Yesterday I read a review where the latest Apple Airport Extreme was cited for a lack of innovation. Seriously? For a wireless router?! Innovative?? Aren’t we beating this Apple-is-not-innovative drum a bit too loudly? Let’s get real.

People don’t usually buy products for their “innovation”. My own purchasing decisions involve attributes such as design, price, reliability, usability, and performance. Most could agree that those buying Apple products willingly allow price to fall nearer to the bottom. And to be frank, performance may sometimes not be as apples-to-apples [pardon the pun] as their competitors. But purchasers seem to be willing to make that sacrifice in favor of reliability, usability, design, cachet, etc.

Why can’t Apple be viewed as being strictly utilitarian? I mean, is NetGear innovative? Belkin? D-Link? Consumer-grade routers are commodity items. Blue-collar. Why isn’t Apple AirPort valued in the same light? Why does absolutely everything Apple does have to be “innovative”. There’s not a huge expectation of innovation in WiFi for me. The reviewer concluded the article with one more jab at the lack of novelty, and expressed dismay that the Apple acolytes will no doubt purchase it anyway. So why will they?

Maybe they had a bad experience with other brands that died prematurely, had inconsistent signal strength, or required regular reboots to break a lock-up? Or perhaps they prefer simple setup, hassle-free operation,  and Apple support? Or liked the AirPlay features and vertical integration with other Apple products? It could be for many reasons, but I don’t think scanning the box for the word “innovative” is one of those criteria. (Disclosure: if you can’t already tell, I have an older Extreme; of the 8 routers I have owned, it has, by far, been the best.)

It’s fair to critique cost and features, but reviews such as this – dismissive of an entire set of consumers as being illogically swayed by a brand name – does not give credence to utilitarian factors such as quality, reliability, usability, etc. Apple might command a premium price, but it is not for innovation alone. I don’t personally own a MacBook or Mac Mini, but we support them at work. I can’t comment on their level of “innovation”, but I can say that they rarely break and their users need a much lower amount of support compared to Windows systems. That, coupled with my own iPhone/iPad experiences, means the halo effect is probably going to have its influence in my future purchasing decisions. Innovation be damned.