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Back to the Future? – The Apple iPad

February 2nd, 2010

Reminiscing the old Apple Days

This week’s announcement of the iPad was “reminiscent” of my time from 1988-1993 as an Apple employee and reminded me of the difference between “Creativity” and “Innovation.”

In the mid/late 1980′s, John Sculley was CEO of Apple – and constant clashes with the head of R&D, Jean-Luis Gassee, finally led to Gassee’s departure from the company.  But they did create some magic together. One of my favorite bits of magic was the introduction of a video that would articulate the future direction of Apple – a creative vision for what Apple could be when it grew up.

But, oddly, Apple then took a series of twists and turns that took it away from vision and into the personal computer wars – wars it could not win.  It wasn’t until Jobs returned to Apple in the ’90s that the firm could go back to its old creative self and begin to innovate on a series of products that would eventually take it BACK TO THE FUTURE.

A Creative Vision

In 1987, in Cupertino, Apple employees and press were treated to a video, which we found to be incredibly imaginative at the time and provided us with a glimpse of what would someday come. If you haven’t seen this, or had forgotten about it…check this out:

The Apple Navigator, in my mind, was an incredible creative vision for the future.  “Internet-like” access is implied in the vision, but is 8 years ahead of its time.  Also included:  a book-like interface, ubiquitous Search, voice-recognition, intelligent agents, touch screen, virtual assistant, high-resolution graphics, integrated (video) telephone, visual analysis and simulation, 3D graphics, embedded camera/video, distance-learning, virtual scheduling/calendaring, and more (how many things did I miss?).

Fast-forward to last week’s announcement of the iPad:

We all watched the announcement of the iPad this week, and it was the talk of most circles.

OK.  In 1985 the  folks at Apple missed a few things that were part of this week’s iPad launch:

- access to the world’s library of magazines, books and reading materials

- access to100 million websites, 6 million blogs and 1 million new-sites

- the integration of the music, movies, television and video in a book-like interface

- hand-movement recognition

Still, even having missed these features, it’s amazing the number of features that early Apple inventors were thinking about…Keep in mind, this is only 5 years after the launch of the IBM PC, and  8 years before the Internet came into vogue for the consumer masses, 15 years before Skype was accepted as a workable communications solution, and 20 years before I projected a lecturer onto the screen of my classroom at UC Berkeley!

Is it any wonder Apple us regarded as one of the greatest think-tanks and most innovative companies in the world?

Creativity vs Innovation

Creativity is about great new ideas – ideas that transcend our current status-quo, ideas that are “intersectional” (combining elements from 2 or more previously unrelated sources), ideas that make us see things in new ways.

Innovation is about bringing these ideas to life and making them work in the economic, social, business and market context.

I think it is pretty intriguing that  last week’s launch of the iPad brings Apple one huge step closer to turning a Creative vision of the 1985 Navigator into an actual market-place Innovation, that is likely to be sold to tens of millions of consumers and businesses in the coming years.