How did Apple rise through the ranks to become the world’s most profitable tech company? As it turns out, good timing and shrewd planning have played as much of a role as innovative thinking for the Silicon Valley juggernaut.
Apple also exercised a great deal of patience when it came to smartphone technology. The world’s first smartphone, the Symbian from Nokia, appeared in 2000 — seven years before the iPhone — and was equipped with features considered revolutionary at the time, such as a touchscreen and built-in camera. A few years later, Blackberry introduced the concept of email accessibility via one’s cell phone. By the time Apple released the first iPhone in 2007, the market was well-established and software developers had fine-tuned many of the technical kinks related to smartphone functionality.
In some cases, Apple has gained an edge over competitors by purchasing innovative software developed by smaller firms. That was the case with Delaware-based tech firm FingerWorks, whose brainchild, the TouchStream, was one of the first models of ‘gesture recognition’ technology. Apple purchased FingerWorks in 2005, two years before the release of the first iPhone; TouchStream’s technology and functionality heavily influenced the touchscreen features later implemented for Apple’s smartphone and tablet devices.
They let others do the dirty work: Seahan’s MPMan, the first MP3 music player, was released in 1998 in Asia – 3 years before the iPod came out. The MPMan was actually a bit smaller than the iPod. So why did the iPod win? Because Seahan and other early innovators spent most of their time and money in court battling digital music lawsuits – not spending money on advertising campaigns.
They wait for the dust to settle: Released in 2000, Symbian by Nokia was the first smartphone. It featured a touch screen, and a camera. Another major player, the Blackberry, taught professionals the value of having email in their pockets. By 2007 and the release of the original iPhone, the market was set, and Apple was home free.
When all else fails, they buy it: While iPads had fan boys salivating in the streets –the technology has been around for decades. One of the most obvious precursors to the iPad is FingerWorks, a finger gesture operated keyboard with a mouse very similar to Apple’s iPad controller. Fingerworks was bought in 2005 by none other than Apple – not surprisingly a couple years before the release of the iPhone and later the iPad.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Apple doesn’t deserve to be the most valuable tech company in the world – just that innovation isn’t always about being first or best, sometimes, it’s just perception.