Apple post-Wazniak, Innovation vs Invention

I want to get some other's opinions regarding what is innovation vs. invention because it’s become a debated topic among my friends. What do you wise minds think?

Awhile back Logan posted a video regarding Apple not being an "invention" company but rather a "recipe" company. (If there is already a thread for this I haven’t seen it).

Backstory if you want:

This started because my friend started to work for Apple recently as an "at home advisor". I'm not sure where I saw Logan's video, but I decided it was a good time to send my friend the link to it. His response did not agree with the video. This discussion has tried multiple attempts to form a definition of innovation or invention. Easy you say? Perhaps not.

My reasoning and his:

I attempted to show that inventions are items that did not exist prior to their development. They are in essence and by their nature a first generation. The inventor created it because it did exist in complete, functional, form before its construction. Innovation I explained as successive generations of that first item. Those later generations being improvements, modifications, or changes to the prior gen. all the while not changing essence of the first generation. (I see someone trying asking “What is essence?”) His argument hinged around innovation being inherently less meaningful than the invention, and thus merely calling Apple an innovator undermines their business success. That innovation often times creates products that “didn’t exist prior” because those exact components are “new” in the sense of being faster or more capable than the prior ones. As the definitions of new, prior, or ones changes slightly, how do you make the distinction between innovation and invention abundantly clear? Can you?

To note he’s an economics/business major so I’ve been told companies invent new products every year. ie Apple invented the MacBook Pro because no other company had a “MacBook Pro”. I guess if you’re a business owner you invent new products even if that product is only slightly different than last year’s model.

Edit: Ignore the random html tags. Apparently I have no idea what I'm doing. Strong 

Edit2: Got it now :-)

Saying that the MacBook Pro is an invention is like saying that laptops didn't exist before 2006.

Invention can be defined as the introduction of a new product or process, while innovation is the improvement of current technologies or services.

Something I found to be interesting relating to Innovation vs. Invention:

I came across that article in looking stuff up too, and I thought that cleared up the in a straightforward manner. 

That's what I told him and I've quoted excerpts. 

His response: Yes there was a laptop, but there wasn't a MacBook laptop. In that there wasn't a laptop that did everything the Macbook did. So in its essense it does something new: ergo invention.  Let's look at the record player. You would call a CD player an invention, because there was nothing else that played sound like a CD player before the CD player. (Laser and spinning metallic discs plus other components) Regardless if it just impoves the way it plays sound over something like a record player. It was an invention because those parts where never used like that before. 

Sorry to abort ship from the MacBook example. I just want a more concise, "ripple", example. 

Edit: Changed stuff in third paragraph. 


How is the Macbook not a strong enough argument? 

I would just not argue? Or are you looking for an argrument? 

You wanna fight?

You even lift bro? :-) 

hahaha... :-D

I would say it's not an strong argument for particular. We can go back to it. I'll just have to reasearch more items. 

That's the thing with want to "win". I always draw, or lose, with him, and I think I've got more breadth on Tech issues than he does. Valid point nonetheless. "It's about as pointless as arguing over sports teams," as I was told. I disagreed because I'm right: so I think. 


haha hmm.

Well I would say the point is not to be pedantic over "innovation" vs "invention" -- the take away is that apple seems to sort of 'brainwash' fans into thinking that they, as if by magic, created something from nothing. The point is that apple exists in an ecosystem of technology companies. Did they get the formula right and reap huge business success for it? Sure. I would say they really 'threaded the needle' on that.

I'm not sure there is a perfect analogy. A lot of the magic in the success here comes from obsessively tweaking the hardware (actually I'd say it is 30% hardware and 70% software ocd tweaks). I see this as analagous to things like tweaks to the automobile to make them more practical, more mass-producable, etc.  

The individual components are not apples', and it is a bit silly to argue that apple invented the technology, components and software in a vaccuum.

Companies looking to replicate apple's success need a leader/architect that 1) gets technology 2) is a bit OCD about things 3) is willing to step outside their comfort zone to make a better product.

Here are some questions: Windows mobile phones were roughly the same form factor and technology as the iphone. The major innovation there from apple was to use new touch glass, and to aim for a finger-based (rather than stylus-based) touch interface. Had someone on the windows mobile team "thought differently" strictly in terms of software, I believe that windows mobile would have been much more wildly successful. Instead, the team clung to (or was forced to cling to) archaic desktop UI paradigms like the start menu.

How hard is it to step back and say "I want a smart phone that is not a pain in the ass to use?" -- Enter google glass. Success or failure there, Google is not afraid to fail. Apple seems to be of late.

What separates an apple computer from a PC? A hardware encryption chip. Every single piece of electronics in the mac is used exactly the way intel designed it to be used. It is true Apple "pushes" their partners (e.g. pushing intel to have lower-power x86 hardware) because of specific things they want out of their designs. I think they can get away with this more right now because they're the largest gorilla in the room. That will change, but I hope we don't have a loss of innovation in the industry.

Apple needs to play nice with others in the industry, give credit where credit is due, and be humble that in large part their success depends not only on their engineers and software, but on invention and innovation in the industry as a whole.


P.s. That bit about Google getting better faster at "appleing" than apple is improving its "googling" -- consider the itunes & apps store. Perhaps the last bastion of WebObjects on the planet. You have to have an email account to sync notes? Apple can't even update the online store without taking it down first. Ping, photo stream and lots of other apps where you have "friends" require constant "refriending." This is partly because apple is not structured to be an engineering power house. Google is. And google is getting better at making things people want and that are smart and awesome (something apple is, admittedly, good at) faster than apple is getting good at great engineering and scaling well. 




check the mac pro specs.

argument won

In my opinion, invention is the process of creating simply completely new, out of various parts that may or not actually cohabitate in any meaningful sense.

Innovation, by nature, requires an invention to have occured. You don't just 'innovate' the wheel. You INVENT the wheel. An innovation on to the formula would be spokes, better material, etc.


As for apple, they haven't INVENTED much of anything recently. Yes, they have innovated off of previoius formulas, but that's pretty much it.