Apple As Innovator

Tim O’Reilly has some interesting comments on the common notion that Apple is an innovator, Microsoft a copier. His position is that Apple doesn’t really innovate that much more than other companies — what they do is to package and market difficult technologies in such a way that people realize they need them the minute they see them in action — AirPort, Rendezvous… all technologies that were sort of inchoate in the industry — Apple polishes things like this to a high gloss and makes them into fetish objects. By the time MS gets around to similar, it’s clip art.

Example: Tim is especially enamored of Rendezvous, which is impressing me more all the time. The zeroconf spec has been floating out there for a while, but Apple implemented it at the OS level and started building it into apps. Now my browser has automatic, real-time bookmarks to every user’s homepage on every Apache-running Mac on my subnet, iTunes can see the collections of every iTunes user on the home network, and so on.

Aside: Customer Reports on customer satisfaction with Macs.

Update: In the comments, Allistair McMillan points out that Rendezvous actually is an Apple technology – I stand corrected (this takes a bit of the wind out of Tim’s sails as well). FireWire removed from the above list – not sure why that was there to begin with, der.

Music: The Pretenders :: Jealous Dogs

5 Replies to “Apple As Innovator”

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Stuart Cheshire (the architect of Zeroconf/Rendezvous) actually working for Apple when he drummed up interest for easier to use IP networking at IETF?

    Also isn’t Firewire an Apple “innovation”? Apple invented FireWire in the mid-90s and shepherded it to become the established cross-platform industry standard IEEE 1394.

    These weren’t technologies that were just lying around and Apple decided to add them to their products. They actively created them in the first place.

    Now USB is a good example of a technology that was created elsewhere (Intel IIRC) and Apple helped to popularise it by putting it in a pretty package (the iMac).

    But the claim that Apple doesn’t innovate doesn’t actually stand up.

  2. Doh!!!

    Just noticed the links didn’t work.

    “In 1998, between finishing my PhD and starting work full-time at Apple…”

    “Peter Ford from Microsoft helped me co-chair those meetings, and we gathered enough interest to warrant the formation of an official IETF Working Group, under the new name “Zero Configuration Networking”, in September 1999.”

    “Apple invented FireWire in the mid-90s and shepherded it to become the established cross-platform industry standard IEEE 1394.”

  3. Alistair, thanks for that on zeroconf – I really was under the impression that it was not an Apple invention. I stand corrected.

    Not sure why I included FireWire in that list – I knew that was an Apple invention (really!). Brain fart. Removed.

  4. Perhaps not an innovator in technology, but definately an innovator in marketing and creating desire (as pointed out).

    As an example, the latest coo of enticing people buy digital music. I would guess over 80% of the people buying songs at 99 cents apiece, are adroit with napster like technology and could easily steal what they want. Apple has created a desire to pay for what many were not only a month ago! Incredible.

  5. I recently burned my beard and face when I stuck my head in the peat burner and it exploded. My farts smell like cheese. Do yours?

    Norman Sealander, President
    Sealander Associates, A Guy-Friendly Company

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