Is Apple Really Creatively Bankrupt

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Apple is a has-been.

In one shape or another, that’s the gist of what many of your friends have been saying after WWDC, Apple’s annual conference for software developers, wrapped up on June 2. Certainly that’s what some of my friends have been saying.

They’re not alone. Despite a general consensus that the WWDC went unexpectedly okay, some journalists took delight — yet again— in clamouring that post-Jobs’s Apple has lost its mojo.

But are they right? Is Apple creatively bankrupt?

To be sure, there is reason for concern about Apple’s future — and not just because of what happened last time Steve Jobs wasn’t there to run things at Apple.

The company’s new CEO, Tim Cook, is without a doubt very different from his predecessor. A logistics maestro, Cook has no electronics or software background (although he does have an industrial engineering degree in addition to an MBA). He’s also, to put it politely, lacking in charisma, which is likely why he let likeable Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, present most of this year’s WWDC.

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When Steve Jobs passed the reins to Tim Cook (pictured) he reportedly told him to never worry about what he would have done, and to just to do what’s right. Skeptics should keep that in mind.

The problem, however, goes beyond credentials or public prevention skills. It was under Cook’s watch that Apple blundered by launching its Maps application before it was ready. A recent decision to buy luxury headset maker Beats baffled many observers, with at least one, Gene Munster over at Piper Jaffray, calling it a “bad idea.”

Most worryingly of all, Cook’s Apple has yet to deliver a new revolutionary product like the iWatch or the Apple TV set that pundits have long been rumouring about.

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Being first doesn’t equal success. How many people have you seen wearing one of these?

Yet lamenting the obvious differences between a late leader and his successor isn’t just pointless. It also ignores one key fact: Things under Cook aren’t anywhere near as bad as some observers make it out to be.

My admittedly informal survey of everyday Mac and iPhone users shows that they’re both perfectly happy with their products and unworried about Apple’s so-called “lack of innovation.”

The stock market seems to confirm this. Apple is within percentage points of outperforming the Nasdaq and has outpaced the Dow and S&P 500 since Cook took over in August of 2011, as recently noted by Forbes’s Mark Rogowsky.

Admittedly, iPad sales did see a slowdown (but it’s worth noting that the iPhone continues to sell in record numbers, and Mac sales spiked almost 30 percent year over year). This is in marked contrast to the 7.5 percent drop that the overall PC market saw in the U.S. during the holiday quarter, and a much petter performance for Apple than a year ago in the Mac department.

“What critics also don’t realize is that while innovation may be something infused into Apple’s DNA, it doesn’t happen on a preset timetable. There were 6 years between iPod and iPhone, 3 between iPhone and iPad.” —Mark Rogowsky.

As for this year’s WWDC, it was brimming with so many important announcements that observers can’t quite agree on which one is more important. The Economist rightly lauded “the way its new operating systems will enable OS X and iOS devices to work together.” “A new era for Apple,” gushed the New York Times, referring partly to HomeKit and HealthKit.

The company also loosened restrictions on developers, who will now be allowed to bundle apps for sale at a discount in Apple’s store, to show video previews and to invite users to test beta versions. Apple will also allow third-party apps to be embedded in its own apps, greatly enhancing the user experience.

Not everyone will agree that these are important announcements—or that more of them will follow. But before we declare Apple in trouble, perhaps we should wait and see.