As Apple (AAPL) prepares to launch what by all accounts will be the
most successful device it has ever built and just a few weeks after
the company was awarded more than $1 billion in damages when Samsung
(005930) was found to have infringed on its IP an article penned by
a former Apple executive questions exactly what Apples role is in the
consumer electronics industry. Jean-Louis Gassee, who came very close
to becoming the president of Apple in the late 1980s before being
ousted by CEO John Scully and Apples board, claims that while Apples
success in the industry cannot be disputed, its perception as an
innovator is open to discussion.
Apple havent invented anything, was the title of Gassees Monday
note column on The Guardian last week. In it, the former executive
says that Apple is not an inventor but rather a master when it comes
to taking existing ingredients and *** up a masterpiece.
The iPad, for example, was clearly the first consumer tablet to see
success on a large scale, but the concept of a consumer tablet had
been around for 30 years before Apple unveiled its first iPad in 2010.
Similarly, the iPhone was clearly a reimagining of the smartphone
rather than a new and novel product.
Likening late Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs to a chef,
Gassee argues that Apples true talent lies in taking existing
products and concepts, and transforming them not in inventing new
The basic ingredients are the same, Gassee writes while discussing
the iPAQ as a predecessor to the iPad, Software is all zeroes and
ones, after all. The quantity and order may vary, but thats about it.
Hardware is just protons, neutrons, electrons and photons buzzing
around, nothing original. Apple didnt invent anything, the iPad is
simply their variation, their interpretation of the well-known tablet
Gassee says that this line of thinking is myopic but technically
accurate, and concludes that Jobss ability to take the same list of
ingredients that was used to create a device and rework them to create
unique new products was uncanny regardless of whether or not Apples
products are labeled as inventions.