Apple and the peril of innovation

Although the reasons Apple is dropping out of Macworld may be many, the pressure to send shock waves through the industry for scheduled trade shows is likely the central one.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Now that Apple has announced that it is pulling out of Macworld after its 2009 event, during which Steve Jobs won't be making a keynote presentation, the outpouring of outrage is being heaped upon us once again by those who can't believe that Apple is ending its association with IDG and its expo.

Why? IDG and Apple's relationship over the past few years has been anything but cordial, and we can't forget that Apple wants complete control over, well, anything Steve Jobs can get his hands on. On top of that, Apple has been able to create Macworld-like hype for its own events, so the need for a Macworld keynote is even less appealing.

But to simply stop there in trying to explain Apple's decision to drop out of IDG's event would be overlooking the idea that the company may have run out of ideas for Macworld destined to send shock waves through the industry.

A quick look back at recent Apple events tells you everything you need to know about the position Apple currently finds itself in. Besides its latest, during which it showed off the new MacBooks, most of Apple's press events over the past few years have been sub-par, to say the least.

An iPod refresh event? Please. Discussions on sales figures and App Store mumbo jumbo? What a joke. I don't need Apple to drag me to a press event in Cupertino to tell me that the iPod, which was once tall and thin, is now short and fat. And when Apple decided to bring its design back to the tall-and-thin design, I didn't need to be there to hear that, either.

I don't blame Apple for holding press events, though. After all, what other company can coax hundreds of reporters to fly to San Francisco for a less-than-stellar announcement, time and time again, without any backlash?

For years, Apple amazed us with outstanding events every few months, when it unveiled some of the best products on the market. Since then, the allure has worn off, and Apple, just like every other company in the business, simply can't innovate as quickly as it once did. In essence, its product updates are being more evolutionary than revolutionary.

That's not a bad thing. I'm perfectly fine with evolutionary upgrades to the company's product line, and I think most consumers are as well. But because it has always relied on press events to unveil those updates, Apple still feels obligated to drag us out to San Francisco to see Steve pull the latest and greatest Apple device out of his back pocket, even though it's a small upgrade over its predecessor.

And although I'm sure that some Apple zealots out there won't want to hear this, I'm afraid that Apple's capacity to deliver groundbreaking products every few months at its various events is severely diminished. Suffice it to say that the Mac maker has become just like every other tech company; it upgrades its product line once a year or so, and most of the updates fail to impress most people.

It's for that reason (at least in part) that I believe Apple has decided to pull out of Macworld. It likely has little to do with IDG issues and even less to do with Steve Jobs himself. Simply put, Apple doesn't want to have to force itself to innovate for the trade show just to satisfy hype-driven media outlets.

Welcome to reality, Apple. Enjoy the stay.

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