Just because Apple leads doesn't mean everyone is following

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Just because Apple leads doesn't mean everyone is following
We are very big proponents of giving credit where it is due, but that also means that we like to set the record straight when a company gets credit for more than it deserves. It's a very tricky line to walk, but one that we find most can't walk properly with Apple more often than any other company. We know that preaching objectivity in the tech world, especially when it comes to Apple, is something of a fool's game, but we can't help trying. 

Ever since Apple announced the new iPad, and especially the Retina Display of the new iPad, there have been the two standard camps that have set up on either side of the issue. There are those who want to praise Apple for the innovation, and often use that praise to attack other companies for not "being good enough" to make that technological leap first; and, there are those who want to claim that Apple didn't really innovate anything, and is merely using a component designed and manufactured by other companies. As is usually the case in these times, both sides are actually right. The key is to remember that just because one company is leading doesn't mean that the others are following.

Requirements of innovation 

Yes, Apple has pushed forward displays in consumer devices, and has been the first to do so at times. Many Apple supporters always like to make the claim that the technology has been possible, and Apple was the first to push it out, which is true. It's the point that often follows that doesn't really hold water. Often, the argument follows that other companies couldn't or wouldn't push this technology without Apple having done it first, but that's an extremely reductive view. Let's take the case of the Retina Display that Apple loves to market for the new iPad. 

Sure, the technology for higher pixel density on screens was possible 10 years ago, but we have to remember that something being technologically possible is actually a very small piece of the puzzle that we call innovation. It has been technologically possible to have electric cars for over a century now. Back in 1900, 28% of all cars on the roads in the US were electric. Given how that has played out, technological possibilities are quite obviously not the main factor in popular uptake. 

As far as high PPI displays, sure the technology has been possible for a while, but the need wasn't there. HD video wasn't pervasive until very recently, and the TV was still the focal point for visual media consumption, so naturally HDTVs got the push instead of computers. Additionally, before the wide variations in screen size which has come from mobile, there was no need to even talk about PPI, let alone make that a distinguishing factor of a device. The vast majority of computer screens fell within a range of about 12-15" on laptops, 19-27" on desktops, and 27-50" on TVs, and all of those devices were essentially used from a fixed perspective. Now, we've also added in the lower sizes of 4-10" between smartphones and tablets, which are completely mobile, and in our hands at all times. So, PPI is a more important metric, and one that has been especially important for Apple. 

Focus 

That's not to say that PPI hasn't been important for other manufacturers. No one was "waiting for the Apple green light" to begin using the technology, rather, no other companies have been as focused on visuals nearly as much as Apple. Apple is a design company, so it wants the best visuals at all times. That means not only having well designed hardware, but having well designed software as well. With everything moving towards HD, the display and graphics processing is far more important than anything else on devices, and so, that's where we've seen Apple focusing its efforts and leading the way. Maybe Apple didn't design or build the display panels for the new iPad, but like it or not, Apple was the first to put a display of that quality into a popular consumer device, and that counts for quite a lot, even if that kind of push comes with problems as far as manufacturing

We already know that Apple is willing to slow down processes within iOS to give preference to UI interactions in order to give it that extra visual smoothness. And, we also know that the company ethos of Apple is to be incredibly focused on certain aspects in order to get them right, and possibly ignore other areas. So, it shouldn't really be any surprise that Apple would spend all of its efforts in updating all of the graphics of iOS, not to mention pushing the graphics processing ahead of data processing in order to be able to point at its visuals as the best available. 

On the other side, Android manufacturers are more concerned with making adaptable devices, so we've seen things like the PadFone, or laptop docks, or more work with a new generation of styluses (styli?). As with all technology, high PPI screens will make it around to everyone eventually, as they have with smartphones. Sure, Apple led the way with the iPhone's Retina display, but other devices have since easily eclipsed that with new 720p screens, and even before that qHD screens were able to get pretty close to the iPhone's display quality on many occasions. 

Conclusion

Every company wants to be the leader in something. Every company has a core focus. Google wants to be the fastest way to organize and find data, and wants to be malleable with open data and customization. Facebook wants to be the best at knowing what you want. RIM has traditionally wanted to be the most secure option for enterprise. And, Apple wants to create the most beautiful products around in a tightly controlled ecosystem. 

And, in those efforts, each company may ignore other aspects in order to reach its focus. Google has traditionally ignored design in favor of speed, and maybe has put too much faith in users rather than building better security from the start. Facebook has sometimes ignored user comfort in order to build a more complete database of interests and behavior. RIM forgot that there were consumer users and was left behind in that market, despite still excelling on security. And, Apple has ignored customization options in favor of presenting its design vision. 

Each company has its focus and its flaws, and we have to try to align our personal values with those company aims, not the other way around. Apple may lead in visuals, but that doesn't automatically make other companies followers. It simply means that other companies have different aims, and may look to innovate in other ways before pushing for the innovations that Apple makes. Similarly, eventually it goes the other way and Apple will adopt innovations that other companies thought were more important, like the notification tray. Every company leads at some point, and every company follows. That's just the beautiful circle of innovation. 

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143 Comments

2. good2great

Posts: 1042; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

great read!

13. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Thanks!

28. Mandroid

Posts: 209; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

Crap article was crap.

36. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Does that mean you actually bothered to read it?

76. the_s2

Posts: 239; Member since: Nov 22, 2011

Michael, this reminds me of the trolling that was(maybe still) going on in gsmarena.com on a writer named Prasad. Initially, a few of his apple biased articles caught the attention of droid fanboys, which they exaggerated and they started bashing all the articles written by him altogether, even the articles that were non biased, and in some cases, android sided. Going through your comments, I understand your feelings. And compliments from me, this is the most neutral article I have ever read. Why dont you chill, and just ignore these haters? You are a great writer, and you shouldnt be let down by negative comments. All due respect, I am a droid fanboy, and I am against the ethics and unfair pricing of apple products. Technology is meant to be appreciated , and not bashed out, be it apple or samsung or whoever.

103. kshell1

Posts: 1143; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

As long as it isn't Ray S writing the article im fine. Now he is biased

110. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

People can call me biased all they want as long as they're willing to discuss the points. Mandroid's actions here annoyed me far more than any troll because he came in and attacked my content while flat out saying that he didn't even bother to read the article. That is beyond unacceptable to me.

132. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

I agree. Very nice article. The last line in the article says it all: "That's just the beautiful circle of innovation."

3. joseg81

Posts: 204; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

do u mean Apple in the title?

12. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

sure did. fixed that. sorry.

26. TROLL

Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

I keep laughing at UR avatar.... U and Naithan the sad panda makes me laugh....

59. joseg81

Posts: 204; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

it's the cookie monster zombie :)

4. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

who is Apply? Apply apply with the colorful eye. spell check musta been drinking whiskey and rye.. singing this will be the day that I die.. this will be the day that i dye. lol, sorry just read the singing quit notice thread. :)

8. kshell1

Posts: 1143; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

if its apply its a very very rotten apply .-.

57. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

so i guess thats not 2-ply then. :)

72. corporateJP

Posts: 2458; Member since: Nov 28, 2009

The Microsoft Excel chick is a good singer, plus she could catch it. Just sayin'...

5. ivanko34

Posts: 617; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

must be apple not apply

6. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Good concise article, michael. Still trying to squash the fanboy riots, eh? Lets hope it opens some actual discussion up before the usual mudslinging starts. was that electric car stat real? Does that count the old "wind up" cars they had going for a hot minute? interesting.

9. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

as far as PBS told me, that electric car stat was real: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/223/electric-car-timeline.html

58. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

neat timeline. They didnt mention wind up cars, so i guess thats part of the car movement. I almost forgot about gasoline crank starters though. lol. Funny how they credit the invention of the electric starter as a main cause of the death of the electric car. the irony..:)

7. andro.

Posts: 1999; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

Apple doesn't innovate,it merely pays Samsung ,sharp of LG etc for to use their new technology

10. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

So, why doesn't Samsung or LG ever put these components into their own devices before Apple does?

15. BattleBrat

Posts: 1476; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Apple might pay them not to, or contractually obligate them not to.

16. TROLL

Posts: 4851; Member since: Apr 13, 2012

Very logical question!

19. GENARAL.LEVY

Posts: 93; Member since: Apr 17, 2012

Cause not everyone thinks like Mercedes or BMW.....

20. GENARAL.LEVY

Posts: 93; Member since: Apr 17, 2012

Only the finest will do... Marque of distinction. Prestige.

22. taz89

Posts: 2014; Member since: May 03, 2011

my guess would be that samsung lg etc would make more money selling the retina display for example to apple rather than put it in there own product....what i hate is when some articles title is like apple invent retina for ipad when its not true and give no credit to the companies that actually make it.

23. Lucas777

Posts: 2137; Member since: Jan 06, 2011

exactly… apple designs them, but they are far from owning the means of production.. its cheaper and less messy to have sharp, samsung, lg implement it

46. jjjsong

Posts: 76; Member since: Dec 27, 2011

It should be pretty obvious and logical that Apple requested screens of such spec and would like manufacturers such as Samsung, Sharp to make them. In terms of how it can be achieved, it only makes sense that it's really up to Samsung's or Sharp's technology. I don't think Apple invented anything there. And it should be obvious that since Apple requested this screen and it is most likely there are contractual terms to make this "technology" exclusive to Apple for a certain amount of time. This has been my thought since the very beginning. Albeit I don't have any facts to back any of my thoughts up, it seems pretty logical to me.

47. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

my guess is that LG got a fat payday to let Apple introduce retina. As far as Samsung, the same probably happened with the hummingbird, though samsung did keep the better GPU version to themselves.

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