Horace Dediu on how the iPhone might be solving the innovator dilemma
The new cameras are for the new generation of YouTube, Instagram and TikTok influencers. Ordinary people with extraordinary tools can do extraordinary work.
The latest iPhone 13 is, in my opinion, the most important iPhone ever. It creates the perception of what a phone should be and it sets up the trajectory for demand that did not yet exist. It’s facile to think that the utility of an OK, older phone is good enough. That assumes that we are satisfied with OK messaging and OK apps. With OK photos and OK video. With no wide angles, no nightmode and no macro photos. What the iPhone has shown however is that the demand for performance can be nudged up.
We did not ask for rack focus, post-production focus (!), night mode, macro photography and portrait bokeh. But once we have these features we begin, ever so slowly, to use them and then we start demanding them. Conversely it seems that what people mostly ask for — that is what the critics ask for — are extrapolations of existing features. The “faster horse” dilemma.
What makes the iPhone and perhaps Apple special is that it seems to deliver things that nobody asks for but then everybody wants while eschewing overshooting a performance dimension that a few demand but most won’t use.
The tragedy of overservice and disruption is that if you don’t shift the definition of performance eventually you run out of demand at the top of the performance curve. That opens you up to “good enough” competition from below. Instead you need to re-define the notion of performance: compete on a new basis, reset expectations. That the iPhone can find new dimensions of performance and hence demand is effectively a solution to the innovator’s dilemma.