Ever since Tim Cook moved into the corner office at Apple on a permanent basis, both he and the iPhone maker itself have been dogged by cries that the company has lost its innovative edge. That without its late co-founder Steve Jobs at the helm anymore, the company no longer innovates and merely makes incremental improvements to existing products like its phones and laptops. If you need evidence of this, go back just a few days ago to when Apple made that bombshell announcement that its holiday quarter revenue is going to come in softer than expected. Recode’s Kara Swisher declared in a CNBC interview that “The innovation cycle has slowed down at Apple. Where is their exciting new product and where are their exciting new entrepreneurs within that company?” As far as Tim in particular, he’s been the subject pretty much for the entirety of his tenure that he’s not a product guy, that the company is going stale on his watch and that new product categories — like the Apple Watch — are nowhere near the home run the iPhone turned out to be.
We bring up the Watch, specifically, because Tim decided to lavish it with some revealing praise today that pushes back on some of the above criticism. He spotlighted the Watch’s product category in an interview with CNBC personality Jim Cramer to tout that innovation is indeed alive and well at the company. One of his key talking points during the interview: Apple now has a wearables business comprised of products like the Watch as well as the AirPod wireless headphones that’s bigger for Apple than the iPod ever was in terms of sales.
On a trailing basis, according to Tim, “revenue for wearables is already 50 percent more than iPod was at its peak.” Additionally, he singled out the Watch and the AirPods, noting that each product has generated for Apple at least four times more in sales than the iPod did at the same point in its life cycle.
Why is he reaching back for a comparison with the iPod? For one thing, the launch of the iconic music player was regarded as an epic, game-changing moment for the company that arguably set it on its current path, generating cachet with a new generation of consumers and paving the way for breakthrough products like the iPhone to follow. “I think everybody would say it was an incredibly important product for Apple, full of innovation, and probably the trigger for the company getting on a very different trajectory and into other markets,” Tim said during the interview.
Per CNBC, “Apple has been leveraging its Watch to make a serious foray into health care, which Cook also said Tuesday would be the subject of some key announcements from Apple in 2019. The company is also expected to launch new AirPods this year, capitalizing on the success of its most popular accessory ever.” Apple, in other words, is still very much an innovator, according to its CEO — and with the evolution of its wearables business, could very well be at another of those seminal moments for the company that the arrival of the iPod also heralded.