Fifty billion app downloads and $9.5 billion in net profit (around 7.3 billion euros) in the last quarter alone don’t seem enough to investors and fans of Apple. Hostage to its devout followers, the Cupertino-based company is being forced to innovate. People are demanding unique products that aren’t available anywhere else, no matter what the price. In short, they want to see something new, original and groundbreaking that will ensure Apple continues to be different.
And that is Apple’s problem: it’s got everyone used to seeing a revolutionary product come out every three years. Apple CEO Tim Cook, who labors under the long shadow of Steve Jobs, runs the company impeccably, but his real challenge lies not in profits, but in the imagination department.
“Apple is the company that revolutionized design, because it put design at the service of humanity,” explains Juli Capella, an architect and design critic. “It really makes life simpler. Without it, the world would be a different place, and in my opinion it would be a much worse place, because it gave people priority over machines. Steve Jobs added a mouse to the computer. A few years ago I interviewed its creator, Douglas C. Engelbart. His innovation went unnoticed until Jobs made it relevant. But he only wanted one button. Now they don’t even come with that. It’s just another example of how Apple resolves complex things in a simple way.”
But Sergi Jordà, a physicist, musician and creator of the tactile tabletop musical instrument Reactable, begs to differ. “Apple has invented practically nothing, but it is very good at selling ideas developed earlier that went by unnoticed. The best example is the iPad tablet, as compared with the tablet PC. It’s one of the companies that invests the least in research and development if you compare it with others such as Samsung. Apple is not an innovating company, it is a company with a good marketing and design policy. It doesn’t have to do anything to maintain its hegemony on image, because it already has thousands of hooked consumers who are diehard fans. Selling to a fanatic is always easier than selling to a non-believer. Religions don’t need too much to stay afloat, it’s all a matter of faith.”
Capella also finds some fault with Apple: “It needs to keep focusing on what it does best, but at the same time it has to drop the arrogance. Its future headquarters, that enormous donut designed by Foster, is a symbol of excess. It should refocus on warm, human, simple things.”
Meanwhile, several creative minds in Spain have come up with a few dream products and applications that do not yet exist, but which they would like Apple to create for them. Here are their suggestions.
JAVIER LIMÓN, MUSIC PRODUCER
“After listening to music in my studio for many years, I’ve got used to interacting with what I hear; that is to say, having the option of mixing the songs I am listening to. Sometimes I boost the bass, other times I only want to hear the voice and the guitar, or just the arrangements without the voice... I would like Apple to create an application to listen to new albums like that, and even old ones. It’s not just a question of programming — there are already apps offering this possibility. It’s a question of content. Apple and iTunes should be able to have access to the different tracks that make up each recording. By separating the tracks, very likely more than one person’s game would be up. I offer to be a guinea pig and hand over all of my albums, separated by tracks.”
FERRAN ADRIÀ, CHEF
“After Google’s glasses, everyone is waiting for Apple to introduce its own version with its trademark design, simplicity and elegance. Imagine a pair of glasses that tell you every step of a recipe, or recommend products when you’re out shopping, or what tapas restaurants to visit. What’s evident is that Apple will continue to be at the forefront of change and set the new technology trends.”
BENEDETTA TAGLIABUE, ARCHITECT
Emotional battery charger
“This idea is not mine, it belongs to a friend who arrived with his arms full of cables to feed all the equipment we lug around, but I think it’s great, so I’m sharing it with everyone. Apple needs to come up with an emotional battery that you can recharge not just through contact with the human body but also through contact with the emotions. If I see a good-looking man, it gets charged faster. If I am enjoying the landscape, the same. And it shouldn’t empty out when you are angry or sad, it should just go slower.”
JUAN DUYOS, FASHION DESIGNER
“Screens are passé. Tactile is dead. No cables, no weight, no case, no battery. Just a stick the size of a pen drive, self-charging using human energy — either just the heat from your hands or by bodily motion as it rests in your pocket. To use the i3D, you just need a perimeter of a least one meter around you. It would be the key to a virtual world in three dimensions and in real time (the 3DNet, the internet of the future) that you could manage with hand and voice commands. You could be at the coronation of Máxima Zorreguieta [queen-consort of The Netherlands], at a Bowie concert or at the Paris catwalks, simply by paying whatever Apple establishes.”
JULI CAPELLA, DESIGN CRITIC
“Every giant has its downfall. It happened to IBM, which was able to refocus its strategy from computers to services. I am convinced that if Apple ventured into the world of 3D printers, it would stand out again, just like it did with the first personal computer, mobile telephony, the world of applications, and music. Very likely, in a few years, we’ll all have a 3D printer at home. Apple is capable of creating one that is easy to use and allows you to be creative even if you have no design training whatsoever. I see it as an infinite library of shapes, designs, materials, textures and smells that would allow us to develop our creativity. If [Apple] makes it, then 3D printers would cease to be residual products and instead become mass-market products. The world would never be the same.”
GRACIA QUEREJETA, FILM DIRECTOR
“Those of us who work in the movie industry really miss a good application for storyboards. In my case, since I don’t consider myself particularly good at drawing — and even if I did — I miss the angle, the perspective, the exact location. Apple would be doing us a great favor if it created a specific application for film directors on the iPad. Not only would it save us time, but also work, and it would instantly create a better connection among team members. Right now we’re still working with photocopies of the frames. And it’s the same story with the scripts. We’re still using Word, another relic. There isn’t a very good explanation for the fact that we’re still in this situation.”
SERGI JORDÀ, CREATOR OF REACTABLE
“I’m convinced that Apple will know how to make the most of the lines [of research] opened up in the technology field, whether it be Google’s glasses or the motion-sensing interaction of Kinect. I am sure we will soon be seeing iGlasses or an iBrain.”
XAVIER CARRILLO COSTA, CEO DIGITAL LEGENDS
Apple TV 2.0
“Apple could innovate in the way we consume audiovisual content such as movies, TV series and documentaries. It would be something like Apple TV 2.0, but it would go way beyond a simple device, because it has to bring together the functions of a cellphone, a TV and the internet in an integrated whole, letting users just go home and not have to do anything to see any audiovisual content they want at any time; this is already a reality with music, games and applications.”
JAVIER AGÜERA, CREATOR OF GEEKSPHONE
“One of the most interesting things for the near future is wearables: technology that you can wear. Apple already experimented with these technologies with the launch of Nike+; in the last five years they have prioritized mobile devices over their traditional computers and laptops. I think the next thing for Apple could run along the same lines as the iWatch or Google’s glasses. That is to say, a device that truly adds an innovative interface that lets you do things you couldn’t do before, without having to type or hold something in your hand. It’s not about new functions, but about innovative ways of integrating them into our daily lives.”
NANI MARQUINA, DESIGNER
Flexible touch screen
“Apple brings together the impossible technology we used to see in sci-fi films a few years ago with a clean, minimalist appearance. Apple was and is the key that opens a large door: the fusion of technology and design. What would I ask for? Possibly a touch screen, but a soft one, more organic, more comfortable, not so rigid.”
With reporting by Ana Pantaleoni, Rosa Rivas, Rosa Jiménez Cano and Javier Martín.