What’s Apple, now one of the biggest R&D investors, getting for its money?

“Apple has been massively ramping up its spending on research and development in recent years,” Troy Wolverton writes for Business Insider. “It now spends nearly $15 billion a year, giving it one of the biggest corporate R&D budgets in the world.”

“Analysts attribute the company’s lack of success in research and development to several factors, including a general lack of direction,” Wolverton writes. “Analysts and investors have begun to question that spending, because the company seems to have gotten little payoff from it so far.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Operative phrase: “So far.”

Patience, padawans.

Some things wicked this way come.

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Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple AR glasses coming in 2020; will require iPhone to do the heavy lifting – March 8, 2019
Tim Cook says Apple is ‘planting seeds’ and ‘rolling the dice’ on future products that will ‘blow you away’ – March 1, 2019
Apple patent reveals features of augmented reality smartglasses – February 26, 2019
Apple’s next big thing could replace both the iPhone and Apple Watch – February 21, 2019
Augmented Reality will spark the next big tech platform – February 15, 2019
Apple taps iPhone exec Casanova to be first head of marketing for augmented reality – February 12, 2019
Apple working on new iPhones with powerful 3-D camera and laser scanner in augmented reality push – January 30, 2019
Apple patent reveals ongoing work on micro-LED displays for holographic imagery – November 9, 2018
What’s happening with Apple’s secret augmented reality glasses project? – November 8, 2018
Apple’s Akonia acquisition points towards ‘Apple glasses’ – August 30, 2018
Apple buys Akonia Holographics, a startup focused on lenses for AR glasses – August 30, 2018
Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple Glasses coming in 2020 – August 15, 2018
Gene Munster: Apple will release Apple Glasses late in 2021 – May 17, 2018
Apple patent application reveals work on eye-tracking technology for VR and AR headsets – April 27, 2018
Apple prepping Micro-LED displays for Apple Watch and Smartglasses for 2019, sources say – April 3, 2018
Apple CEO Cook on the future of fashion, shopping, and AR smartglasses – October 11, 2017
Apple’s AR smartglasses – understanding the issues – August 29, 2017
Bernstein: Apple’s ‘smartglasses’ opportunity ‘could be enormous’ – August 25, 2017
Apple working on several prototypes of AR glasses – August 4, 2017
Apple’s next big move: Augmented reality – August 3, 2017
Apple’s rumored new glasses will be an even bigger deal than the iPhone – July 28, 2017
Apple smart glasses are inevitable – July 28, 2017


  1. “a general lack of direction”

    Yes, I think that’s what has been happening (well, one of them).
    There is no forward vision to lead and focus on things that fit Apple’s DNA, and (a few of the key persons of) the current management does not have a depth of underlying technical knowledge to see ahead and pour money in. They have been all over the place.
    $15B? Wow….
    I am just speculating based on what I perceived from various reports and articles in the past. But those were enough to formulate a certain image of Apple (and its management) as they stand now.

  2. Apple has been good in the software or the custom chip development etc, which has been making Apple great.
    R&D effort may not create any immediate result but produce many byproducts and unintended benefits along the way.
    But sometimes, it seems that somebody at Apple might be reading the Popular Science magazine etc in search for the next big thing. Autonomous vehicle? That’s it! That’s the thing of the future, let’s get on it! The project Titan created a prototype van, but it appears they are essentially abandoning it after spending billions and starting to layoff employees.
    Re the phone biz, it is a typical “fabless” operation and the hardware wise, I do not see billions poured into the development of anything notable. As the fabless operation of hardware assemblies, much of the new phone features are coming from the existing technologies available from the specialized companies (often small) in the world, be it the face ID, 3D touch or the OLED etc. None of those were Apple’s own creations. Apple is in the constant search of usable technologies, which in itself is a good thing. By nature, we will never know which areas Apple is pouring their R&D expenditures into, but wish to see some concrete fruits of the effort soon in the form of visible H/W or S/W that would benefit consumers.

  3. Apple was previously notorious for relatively (quite) low R&D budgets in the Jobs era, but still managed to transform several industries.

    At the same time, a rapidly declining in relevance IBM, once the true monster of the computing midway had a huge research budget and to this day is a prodigious creator of patents – sometimes hundreds/year back in the day.

    None of which has kept it from losing numerous markets and struggling for true relevance, with its own size and legacy constraints weighing it down.

    Portents of the future for another company??

    I assume much of this spending is in chip development and there seem to be industry-leading and even defining payoffs in this arena. I can’t see the investment being significantly in the OS arena, where things have been mostly iterative for a good while IMO.

    Airpods were a nice bit of engineering, which I hope didn’t cost multi-billions to develop, but a $150 product is not the future of keeping Apple fresh and on top of the industry.

    Maybe something in the auto area will pay off – but lots of smart people and money are chasing various aspects of these future markets – which will be filled with well-heeled competitors – and most have much more experience in this business. So at best certainly no slam dunk.

    And so far every VR and AR play has turned out to be niche, with the best niches in the corporate world (where MS is spending billions and has been for years).

    Today at Apple the only innovations readily available for significant periods are often things like a new phone color (OOOooo!) or watch band (Ahhhhhh!) creates headlines in the Mac press. Meanwhile lines important to customers who act as brand ambassadors go without refresh for years with no indication of roadmaps, the entire mobile Mac line is on a keyboard of still unknown reliability/durability which a very significant portion of users really find problematic, prices continue to climb, and hey you guys know the rest….

    …I also wonder if the R&D figure includes all the money they’re pouring into another area they have no background in, creating video product in an operation flashing all kinds of warning signs as I see it at least.

    So yeah, R&D is great. But only if managed by people who have that, you know, “vision thing.”

    1. I have a hunch that AR & VR will be a short-lived fad that will linger on awhile to a niche audience until a true “Brainstorm” like device comes along assaulting all the senses. If ever.

      Meanwhile how about even trying to lower your crosshairs a little and just try to keep the Mac line current Apple? Like, yearly from now on.

    2. “a new phone color (OOOooo!) or watch band (Ahhhhhh!) ”

      Don’t forget emojis and memojis or whatever. A very big deal!
      And this is the company who paid $3B for Beats.
      The CookIve brigade is still marching on for the next big thing. You can count on them! Just be patient…..

    3. Yes, Apple seems to be compensating its previous vision that was perspicuous with an increase in R&D budget. Allegorically speaking, the sighted person saw far ahead but now, becoming blind, has to tap here, there, and everywhere to find the right path.

  4. “investors have begun to question that spending” Nonsense. I was at the shareholder meeting last week. No one questioned the R&D spending. Investors gave the board strong support. Tim was re-elected with better than 99% in favor. This article is click-bait.

    1. Not nonsense. What percentage of shareholders were present at the meeting? This shareholder deeply questions the effectiveness of current Apple leadership. If as an investor I simply wanted pipeline promises and stock buybacks, i’d put my money into the natural gas biz.

    2. “Investors gave the board strong support.”

      If you look at the BODs, they are “former” executives of Boeing, Grumman etc. plus Iger of Disney CEO (who might have a stake) and Al Gore etc. I am not sure how many of them have any serious stake in Apple. Maybe some of them might have personally invested substantially in Apple, which I doubt. They appear to be fairly oblivious to the future direction that Apple might be heading to. I read the report of the shareholders’ meeting but there were surprisingly little questions asked by anyone. With the iPhone sales going down, many former Apple enthusiasts have been leaving Mac etc etc., it was the chance to ask critical questions to Apple, but instead, it was relatively calm and there were very few, if any, sharp questions asked, and Tim Cook, himself sitting on the Board, got away with it. It appeared mostly ceremonial. The BOD was perhaps content with the $1T achievement etc, and did not quite see what might be coming if Apple continues the way they are currently going. Or they may be keenly aware of the potential issues but chose not to speak out. They just wanted to get out of the place to stop by the nearest Starbucks? I do not take the shareholders meeting any sign of calm water or anything. It was just inept.

    3. Abject nonsense. This shareholder has voted consistently against Tim Cook. I strongly disapprove of his squandering of Steve Jobs’ Apple. Cook is a feckless leader and it shows across the entire Apple product line. You will rue the day he ran Apple into the ground.

      20+ year AAPL shareholder and 30+ year Apple computer user.

  5. Steve Jobs Quote

    “Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”

      1. Your record at the Fed was ABOMINABLE. Give me Ives and Cook over your sorry Green ass-pan any day.

        Alan traitor-span, the 20th century’s biggest economic JOKE

  6. “Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”

    “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

    “I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what’s next.”

    “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations”

  7. “Little payoff so far…”??

    Apple’s success in chip development, alone, has more than paid for the last decade of the company’s R&D. The rapid advance in A-series SoCs, W chip, secure enclave, AI processor, and, no doubt, modem chips and other processors to come.

    Over 200M A-series SoCs are fabricated according to Apple internal designs every year, making it an industry leader. And the A-series SoCs are acknowledged as cutting edge in power/performance. That is one of the big reasons why the iPhone and iPad have been so successful.

    Soon you will see A-series processors in Mac – highly powerful, massively parallel processing Macs yielding blazing performance and great power efficiency. Intel will soon be history as far as Apple is concerned

    No, that isn’t another iPhone. But it could be even more important in the long run. And that is aside from the Apple Watch, Air Pods, and HomePod, all of which look to be quite successful.

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