So, what is Apple going to do next? Financial results released by the company last night showed revenues down to $54.5 billion in the final quarter of 2012. It’s a funny sort of “down”, this, because revenues in the same quarter of 2011 were, I think, a mere $28.3 billion, which eagle-eyed business analysts among you might notice makes them what, technically, we might usually call “up”. But they’re down compared with how much further up they were expected to be, and as a result the share price has plunged.
You know why. Apple’s problem is that the iPad today is little different from the one that launched three years ago (albeit sometimes smaller) and the iPhone today is much the same as the one they brought out a whole 6 years ago (albeit a bit bigger). Both of these products changed the world (in a limited-horizons sense of the word “world”, admittedly) and the world has since caught up. Yes, all sorts of otherwise sane folk get wildly furious if you suggest an Android or Windows device can now do stuff an Apple one can’t (they can, they can, they can) but pretty much everybody agrees they can at least do the same.
Does this mean that Apple needs a new innovation, so as not to fade away? Probably. You think of Nokia, you think of Blackberry, and you realise that strokey, sexy technology doesn’t often stand still. Though maybe not. Or, at least, not much of an innovation. Think of the Biro. Invented in the 1880s, and revolutionising the exciting world of, um, pens, it’s much the same today. Basically, we’re done with pens. This is what pens look like. Finished.
One day, we’ll be there with handheld screen things - whatever the group term is for phones and tablets. Probably we aren’t there yet. Tech types suggest that the near future consists of tactile feedback - flat screens that pulse at your fingers and don’t feel flat; maybe best understood as a few steps farther along the path from the way your phone goes buzz when you unlock it. Apple will be working on this already, because everybody is.
After that, though, what next? These things can get thinner, shinier and HDer, but there comes a point where we’ll surely get bored. And after that we’ll still need to buy the things, and the people who make them will still make lots of money if we buy theirs; but it won’t be sexy and investors won’t be so inclined to go nuts. Sheer perfect functionality is a humdrum sort of thing. Nobody blogs about forks, do they?