iPhone Turns 10; What's The Next Big Thing?

by Sohini Bagchi    Jan 09, 2017


Circa 2007: On January 9, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the very first iPhone to the world. It was undoubtedly a technological breakthrough. The iPhone marked the dawn of the smartphone era overpowering the likes of Blackberry, Nokia, Motorola, and became sort of a ‘cult device’ across the globe.

Likewise, in 2001, the iPod, with its thousand-song capacity, transformed the music game entirely, eventually killing the CD industry and ushered in the digital age for music, photos and videos… and in the gap of almost a decade, in 2010, an ailing Jobs announced iPad convincing people in the US [and later across the world] that they need tablets and no longer the boring PCs.

Post-2011 - what we can call a Post-Jobs era - when Tim Cook took the reign, the question that haunted millions of Apple enthusiasts and analysts was obvious: ‘What Next?’ 

Fast forward to 2017: That million dollar question continues to linger in people’s mind. Has something changed in Apple post-Jobs? Well, the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’…  On one hand, a lot has changed of course for Apple as the company did come up with new products, made inroads into services and continues to enjoy a significant number of fans and followers from across the globe. While on the other, there’s nothing that has changed in the Apple-land. With every passing year and with every generation of a product, the question that is raised is, ‘What’s the next big thing?’ and the answer is as obvious as “no big deal…”

Vivek Wadhwa, a Carnegie Mellon University professor and former Silicon Valley entrepreneur said in an interview, “We have seen no major innovations for Apple” since the Steve Jobs era.

The recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission further suggests that Apple’s heydays are over. Some of the latest figures make this obvious. Apple’s annual sales target for 2016 was US$223.6 billion but it achieved sales of US$215.6 billion, according. In 2015, net sales stood at US$233.7 billion. Cook received salary and bonuses of US$8.75 million in 2016, 15% less compared to the US$10.3 million in 2015. Cook took home US$9.2 million in 2014.

Despite the slump, Tim Cook is full of hope, as he believes, “The best is yet to come.”

‘Hope’ is what keeps the momentum going for individuals as well as companies. But the question is ‘when’ and ‘how’ and that again brings back to that million dollar question: What’s Next for the iPhone major?

Read more: 9 Powerful Leadership Mantras From Steve Jobs

So, What’s Next?

Apple followers know that its strategy had never been to be ‘the first,’ but it’s to be the best - at least that was the case in Jobs era. For example, the iPod isn’t the first MP3 player, but it was the first one of its kind that did set a trend in the industry. The same can be said about iPhones, as smartphones were not new by 2007 but the first iPhones were distinctive and created waves in the industry.

apple event

Experts believe, the next world-changing innovation probably won’t be a smartphone, as smartphones today are a super crowded space, constantly battling with each other. With each passing year, smartphones are becoming more productive, more intelligent and and hyperconnected… And then there has to be well, [pause] A Full Stop…. A recent study carried out by Swedish researchers also predicted the end of the “smartphone era” by 2021, suggesting that mobile technology is expected to be replaced by features such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Read more: Can Smartphones Get Any smarter?

In that sense, perhaps the company’s next great disruptor could be the Apple Car, its rumored electric vehicle that is dubbed Project “Titan” that is expected to hit the road in 2020. So, is Apple planning to reinvent the automobile… we do not know. However, experts believe, it is difficult for Apple to create a disruption in this area, and a leading site [humorously] even noted on Apple’s enthusiam to dominate the automotive industry that “A sophisticated diner does not a restaurateur make…” [Read the full article here]

Next Big Thing: It’s Not Apple, But Others

Instead, look Elsewhere for the Next Big Thing, suggest experts at the dawn of 2017, as many believe that the Next Big Apple Product may not be coming ever [at least in the near future].

Perhaps a stronger candidate would be Facebook’s Oculus to create a breakthrough in Virtual Reality [VR] or maybe Amazon’s latest digital assistant, Alexa or Jeff Bezos’ willingness to invest on some newer ventures. Not to forget, Google’s multitude of AI-driven projects is coming up in next few years. And finally, it could also be a bunch of disruptive startups that are inventing in the areas of artificial intelligence, IoT, smart cars and 3D printing - some of their names we know already, some we do not. 

Read more:  Six Biggest Technology Failures Of 2016

Apple may be playing its part in some or all of these industries in the future given that it’s still the world’s biggest, and the most well-known company. But it is clear that Apple’s heydays are over and the quantum leaps in all the above products will come from companies not named Apple.

As Austin Frank, senior editor and tech critic comments in his article, at a certain point, companies stop being truly innovative. They lose their competitive fire and balk at moonshots — they value preservation over expansion. When you’re hungry, you take risks. When your belly is full, you’re risk-averse. 

tim cook

Comparing Job’s Apple with the Apple of today and with Microsoft in 2000 after Bill Gates stepped down, he stated, like Microsoft in the 1990s, all great runs eventually come to an end. But that’s normal. Microsoft remains one of the largest companies - even though it is stagnant. The same future awaits Apple, which, like Microsoft by 2000, is all grown up.

Frank prepares us for the hard fact that while Bill Gates gave the world Microsoft, and Steve Jobs gave the world Apple, Microsoft and Apple will not give the world the next Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. 

It is little wonder then that in the last 5 years, everything Apple has done has barely moved the needle for investors and With its core products established and markets effectively saturated, Apple can only improve its products incrementally and perhaps buy out smaller companies in order to stay afloat.

The million dollar question then ‘What Next?’ would probably be answered by growing companies, innovators and the upstarts… Hence it’s time we look forward to the next wave of innovation, not in Apple, but elsewhere.