This past Friday, we had one of the most interesting Frontiers in Technology lectures to date. As most of you know, each MSTM student was given an iPad 2 when we began the program. We have all spent months tinkering, tweeting, emailing, paper writing, brainstorming, and angry birding on our devices. Dilip, our Program Director, made a great call on getting us introduced to the new world of tablet computing. As he mentioned on Friday, he “wants us to be ahead of the curve, not even with it.”
That said, we were met with a bit of surprise when it came time to be introduced to this semester’s case competition. This was going to be more than just a case competition, it was to be an Innovation Challenge!
From the brief:
“The goal of this project is to offer you an opportunity to apply the knowledge you have gained from your MSTM coursework to developing an iPad app for the MSTM program. Each student team represents the management group of an app development company, and it is your job to convince the MSTM program that they should adopt your app idea.”
All of us in the program have been divided into 15 teams, and we will be presenting our ideas this coming Friday. We will have had just over a week to develop an application that can be implemented. And this Innovation Challenge, given that it is all about the iPad that we’ve been using within the program, is sponsored by Apple. Several executives will be coming in to serve as judges for the competition, and it will be a fantastic experience.
To kick off the Challenge, Dilip invited Jason Beckham, an executive at Apple, to come speak to us about the company. What followed was a presentation on a story that many of us know. But, when the numbers all come together in one place, they are staggering. Apple has shipped 55 million iPads, 337 million iPods, and 183 million iPhones. In 2000, Apple made 8 billion in revenue. In 2011, they made 108 billion, a 27% compound annual growth rate. The Apple apps market has created roughly 500,000 jobs.
The question is, how did they do this? The answer is innovation, which is what distinguishes leaders from followers, as Steve Jobs would say. Jason continued on, telling us that Mr. Jobs felt that focus was the key to innovation. He would always say that he was just as proud of the things he said no to, as he was proud of the things that they had accomplished, because it takes real discipline to say no to the things you can’t do great. Apple invests in its core, produces a laser-like focus on what it can do great, and then goes about building incredible products from within that space.
Apple has always tried to make products that allow technology to “get out of the way.” For Apple, it is all about the user experience, and making sure that the product does exactly what it’s supposed to do, efficiently and effectively.
That sounds like pretty solid advice, and one I am sure we will all take to heart when building our apps this week. Good luck to all my classmates (and now competitors), and to all the readers, hopefully one day you’ll be here making apps, too!