Apple turns 40: what we really know about the computing pioneer

recent story about Apple being 40 years old on April 1st caught my eye. And here’s another one listing 17 incredible facts about Apple. Presumably these weren’t April Fool’s Day jokes.

It’s getting harder to remember how tough life was before technologies such as the Internet/WWW and companies like Apple and Microsoft. There was a time when we didn’t even have copy (or coffee) machines!

Apple is now said to be “middle-aged,” which I took to be implying that Apple is past its prime (and perhaps even no longer innovative).

Really, only 40 years? Or perhaps it should more properly be: Wow, 40 years already?

When you think about it – going from a garage business to the world’s most valuable company in 40 years – isn’t a bad track record! Apple will go into the history books just for that feat alone.

So, here’s a few thoughts on this topic (mostly questions):

  • Would anyone, even Steve Jobs, have been able to predict the technological progress that has occurred during Apple’s life so far? It’s only eight iterations of a five-year plan, and less than one person’s career.
  • On the other hand, if we started now, could we be any better at forecasting what the next 40 years will bring? If the starting assumption is that change is accelerating, then what took Apple 40 years to do should only take 20 or 30 years to achieve now. Will we “re-disrupt” what is today being considered as disruptive innovation?
  • Some people argue that Apple no longer innovates as used to, and even blame current management for a lack of “game changers.” Perhaps that’s the nature of the innovation beast – it gets harder when the low hanging fruit have already been picked. This may also argue against a continuing acceleration of change. But perhaps it also means that some innovations are not as newsworthy.
  • In the story of Apple, there is much talk about how the Mac was developed as a separated sideline project. This sounds similar to what Geoffrey Moore has proposed in Zone to Win, his latest book. It also seems as if Alphabet/Google is making similar moves. So, the question is, does Apple have similar efforts (other than its car) in play – perhaps the Apple Health Kit, for example, is a way to help others to innovate?
  • Do the best companies all have innovation strategies and make support for innovation a critical success factor? As we all know, this is a tough area. Has anyone ever told you to go be innovative? Has your job description ever included the word innovation?
  • Apple, of course, has been in the news for the Apple vs. FBI issue, although gaining access to the specific phone in question is no longer a problem. The fact that the FBI claims to have accessed the device begs the question of how they did it and can others find a similar answer.

I am sure there are many more topics that could be discussed in relation to Apple’s new status as a middle-aged company.

Suffice it to say, Apple has had an amazing start, has not been without hurdles to overcome, and is now a leader. Being middle-aged should not be viewed as the beginning of the end.

This is what I think (from a senior’s viewpoint). What do you think?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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