Next week Apple will unveil new products that will see its share price return to an all time high. As a self confessed Apple fanboy since 1992, I have watched the company develop, innovate and deliver. I’ve invested in their products and am proud of their achievements. Lets not forget what our mobiles were like before the iPhone. Icons and touchscreen gestures were unheard of. And before iPad, who even knew they needed a tablet computer?
I’ve also learned a lot about business strategy courtesy of their model to put product and quality ahead of price and profit. Believe it or not, Apple’s ethos is not to make money, but to sell the best kit out there. Contrary to critics, it is this rationale that has made them the most profitable company in the world. The economists and analysts are almost always wrong with their predictions as to how the tech giant will evolve and why it’s share price fluctuates. As fully paid up members of the Cult of Mac, us evangelists are far more in tune with Cupertino than UK based journalists who use Microsoft Windows computers and Android mobile phones.
But there is a but. And here is my dilemma.
I am starting to feel that my life was richer in the days before iDevices. I went out more, socialised more, actually communicated more. I used my brain in different ways than I do now. I used to procrastinate, contemplate, evolve a theory. Today, I search my initial thought online from wherever I happen to be, and solve the problem.
On the radio show I’ve been saying for a few years now that traditional education is becoming increasingly irrelevant for young people who have grown up with smartphone technology. Why learn it? Why remember it, if you can search online and have the answer in seconds? Technology like voice activated Google Search (far more accurate and efficient than Siri) coupled with Google Glass (the web connected specs) may further remove the requirement for learning.
But personal development, character building, conversation, interests and hobbies are critical, and I’m not convinced that technology encourages any of these. Technology just makes us reliant on yet more technology.
I’ve managed so far to avoid signing up to Facebook, but social networking for a younger generation has totally replaced all of the above. It is the ‘interaction replacement therapy’ that prevents them from practicing those vital people skills that by eighteen undoubtedly help us in being successfully selected for a job.
So, back to Apple. On June 10th Apple will unveil the next raft of innovation that will put them back on the map. Yes, I agree they’ve under achieved since Steve Jobs passed away, but in his passing they also made a bold and much under publicised move. They promoted their handsome Vice President of Industrial Design, Essex born Jony Ive to chief of software design. In doing so, Apple will take those clean lined, monochromatic slabs of titanium and turn every iPhone, iPad and personal computer inside out. The software will evolve to new heights, leaving every competitor’s operating system behind. At least I hope they will.
Whilst over 200 Android phones have come to market recently, Apple has stuck to the same formula for both hardware and software since the iPhone changed everything just six years ago. In fact, they have only produced four almost identical phones in that time. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
But now there is a reason to fix things. Things is broke. You can’t go to a restaurant without seeing iPhones in the hands of every diner, either catching up on Facebook, or photographing their food. On public transport the iDevice has given license for passengers to further ignore each other, and every text, email, instant message and tweet requires an immediate reply (or expect a phone call saying ‘I just messaged you, why haven’t you replied yet?’).
So in addition to a sexy software overhaul, Apple needs to fix the social disfunction they have inadvertidly created with products that we all wanted and didn’t know we needed, but now can’t live without.
Around the turn of the last century, Louis Cartier and Edmond Jaeger invented the first prototype of a men’s wristwatch, for an aviator who wished to time flight performances without taking his hands off the yoke. A momentary glance was all it took to recognise the dials and acknowledge the time. Today, the split second it takes for us to register the display of a digital watch is even more efficient. We have learned to do it whilst out at dinner, without our date noticing that we are ready to cut and run.
In August 2011, Apple filed a patent for a thin flexible strap dubbed the iWatch. A device that seamlessly connects via Bluetooth to the iPhone hidden away in your pocket or handbag. If Apple are smart enough, the watch’s built in display will only allow you to view Push Notifications. Emails, texts, missed calls and social networking replies will momentarily appear on the strap. Just long enough for a momentary glance. For me, the success of this product will hinge on it’s lack of interactivity. If the iWatch allows you to reply or respond, then it will fail to protect users from the curse of portable technology. It must be passive, despite the technology existing to make it interactive. Less will mean more.
If such a wrist strap product makes it to market, I predict Apple’s ‘iGlance’ will win out over ‘Google Glass’ as the product that once again changes everything.