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The Apple Event

October 19, 2021

Yesterday, there were some new products from Apple. There weren't many surprising things, as is often the case with these events nowadays. Much of the stuff that people were happy to see was stuff that was there a few years ago and that they, to people's disappointment, decided to remove, and that they are now bringing back again. Many of the other announcements were simply better specs.

As a company matures, it is clearly hard for that company to continue with disruptive innovation. Companies constantly try to work against the declining innovation by various kinds of initiatives like skunkworks, but it rarely works. A corporation has existing revenue that it needs to protect and because of that, it will rarely be the driver behind the innovation that disrupts that existing revenue. This force acts as a constraint on innovation. Furthermore, short-termism makes it hard to place the kind of bets required. You could argue that many of the tech giants are making risky bets, but I would say that most of the bets they are making are the same or similar bets as the other giants are making and those are the bets that they are expected to make. Rarely will you see a tech giant working on something totally unexpected.

You would think that evolution happens slowly and it moves the entire species quite similarly, without the individuals noticing. But it may just as well be that evolution happens to a small subset of the species. Perhaps they distance themselves from the rest of the population and evolve separately. After a while, they start competing with the others - indirectly by competing for resources, or directly by war. After the old species have died, there are ample resources for the new to increase in population. If you look closely, many evolutions consist of small revolutions. A set of discrete points look like a line. This is certainly how much innovation happens today.

There are also some myopic arguments that you usually hear in these discussions: How can the phone get better than how it is designed today? The smartphone is perfect and this and this company is making it - how can it possibly get any better than it is today. The phone is not perfect, and the phone of the future will very likely be something very different than a phone today. Things go up and then they go down.