Walter Isaacson amends comments on Google, Apple, and product innovation

Walter Isaacson sat in on a panel discussion on Bloomberg TV. At one point, he addressed an earlier comment he had made about Google being the most innovative company in the world.

I will say one thing about the comment I made about Google being the most innovative…Innovation is great, but it ain’t everything. It’s not the holy grail. Execution is what really matters. Apple is the best at execution.

I appreciate the correction, and he’s certainly right about Apple being the best at execution. But I would argue that, in the areas that grab Apple’s focus, Apple continues to be the best at innovation.

If Apple decided that the time was right for a wearable heads-up device, do you think people would be paying $1500 for Google Glass? Or would everyone be queueing up for an Apple iGlass device, running a version of an operating system that makes for an unparalleled user experience? The latter, I think.

  • yobtah

    But if Apple brings a better Google Glass to market, that’s not innovation. It’s execution again. I’d argue that Apple is good at identifying innovations that others have done and refining them when the time is right. I’d say that’s execution.

    • Space Gorilla

      Then you could argue innovation essentially doesn’t exist. Everything has been thought of or done before in some way. I can’t think of a single thing Google has done that is original. Maybe we’re confusing innovation with invention. Isn’t execution an integral part of innovation?

      • LTMP

        Especially when that execution includes an innovative interface.

      • Vera Comment

        invention and innovation can be confusing.

        is the ipod (circa 2001) an invention (new way to play music) – mp3’s existed before ipod, so did portable cassette players (Walkman), but the ipod was the first (i think) to have a hard drive built in.

        maybe the original ipod was an invention.. and iterations up to the current gen ipod touch are innovations?

        ” I can’t think of a single thing Google has done that is original.” – I think google wins for StreetView/Google Earth.

        • Billy Razzle

          There were hard drive players before the iPod. They just sucked in comparison.

        • Space Gorilla

          I dig Street View and Google Earth, but those were not original ideas. That’s my point. We’re hung up on whether some idea existed previously in any form at all, and if it did we cry “Not innovative!” Especially when it comes to Apple. Hmm, maybe only when it comes to Apple.

          I consider anything that improves the experience of using a thing to be innovative. That might be a big change, it might be a small change. If somebody can make my hammer work better for me, that’s innovative. Period. Does it matter how different my hammer is, or whether ten people previously tried a similar idea but couldn’t quite get it right? The end result is innovation. My job-to-be-done is improved.

          I think we’ve come to define innovation in odd ways in order to be able to say that Apple is ‘not innovative’.

    • google didn’t invent search or augmented reality eye ware.

      but innovation isn’t invention, and so by that same concession apple’s own innovation must be acknowledged. add to it their superior execution, and in my mind we have a winner.

  • Recall Isaacson teasing Apple fans about having “a lot more to come” from his interviews with Steve Jobs? Guessing that the second book greased the wheels for Isaacson’s backtracking. The book might even be imminent.

    • Moeskido

      He seems to know a cash cow when he’s milked one.

  • Moeskido

    I really wish this man’s last book hadn’t convinced him he was qualified to discuss consumer technology.

    • I really wish Jobs hadn’t convinced himself that Isaacson was the writer for his biography. I know I’m in the minority, but I found the book to be terrible from the start.

      • Moeskido

        It was interesting enough while it examined Jobs’ childhood and private life. I have no doubt Isaacson was up to that task.

        But to the degree that Isaacson gets so much of the tech wrong, everything gets way too muddy once Jobs’ work becomes the foundation for understanding Apple’s relationships with other companies.

      • i thought it was fine as a bio. i know the tech community was up in arms over it not explaining Jobs’ tech leadership/secret sauce, but i dont think that was really the point. it wasnt a tech firm strategy guide. it was a life bio that he wanted for his children (and the world) to know him by.

  • Curmudgeon

    Conventional stock analysts are showing they cannot grasp how Apple continues to rake in cash. Yet Apple does. The cash being shoveled into Apple’s coffers mystifies them year after year. Conventional analysts read tea leaves, invent their explanation for Apple’s cash machine, then when Apple announces more cash arriving in ways that analysts did not comprehend the analysts blame Apple for not following the conventional analysts predictions. And Apple continues to rake in cash consistently, just not in the ways understood by conventional analysts.

    It seems the conventional analysts would lose credibility with their continued failure to fulfill their job (accurately predict Apple), but somehow Apple loses credibility because they fail to follow conventional analyst tea leaf readings. I’m tossing Isaacson in the clique of conventional analysts here.

    They just do not understand how the cash comes in in greater and greater amounts, they do not understand how cash comes in at all, which is why AAPL is valued low. Conventional analysts and institutional investors cannot place value what they do not understand.

    • All made worse by the fact that the “Street” has certain clowns calling for Tim Cook’s head while he delivers higher sales and profits, but when Google shows it has no idea what it ultimately wants to do (sells at a loss a company that makes things that use it’s products, buys a company that has no obvious relationship to Google) it’s stock price continues to rise.

  • ESatie

    Walter Isaacson has written six books. One of them was about a man who was a visionary leader of a technology company. That doesn’t give him any valid opinions on technology and the relative performance of various technology companies who doing what they do while he was busy writing about Ben Franklin or Albert Einstein.