Another Apple alum is unimpressed with the current direction of the company: This time it’s former design contractor Hartmut Esslinger, who helped Steve Jobs create the original Mac in the early 1980s, and who recently said that the iPhone is no longer “smart enough” to be considered truly innovative.
“As soon as you can copy something [like the iPhone], it’s not smart enough anymore,” he explained, according to The Atlantic Wire. “I think Apple has reached, in a certain way, a saturation—the curve [of innovation] was really steep seven to eight years ago…But now my iPhone is so full I am deleting apps because I want to keep it simple.”
It’s a backhanded compliment, no doubt, referencing the imagination and early success of the company’s smartphone, a brainchild of the late Steve Jobs. But Esslinger now feels that, since coming forward with the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s vision for innovation has diminished, and this has allowed for other companies to catch up to Apple.
The retired industrial designer got to know and understand Jobs well, something he has recounted in a memoir, Keep it Simple, set to release in October. Esslinger partnered with Jobs to create the “Snow White” design language featured on Apple's Macintosh computer beginning in 1984. He also followed Jobs to NeXT, the former Apple co-founder's other computer company.
“Steve Jobs was a man who didn’t care for any rational argument why something should not be tried,” Esslinger said, per The Atlantic Wire. “[Jobs] said a lot of ‘no,’ but he also said a lot of ‘yes’ to things and he stubbornly insisted on trying new things.”
This sentiment has been echoed by former Apple CEO John Sculley. In a 2010 interview posted by tech site Cult of Mac, Sculley said of Jobs, “He was a person of huge vision. But he was also a person that believed in the precise detail of every step. He was methodical and careful about everything — a perfectionist to the end.
“What makes Steve’s methodology different from everyone else’s is that he always believed the most important decisions you make are not the things you do – but the things that you decide not to do.,” Sculley continued. “He’s a minimalist.”
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, much like Esslinger, has also offered comments regarding the stale state of innovation in the company. In February of this year, Woz told German economic news site Wirtschafts Woche that, "Currently [Apple is], in my opinion, somewhat behind,” according to TechRadar.
“Others have caught up. Samsung is a great competitor. But precisely because they are currently making great products," Wozniak remarked.
Apple did announce a couple of new iPhones this week, but the new iPhone 5s and 5c, both slight variations on last year’s iPhone 5, might not quite represent the kind of new innovation that some Apple critics are calling for. (Though we can't help but wonder if Esslinger thought the gold version of the iPhone 5s was a nice touch.)
- Steve Jobs
- Hartmut Esslinger