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Does Apple Artificially Innovate?

August 18, 2011

Innovation can have a profound effect on an economy.  A recent Brookings report claims that innovation powers economic development, increases life expectancy, and makes technology (items that are typically quite expensive) more affordable.

But today when I went to charge my iPod Touch, I was confronted with the above yellow triangle warning: ”! Charging is not supported with this accessory”

My first inclination was that the electrical output (5.0 V, 500 mA)  that the Griffin wall charger provides may be either too much or too little for my iPod Touch.

But what about the fact that the charger brought my completely dead iPod back to life?  Only once it had enough charge to function again did it actually stop itself from charging.

Now I am a huge Apple supporter (writing with a MacBook Pro), but what if Apple purposefully changes the requirements for their new products, forcing us to continuously upgrade to new chargers as we upgrade our hardware?  Or what if the requirements aren’t even different among the old and new products?  What if it’s just software blocking the charge, forcing us to purchase another object (a new charger)?

I’m not sure of the answer.

So what is this called?  Artificial innovation?  The word innovation, from its latin roots, means “to renew or change.”  In general, innovation tends to apply to revolutionary ideas or creations that dramatically alter markets, thus allowing for the creation of better things.  Consumers and producers may then purchase these better things to improve their processes or lifestyles.

However in this case, we don’t have anything close to innovation.  The incentive that led to the purchase of an incredibly innovative, new product (iPod Touch) is quite distinct from the incentive to buy a new charger.  One was born out of amazement and a desire to own said amazing technology, while the other is no different than a parent burdening their already well-behaved child with some arbitrary rule.

A few other quirky examples of the tentatively named “artificial innovation”

  • Upgrading to OS X Lion requires a Mac with a Core 2 Duo, Core i3, i5, i7 or Xeon processor
  • Supposedly with more options, come more benefits. But common cable packages are stacked with sports channels, much of which account for 40% of programming fees.  What if you’re not a sports fan?
  • Almost any product that’s labeled “green.” Usually nothing more than a gimmick.
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