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The Myth of Steve Jobs’ Constant Breakthroughs

Harry McCracken with an excellent takedown of the myth for Time:

The golden age of Apple... never existed. Steve Jobs didn’t change the world every two years like clockwork, and he was incrementalism’s grand master.

Me, I’ve always thought that it will be impossible to fully judge the Cook era until Apple does enter a wholly new product category. It’s going to do so at some point, and it’s possible that it’ll either go spectacularly well or be a fiasco. Or it might fall somewhere in between, as some of Jobs’ products did. (Exhibit A: The “hobby” known as Apple TV.) But Cook has plenty of wiggle room left before he falls substantially behind Jobs’ pace. I figure he has at least until the end of 2014 or so before there’s reason to join the worry-wart chorus.

For every great leap forward Apple ever made, it accomplished at least as much through small steps that made its products easier, faster, thinner, lighter, more polished and/or more useful. Apple’s most important products may have been the game-changers, but its best products, always, have been those that benefited from smart, evolutionary improvements. And as far as I remember, Jobs never seemed guilty about the profits they brought.

Remember: Even Jobs himself was constantly upbraided by pundits for releasing products they deemed to be snoozers. If Steve Jobs was incapable of being sufficiently Steve Jobs-like, isn’t it possible that the standard doesn’t have much to do with reality — and that it’s silly to make the case that Tim Cook has failed to uphold it?