mistaken and Apple later corrected itself (such as not offering colours on the nano, which were added with the second generation, and dropping their small, performance laptop). What this demonstrates is that Apple is a company with balls. That's what makes following it so much fun! That's why it gets so much press attention. They just know how to do things with style in a way that only few others know to do. Apple not only knows how to make good products (and, on the whole, more often than not), but also to produce them in unexpected and exciting ways.
There is a sense of vision that I feel is lacking at most other companies. In my opinion, innovation comes at an individual level. When a good idea comes out, it comes from an individual and not from a board meeting. Think back in history to all good ideas and inventions and you'll see that you always associate inventions and new ideas with individuals. And it is so in almost every field. Even when inventions are credited to companies these days, such as Apple being credited for the iPod or the iPhone, know that the base idea or vision probably came from a single person although it was perhaps refined and brought to actual fruition by a larger set of people.
And this is why a company that wants to be innovative needs to encourage individual thinking, and run with daring, original ideas. Think about iMovie '08. It's been completely redone and all thanks to the original idea of one person in all of Apple. What's so great about it is that they ran with it. They abandoned the several versions of iMovie that had been building on top of each other for more than half a decade and went with this radical new design that makes making movies quicker and more painless than ever. Of course, since it's completely rewritten, it abandons everything that the old iMovie cherished including many useful features such as the timeline, plugins, etc. and many users can rightfully claim that, for their needs, it's a piece of trash. But the point I'm making is not about the quality of the software, but the quality of the decision that made it possible. It is daring to the core and completely the sort of thing that Apple does and why people love Apple.
This is why people fear for the day when, some day, Steve Jobs inevitably has to step down, because, although, everyone rationally knows that he is not running every bit of the company individually and Apple won't fall apart if he goes away, they are also aware that Steve Jobs' personality and personal beliefs are represented in even the minutest detail of every product that comes out of Apple and that, it is, effectively, run by one man's vision. And so, although it's possible that because of this one-man dependency, Apple might go to the dogs when Jobs goes away, I'm glad that, at least while he's here, Apple is doing some great things.