Ever since Steve Jobs died in 2011, I've been hoping that the momentum he created would continue to propel Apple forward.

Alas, I've now come to the conclusion that Apple has lost the innovative elan that once made it so special.

Don't get me wrong. I like Apple products. But I don't love them any more. The thrill is gone, perhaps for good.

I feel that with the iPhone 7, Apple has become just another company flogging proprietary technology to up-sell its own products.

I've sat through five long years of me-too product announcements with the only (arguably) new idea the questionably-useful Apple Watch.

With each new Apple announcement, I've been hoping and praying for something, anything, that would knock my argyle socks off.

Instead, like Hollywood studios that only do remakes and sequels, all Apple seems to release is stuff that milks their installed base.

Take, for example, the absence of an audio jack in the iPhone 7. That's not even a feature; it's a limitation.

While you can still use wired headphones from what I can see, the patch cord also makes it impossible to charge your phone at the same time.

That's just plain lousy design.

As I understand it, Lightning is an 8 pin connector where the charge is carried on pin 5 and the ground on pin 1, leaving 6 pins to carry an audio signal.

Unless I'm very wrong about this, Apple could have created a patch cord with a "Lightening in" jack so that you could charge and listen simultaneously.

(If there are Apple experts who can explain why I'm wrong about this, I'll print a correction at the bottom of the post.)

As far as I can tell, Apple is offering this either/or headphone/charge dichotomy because it wants to promote its wireless ear buds.

Wireless ear buds (while we're on the subject) that are destined to fall out of your ears and get lost within three days of purchase.

Removing the headphone jack and not providing a real alternative is making a bad design decision make money--the antithesis of true innovation.

Then there's the updated Apple Watch. I never saw much use for the Apple Watch in the first place but ... Pokemon Go? Is that the best they can do?

As for the iPhone 7 itself, Apple's own press materials emphasize the incremental nature of the announcement. Here's a direct quote:

"The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 plus dramatically improve every aspect of the iPhone experience, reaching a new level of innovation and precision."

Where are the groundbreaking, game-changing products for which Apple was once so justly famous?

It's not as if there's not scope for innovation. For example, here's an idea whose implementation is long overdue: make both the PC and the Macintosh obsolete.

The PC part is easy. Windows (which I've been using for two decades) is like most software designed in the 1980s: unstable and insecure.

For years, Apple has tried to position the Macintosh as a more secure and stable alternative to Windows, with limited success.

Indeed, after decades of struggling with Blue Screens of Death, I finally broke down and returned to using a Macintosh.

However, while OS X is an improvement over Windows in terms of stability and security, it's definitely showing its age.

To me, OS X seems bloated and complicated. iTunes on OS X is a confusing, ugly mess. The way OS X syncs photos with an iPhone is bizarre.

More important, OS X (like Windows) is technological overkill for what people use PCs and Macs for: emails, games, social media, word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets.

None of these applications require a complex operating system that supports decades of backward compatibility.

Quite the contrary, a simple, modern operating system like iOS (or Android, for that matter) is more than adequate to perform those functions.

An iOS device could a PC/Mac killer, if it supported multiple windows (small "w"), automatically coupled with a large screen (for desktop use), and supported a mouse.

Apple has edged in that direction with the iPad Pro but, once again, the company seems unwilling to "eat their own young."

Ideally, I'd like to get to the place where I need only a single device, rather than a collection of devices that need to be awkwardly synced.

But that's not going to happen, at least not from Apple. With today's announcement, it's clear that Apple is an incremental rather than innovative company.

It's milking its cash cows rather than doing what all truly great tech companies do: innovating its current products out of existence.

So rather than incredible, mind-blowing products, we get an iPhone 7 that's a bit faster, a bit lighter, but less convenient to use.

Yawn. And sigh.

I can't help but think that if Jobs had lived, Apple wouldn't be slouching its way toward mediocrity.

Published on: Sep 7, 2016
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