Apple's Shuffle

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Lyons

No one innovates better.

Is there a company on earth, in any industry, that is as restless and innovative as Apple? I don't think so. On Sept. 1, it introduced a batch of new iPods, a completely overhauled Apple TV device, a new version of iTunes with a cool social-networking feature, and an update to the operating system that powers its mobile devices--the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Apple CEO Steve Jobs also gave a sneak peek of the next iteration of that mobile OS, which ships in November and will let you zap movies, music, and photos over the air from one device to another. This barrage of stuff was even more impressive considering that it's been only four months since the iPad shipped and two months since the iPhone 4 arrived. And yet, by Apple's standards, this was a pretty low-key, even humdrum, affair.

The event served to demonstrate why Apple has been on such a roll for the past decade. Because honestly, who else cranks out so much new stuff so frequently? What other company so constantly tinkers with its products, even the successful ones? Who else, in areas where it falls short, so persistently keeps trying new approaches until it finds one that works? Apple right now may be the most incredible invention lab in the history of Silicon Valley.

I often wonder what the world would be like if more companies were like Apple. What if the Big Three automakers made products that were simple and easy to use--imagine a car with a user interface made by Apple--while also constantly trying to push the state of the art? What if they constantly sought out new technologies and ideas, and incorporated them into their products?

Take Apple TV. It's a great product--I have two of them--but it has never been a big seller. In the past, Jobs has referred to it as "a hobby." So now Apple has (a) admitted failure and (b) completely overhauled the product. Instead of pushing a device with a big hard drive that can store lots of movies and music (and costs $229), Apple will try a much smaller version that simply streams content, including movies from Netflix, and costs only $99. Will it work? Who knows? But Jobs recognizes that people would rather let everything be stored up on some "cloud" in the Internet than in their homes. The lower price point may also be key to gaining wider acceptance. …