PayPal co-founder and avowed Gawker enemy Peter Thiel has never been shy about expressing his opinions. During the run-up to the 2016 Presidential election, for example, Thiel seemingly stood alone among Silicon Valley luminaries in his support for Donald Trump.
More recently, Thiel sat down for a quick and dirty Q&A session with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times where he fired off a number of impromptu answers to a wide array of questions. When the topic of conversation turned to Apple, Dowd asked Thiel if he would confirm or deny that “the age of Apple is over.”
Thiel responded in the affirmative.
“We know what a smartphone looks like and does,” Thiel said. “It’s not the fault of Tim Cook, but it’s not an area where there will be any more innovation.”
It’s an interesting take because Thiel, as opposed to many armchair pundits, isn’t declaring that we’ve reached peak iPhone and that Apple is about to enter a 10 year period of stagnation. Rather, Thiel is simply articulating that the next big wave of innovation will not center on the smartphone. Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, it’s certainly not an unreasonable take.
All the same, it will be interesting to see if Apple has any hidden tricks up its sleeve with its 2017 iPhone, a device that will likely be called the iPhone 8. According to reports, Apple’s high-end iPhone 8 will feature an edgeless display with a curved OLED panel.
It’s also worth noting, if we parse Thiel’s comment just a little bit more, that Apple isn’t just going to sit on the sidelines if the next big wave of innovation focuses on another area of technology outside of the smartphone. Apple is not only devoting a lot of resources towards wearables research but is also very interested in a number of other areas, including machine learning, virtual reality and augmented reality. To the latter point, reputed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has come out and said that Apple is working on augmented reality technology that could be more than 3 years ahead of what anyone else is working on.
Point being, even if smartphone innovation is slowing down, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the age of Apple has or is coming to an end.