Build ’em up, knock ’em down…

If there is one constant in this universe it’s this: If you or your company somehow manage to climb to the very peak of the mountain and succeed beyond your wildest dreams, be weary.  Be weary because it is only a matter of time before you’re knocked from your perch.

Apple has led a truly charmed life these past few years.  What started in the very late 1970’s and early 1980’s as a fascinating home computer company that then floundered and nearly died with the rise of the PC and Microsoft only to become renewed with the iPod, iPhone, etc. etc. has now, apparently, reached that lofty king of the hill point…and it looks like the knives are being sharpened.

Yesterday, Apple had one of their big tech announcement events and, this time around, it appears it elicited more snark than “oohhs” and “aaahs”.


Perhaps in part this is due to the fact that many are catching on to Apple’s propensity to “borrow” (ahem) technological concepts already created/used by others and then make a big show of touting them as their very own.

Others may note that Apple has been doing this for years, yet fans of the company inevitably defend Apple by say something along the lines of “Yeah, but Apple took concept X and refined it to make it great!”

This line of thinking certainly worked for quite a while, but it seems as if the Emperor is finally being exposed for what s/he is.

In the case of yesterday’s event, one which I was curious about (I’m always interested to see what tech companies such as Apple have coming), I found reaction articles were generally muted.  Many fell along the lines of this one, written by Will Oremus for

All The Revolutionary Products Apple Just Announced, And Who They Copied Them From

The piece is well written and rather devastating in that it points out exactly what each “new” Apple product is…and what identical products are out there -some for years- that do the very same thing.

But the criticism may be the result of another thing, something I’ve felt for a bit now: We’re reaching something of a technological plateau where it comes to computers, phones, video gaming systems, and, yes, even software.

A couple of years ago people were writing about the “end of the desktop PC”.  I scoffed at these stories.  Sure, the sales of desktop PCs were indeed down, but I felt the reason for that was extremely obvious: The desktop PC had reached a technological plateau and there simply was NO NEED to trade in your old PC for a new one as the old one was perfectly good to use for many years.

As I noted in other blog entries, when PCs first came out, each new generation was a genuinely BIG step forward and made your older model look like crap.  In effect, you needed to upgrade to the next version PC because the version you had was so obviously inferior to the new version that was just released.

But a number of years ago desktop PCs hit a level that made them good enough to last many years and, suddenly, new versions weren’t all that different from the “old” ones.  You no longer had the need to trade in the old to get the new.

In my case, I kept and used my desktop PC for over six years (a lifetime in tech years!) without needing to purchase a new model.  Nonetheless, I recently wound up buying a new desktop PC but only because the old computer started to show signs of glitching.  Nothing super serious but it was enough to get me to buy a new PC because the last thing I needed to do was get ready to get to work on my PC and find it was dead.

My purchase, thus, was preventative in nature rather than because I needed the newest “thing”.

And what did I get?  My new desktop PC is a higher end big name brand and while it is faster than my old PC and I’m pleased to have it, I freely admit it isn’t a quantum leap above my six year old model.  Indeed, if the old machine hadn’t started showing problems, I would still be using it.

So returning to Apple, the company has this problem: They are one of the kings of the tech hill right now and they have to keep show people they deserve to stay there.  It wasn’t all that long ago, remember, when Blackberry was the king of the hill with regard to smartphones while today they’re essentially extinct.

So Apple continues having these technological “presentations” to get and keep people’s interest in their products.  But unfortunately for them, we’re getting to the point where there isn’t all that much out there to brag about.

The biggest technological advance to come, in my opinion, is significantly extending battery life.  But that isn’t a “sexy” tech to present.

So Apple trots out all these “new” programs and acts as if they’re just that.  Unfortunately for them, the buying public has become more savy, and thus an event that is supposed to get you excited for the next wave of Apple tech…leaves people noting just how unoriginal the material presented is.