“If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start." -- Charles Bukowski
What's the difference between impossible and improbable? If you listen to the analysts, Apple [AAPL] faces an impossible task maintaining its record for disruption, innovation and change. But is this perception correct?
The doors of perception
Possibility is all about perception, perhaps nothing more than an inner projection based on prior experience or opinion. Defying the conventional limitations of the possible isn't easy, but humans do it daily: the Moon Landings; fire walking by the Sawau clan; Aron Ralston's survival of a mountain fall.
In his attempt to explain the human capacity to achieve the impossible, Nietzsche imagined the Overman, a person who could become fully actualized in the here and now.
So is Apple ready to actualize?
The company has frequently succeeded in delivering solutions that defined an industry. History shows it doesn't always get there first, but history also shows it then delivers elegant, effective solutions that define those sectors it does enter.
- The Macintosh spawned the PC.
- The iPod defined digital music players -- and still does.
- The iPhone ignited the smartphone explosion.
- The iPad remains the only tablet most people want.
Were these achievements impossible, improbable or unlikely?
The new familiars
Design supremo, Jony Ive, has described (to paraphrase) how well designed devices fit so snugly into a user's existence that the user gets the sensation their new electronic gadget has always been there.
With that in mind it's hard to define the probability of any device through its present existence: you need to cast your mind back to before the device got there.
Take the iPhone: before its introduction everyone knew Apple was working on a phone, but no one could quite foresee what it would be.
The introduction of an elegant touch-based user interface within a phone design then streets ahead of anything else available to the market won praise and criticism. But few could imagine the nature of the product before it arrived.
We spent the months previous to the introduction reading endless rumor reports, opinion columns and positive and negative analyst and industry comment.
We're at a similar point today.
Shock of the new
We believe Apple has a raft of products in development, but we don't know what they will consist of -- we have rumor, conjecture and opinion on devices that haven't once been fully described.
These example headlines suggest what's being said:
- Apple focused on iOS 7 development as new products loom
- Apple plans summer iPhone release, second model follows --WSJ
- iPad price cuts: A signal Apple is about to release new ones
- Apple iTV 60-inch television to launch this year, analyst says
- AAPL: ‘iWatch’ Coming This Year, Says Topeka
- Apple planning summer launch for iRadio?
Each of these products and services has generated massive speculation. Analysts, critics, fans and pundits like yours truly have pontificated, proselytized and panned them, pulling them to pieces as effectively as a horse-torn execution at the court of Ghengis Khan.
That's despite us knowing nothing substantial about any of these new products or services.
- The iPhone 5S may have NFC;
- The iPhone mini may be available in colors;
- The (perhaps) 50-inch Apple television may be controlled by "The Precious," aka, "iRing."
We don't know for sure. Just like that time before launch of iPhone, we're in a new realm of doubt and uncertainty.
Those who can't...
We do know that without the assistance of Gordon Ramsey, there's something cooking in Cupertino's kitchens. We recognize competitors are waiting to be "inspired" by whatever dishes the company serves up.
What we don't know is what they will offer.
We can't be certain Apple will deliver whizz-bang new features/services within these new products. These things might simply exist as extensions to what is here already.
Despite all the unknowns, there's plenty of anticipation and a goodly chunk of pent up demand for these new electronic toys.
So what's Wall Street's response as Apple rests in the catbird seat for future opportunity?
Inside the box
There's an adage about teachers (one I consider unfair), which is: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
In this case, Apple is preparing to execute while Wall Street sells on the rumor in hope, perhaps, of buying on the news.
Some might see events around Apple as comprising a losing battle for mobile market share and a desperate attempt to introduce new products designed to transform new industries.
Others might remark that industry watchers are unable to take the imaginative leap it will take to consider just what's possible in Apple's new product fleet.
You don't achieve the impossible by sticking to the rules, using tried and tested tools, or staying safe within the box. You need the commitment to go all the way, or else you shouldn't even start.
I suspect we're about to see some of the other things Apple has been working on across the last decade.
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