Has Apple’s Well of Innovation Finally Run Dry?

Innovation is almost impossible to sustain. Set the bar high enough and expectations are bound to go unfulfilled. Since Steve Jobs’ rampage of innovation spanning across a decade, Apple seems to have found the ceiling of its capability – at least in mobile. Yesterday’s iPhone 5 announcement offered no surprises, no special features, and for the most part, represented a phone putting for par on Android’s favorite course.

The iPhone as a brand no longer benchmarks new standards for an industry they’re largely responsible for. What’s also surprising is to see a typically tight-lipped Apple fall victim to an alarmingly accurate rumor mill. Then you have to look at how Apple dished out most of the iPhone 5’s meat at WWDC, with a premature iOS 6 overview that left little to announce.

Also, many of the iPhone 5’s main hardware upgrades (4G/LTE, bigger screen, better battery and smaller dock connector) have been the norm on other platforms for years. Then factor in most of iOS 6’s software upgrades like turn-by-turn navigation, Siri app launching, Facetime over cellular networks, panorama capturing, browser tab syncing and auto-response messages that have been legacy features on Android for eons.

So perhaps it’s the reactionary development of an iPad Mini (something Steve Jobs opposed) or the noticeable change in iOS that seeks more inspiration from Android (notifications bar, voice-to-text and voice-prompted app launching) than dictating change to an industry they used to control, but Apple seems stale. Google has the power of market share, the flexibility of Motorola Mobility patents, and the insight to build off of its pure-Android Nexus devices that give it leverage moving forward. The current Nexus device (Galaxy Nexus) is already on par with the iPhone 5 and it was released almost a year ago. Common sense would tell you that in a month or two Google’s next Nexus smartphone will push the bar, not maintain it.

Then look at game changing innovations like Google’s Project Glass, self-driving vehicles, and rumored work in robotics, and can Apple continue to standout? In the mobile space, Apple revolutionized, evolved, and flatlined in five years. What will the next five hold for the world’s most valuable tech company? Will smartphones even be part of the conversation? Or will it be a tech space filled with augmented reality and cloud-based computing? Two spaces Apple is on the outside looking in.

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