Steve Jobs resignation: Timing we should have expected and technology we should expect

Apple has a real knack for shocking us.  Every time, about five seconds after the shock, we all realize that we should have expected it.  The fact that we didn't expect it is what's made Apple Apple.

"Hey, why didn't we think to integrate a media device with a media store?"
"Hey, why didn't we think to build a touchscreen interface for dragging things around a screen instead of touching buttons and scrollbars?"
"Hey, why didn't we think to build a 10" device for movies and content consumption?"

Similarly, I think that this is the perfect time for Steve Jobs to retire.  This week. This day.  And the really shocking thing is that nobody predicted it a week ago.

The whole industry is in the middle of uncertainty right now.  How will Samsung, HTC, Sony Ericsson and LG change their strategies in response to Google's buying Motorola? Will Nokia succeed at resurrecting itself as a top phone maker, and will Microsoft do the same with Windows Phone? Will RIM pull through their identity crisis and ecosystem crisis? What will happen to WebOS and the demise of HP devices? Will any Android tablets get the right formula to take away iPad market share? What new innovative device makers (e.g., INQ, Fusion Garage, ...) will succeed at bringing the next innovations to market?

In the context of all this industry-wide uncertainty, Apple will be the calm port in the storm, even with Steve Jobs retiring.  And Apple has yet to lose any of its market leadership, something which is bound to happen eventually with or without Steve Jobs at the helm, but hasn't happened yet.

In this context I say "why didn't everyone realize last week that this would happen?"

Apple continues to surprise us in ways that we should have expected.

But it would compound the lack of foresight to think that Steve Jobs would leave without having vetted and given his direction to the next few innovations in the pipeline.  Does anyone truly believe, if you think about it, that Steve Jobs would retire without the next few innovations being designed, ready, integrated in a streamlined way, and having passed the "Steve Jobs test" for usability and design?

What will these innovations be?  Clearly technology for consuming media.  Technology to revolutionize how we consume media.

Apple has a way of continuing to surprise us.  But here are a few guesses:
  • Optional very accurate stylus:  This has been written about before, and it would open up whole collections of new applications, both for business and for media creation and editing.  And Apple's definitely researching laser and LED based stylus technology.
  • Built-in projector: This has been thought of for business users, but I think it can be the next step in media consumption as well.  And Apple is researching iOS device interfaces based on projectors.  More on this in a later post.
  • Eye-glasses-based head-up displays: Apple's clearly researching this as well, and it's another "holy grail" that lots have worked on but noone's yet made effective.

There's lots more to speculate.  Holographic displays, wristwatch devices, and more.  There are also a lot of potential innovations that Apple can bring out based on gyroscopes and compasses and accelerometers, or new sensors like scent sensing, breath sensing, light sensing, etc.  But the three things above are technologies that Apple is definitely researching, that relate to how we consume media.

As we all wish Steve Jobs "good luck," and watch the company navigate the industry-wide chaos, let's count the days until Apple comes out with the next innovation.

1 comment:

  1. I don't buy this idea that Jobs made his decision based on the recent perturbations among the competition. But from Apple's own agenda, with the rumors about iPhone 5 and iPad 3, with iOS 5 in a successful public beta and the iCloud to arrive wit it, he truly bought for his company some calm period (well, not without working very hard, as usual). And this is perfect timing for him to pass the rudder to a person who still needs time to build the image of himself as a trusted leader.