Apple held its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) last week. One theme in the media coverage was that Apple was playing “catch-up”. That’s very true. Here’s an example article from the Verge. It’s correct; in a number of areas, Apple was catching up. I think there is a bigger point, though:
Playing catch-up is okay, as long as you’ve delivered on the big things.
Here is a rough list of Apple’s major accomplishments since 1997. Compare it to any other company’s.
|MacBook Air||App Store||China Entry|
|Apple Watch||Apple Maps||Apple CPU|
|Apple TV||Apple Music||Apple Pay|
|Leading Industrial and Interface Design|
These are what mattered for Apple’s success. Apple went until *2015* before playing catch-up on the features announced at WWDC (iPad windowing, low power mode, music streaming, iCloud drive, transit directions, etc.). With minimal pain.
What does this show? It’s wiser to postpone (or be behind in) 100 features than the ten technologies that go into one major product (and often, more). Put differently, it’s better to be in “feature debt” than “product debt” or “platform debt”, when you have the competency to deliver one of the latter.
Those ten technologies and that one major product can end up improving the world, and your company, in incredible ways.