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The Apple double standard

Pundits expect the world from Apple, but curiously not from any other company.

By Yoni Heisler on Fri, 01/18/13 - 10:51am.

If you go back to the mid 2000's, pundits were sure that Apple's best days were behind them. After all, they reasoned, how can they follow up the incredible success of the iPod?

Flash forward to the late 2000's, and those same pundits were quick to point out that Apple was toast. Sure, the iPod and iPhone were both runaway hits, and sure, Steve Jobs did an admirable job turning around a company that was once on the brink of bankruptcy, but what was next? Again, the consensus was clear - Apple's best days were a thing of the past.

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Before the iPad was unveiled, a slew of analysts and self-professed experts were quick to argue that Apple was losing ground. Netbooks were the wave of the future and Apple, they reasoned, may have tapped out their well of innovation.

Hell, even after the iPad was released, the initial reaction was rather tepid. But, as we all know, Apple sold one million iPads in less than half the time it took for Apple to sell 1 million first-gen iPhones. This past October, Apple announced that it had sold over 100 million iPads in just 2.5 years and that 94% of Fortune 500 companies were using Apple's tablet in an official capacity.

But of course, Apple's characterization as nothing more than a fad lingers on.

The point here is that no matter what Apple does, critics are quick to chime in and assert that Apple's brilliance has come to a halt. Somehow, the forces at work behind the secretive walls at 1 Infinite Loop, the forces that conjured up game-changing products like the iMac and the iPhone, are now nothing more than confused has-been's trying in vain to catch up to innovators like Google, and, if you believe morons like Rob Enderle, RIM.

Never mind the fact that the iPod turned the entire music industry on its head. Never mind the fact that most successful notebooks today resemble designs first popularized by Apple. Never mind the fact that the blueprint of the modern day smartphone remains the original iPhone. Never mind the fact that competitors are scrambling wildly to copy the success and design of the iPad.

Forget all of these things, because when it comes to Apple, the "what have you done for me lately?" mentality reigns supreme. This in spite of the fact that Apple upgraded its entire product line in 2012: completely revamped iPods, the hyper-successful launch of the iPhone 5, new Macs, and of course the iPad Mini. That's an extremely agressive upgrade cycle for a company, that if you read the headlines, has seemingly forgotten what innovation even is.

For some bizarre reason, Apple is always being chastised for not introducing the "next big thing" at every event, as if innovative and disruptive products are simply formed out of thin air and should be delivered on a timely schedule, like opening day of Major League Baseball.

A recent article by Dan Pallota of HBR really drives the point home.

The critics that are screaming right now are intellectually lazy. They're throwing temper tantrums instead of looking at the big picture. Like two-year-olds, they don't really know what they want. And they're not happy when they get it, anyway. Apple could unveil a new car and they'd say Apple's days are over because it's just bet its future on an industry it knows nothing about. Not unlike, say, Apple's entrance into the mobile phone industry. I bet that if Apple did unveil a time machine, they'd claim it wasn't fast enough.

Pallota astutely points out that Jobs was at Apple for 4 years before the iPod was introduced. And an astounding 5+ years elapsed between the arrival of the iPod and the release of the iPhone.

The point here is that Apple hasn't magically regressed into the Apple of the 1990s simply because Steve Jobs is no longer here. In fact, Apple under the reign of Steve Jobs was itself fraught with flops and missteps - MobileMe, Ping, the G4 Cube are just a few examples.

Yet for some reason, Apple is not only never allowed to fail, its successes are quickly glossed over while competing products like the Microsoft Surface are lauded as products of the future.