Apple Innovations May Not Be Good Enough

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - CEO Tim Cook's keynote speech Monday at Apple's ( AAPL) Worldwide Developer's Conference was, as always, a major event. He and his leadership team spent two hours proudly bragging about all the new and wonderful things we should expect from Apple.

Nonetheless, it was easy to come away wondering whether Apple can still innovate at the level that led the company to refine personal communications.

In recent months, Apple-watchers have had the sinking feeling that the company is spending more time playing catch-up with its rivals. Despite new designs unveiled yesterday, crowd reactions were subdued. Watch the video replay and you'll get the idea. In short, we're getting mixed signals.

Don't get me wrong, many of the new items looked impressive on the outside. The upcoming Mac Pro desktop computer - described by one blogger as looking like a shiny Mr. Coffee machine - is beautiful and boasts an amazing array of modern hardware.

And the soon-to-be-released iOS 7 looks absolutely beautiful as well. The clean, full-screen redesign is lovely to behold, is sure to keep iPhone fans happy and probably attract buyers from other portable operating systems as well.

Then again, once you look past the gloss you recognize features which users of those other operating systems already know full well. For instance, iOS's new Control Center - a slide-up screen with the most common user-adjustable switches. It looks a lot like the feature which Nokia included in their innovative (for 2011) but ill-fated N9 smartphone, or the similar slide-out screen from last year's Motorola/ Google ( GOOG) RAZR series or the similar feature on the new HTC One.

There is the new multi-tasking feature. Previous versions of iOS provided limited abilities to run more than one app at a same time. iOS 7 changes that. But, Android and other Linux-based operating systems (such as Nokia's ( NOK) MeeGo) have been able to do that for awhile.

iWorks for iCloud is not the best product name Apple has ever announced. This new cloud-based feature allows users to write/save/edit and share documents in Apple's iCloud - across other platforms (like Microsoft ( MSFT) Windows) and able to be displayed on a number of browsers (like Google Chrome and Firefox). If that sounds familiar, it should. Think of iWorks for iCloud as Apple's answer for Google Docs.

Industry wags predicted Apple would announce a Spotify/Rdio-like "killer" music streaming app. Instead, we learned about iTunes Radio which, during the demonstration, looked an awful lot like Pandora or any of the other similar online services.

Apple announced a lot of features that seemed somewhat familiar. Not exactly innovation but more like imitation. Apple is aware that happens to their technological advances too. That's why Apple defends corporate ideas and patents so rigorously.

Yesterday, Apple upped the ante in a number of important, innovative ways. iOS in the Car will integrate the software brand into your future car's dashboard. Although, the suggestion that being able to play games in the front seat of your automobile will be appreciated by law enforcement officers or insurance companies.

As for device security Apple's upcoming Activation Lock system will work on all of your Apple products utilizing your iCloud log-in information. Expect others companies to follow their lead.

But, what was really missing from the WWDC event was the rumored announcement of a new iPhone. That would have gotten everyone in attendance excited. Actually, it would have excited everyone. We could all use a big Apple announcement in the near future.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.
Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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