It drives me absolutely wild when people say things like the iPod was the first MP3 player or the iPhone was the first touchscreen phone. The majority of products that Apple make and have made already existed, in some cases years and years before even Apple even touched them.
I’m going to write about all of the Apple products that I’ve heard are innovations that really just aren’t, they are improvements on existing products, sometimes taken mainstream through clever marketing and understanding what the consumer wants (or doesn’t).
The iPod and iTunes
Above is a picture of one the first iPod’s ever created and released to the general public, you’d be silly to suggest that Apple and the iPod hasn’t changed the music industry because it really has. The iPod was first announced in october 2001. The first MP3 player on the other hand was released in 1998 and they had existed in many different forms before the iPod was released to the general public.
Apple did what the other MP3 players didn’t and made them better by bundling them with iTunes. The killer, simple to use music management software that trumped most of the current software at the time. It made it easy to manage music and when the iTunes Store was up and running somewhere to buy content for the new device as well.
The MP3 player was in circulation way before the iPod existed yet the common misconception is that the iPod was the first MP3 Player, some people may even be nieve enough to believe there are other MP3 devices on the market today.
The iPod and iTunes changed the music industry, there is no doubt about that but it wasn’t the first of it’s kind. It was the best of it’s kind at the time. It’s series is still selling and iPods are definitely the most popular music devices ever made and most likely will be for a long time to come but taking a product that already exists and making it better isn’t innovation. The iPod has innovative features such as the click wheel and the easy to navigate user interface but the product in itself was not going into a non-existent market.
Another product that is considered an innovative product in a new market by many however, the iPad is a tablet computer, there is no two way about that. It’s a computational device based on a touchscreen interface. How on earth people believe this is a brand new innovation from Apple is beyond me, the mail man has been asking me to sign his tablet PC for absolutely ages and way before the iPad was even announced.
The iPad probably defines the category for tablet computers today and competitors are quickly trying to release products to beat it such as Motorola’s Xoom or Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs. The market has changed for tablet computers now, it’s not just for people in suits on the move or for courier staff.
What Apple did with the iPad is take a product, apply their knowledge and software from the iPhone and make the tablet computer a more consumer focused product whilst still having the ability to appeal to business customers. Whether it does the business stuff as well as other devices is questionable, especially with the heavy restrictions Apple imposes on it’s developing environment.
The All-In-One Computer (iMac)
Some would have you believe that Apple were being very innovative when they shoved a bunch of computer hardware in with a monitor and called it an iMac. In fact some would have believe that they were the first people to make a computer which was all packaged into one handy box.
I don’t get where this one came from because the majority of old computers were sold as an all-in-one unit with the screen attached to the tower or as part of it way before the imac was created. In fact some of the old Amstrad machines were all-in-one personal computers.
I don’t deny that the iMacs are beautiful, category defining products. Just like the iPad, Apple lead in their category purely because they make the best product in it’s particular category. Although saying that, Apple did not create the All-in-one PC and there are many others being manufactured by other vendors today by the likes of Sony and MSI.
Touch Screen Phones
Why on earth do people think that Apple invented the touch screen phone? It’s completely beyond me. There were touch screen phones available everywhere long before the iPhone. What Apple did with the iPhone is take the rather dreadful touchscreen experience that most people were getting with touch screen phones and overhaul it with their very own operating system, a usable multi-touch keyboard and a finger friendly OS with a decent sized screen to display information.
I use an iPhone 3GS, it’s the best phone I’ve ever had (Despite being on my 8th due to failures) and it really is a product that defines it’s category again. Apple took the touch screen phone, in fact, Apple took mobile phones and made them better than any other company had before and it scared the hell out of the rest of the industry and so it should of.
I’m not against people loving Apple’s products at all, I myself own an iPhone, a couple iPods and a MacBook Pro. I don’t doubt that some of the products have very innovative aspects about them, the multi-touch gestures that Apple hold patents on are critical evidence of that however this common misconception that all their products were the first of their type is incredibly infuriating and I can’t deal with it when people are completely misinformed about such matters. Maybe that’s because I’m a pedantic weirdo or maybe it’s because people argue points when they don’t have a leg to stand on or any information to back up their claims.
The company has some very innovative aspects to their model. Such as calling technical support and hardware repairmen “geniuses” and having a very strange meeting model. The core products that I have mentioned above have innovative features about them but as a product, the general product was not the first of it’s type in any case. Apple just have the amazing ability to judge what the consumer wants, provide it, charge a premium for it and do it better than nearly every other business can.