TECH TALK

Something is rotten in the state of Apple


Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 6:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 6:16 p.m.

Thou shalt not say anything disparaging about Apple. Thus is the tech writer commandment, unless you want dreams of two men at your door wearing white suits and carrying violin cases.

Threats aside, the news out of Apple-land has been a wee bit rotten these days. If you take the time to connect the dots, you see a not-so-pretty picture taking form.

Some of the headlines I have recently noticed on mainstream outlets like CNN include the fall of Apple stock from over $700 per share to under $500, a slowing of demand for mega-hit devices like iPhone and iPad, stories of slave-like conditions in Chinese factories, the swift rise of competitors like Samsung and this possibly being the first year of an actual profit decline in the mobile era. All unheard of even six months ago.

The not-so-mainstream basement bloggers are a bit more catastrophic in their assessment, as they make a living going after the big guys. (Just ask Microsoft.) Still, no matter what your prerogative, Apple's monumental momentum has certainly subsided.

Perhaps the timely commercial Samsung put out during the launch of the iPhone 5 says it all. Under the guise of the "next big thing already being here" is a happy Galaxy S3 user holding a place in the line for his parents to get a new iPhone 5. In short, Samsung played the Apple card by mocking their competitors for being slow to innovate.

When it comes down to it, since the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple has not been overly innovative. In fact, all we have seen is the same functions in different packages.

It's almost like they're becoming better at the package than what is in the package. Despite the fact they practically invented the realm of mobile, it has not taken long for the competition to chisel away at the things Apple does well and continue to sculpt new and innovative ideas of their own.

The iRealm of devices is in a clear evolutionary cycle of refinement. While thinner, lighter and faster might keep the fanboys waiting for the next launch, the bottom line is consumers have been trained to react to revolutionary leaps of technology. We allow our lives to get increasingly chaotic because we can count on companies like Apple to help us get over the top with smart technology.

Apple is showing signs that it cannot keep up with our busy lives, and the whispers of this are growing louder.

I doubt even Jobs thought they could keep up the pace. It's like a hurricane that reaches category five status: while it looks technically perfect and incredibly powerful, it can generally only sustain such power for a day or two. Inevitably the forces that built such a storm are torn apart by competing systems. Or competing operating systems, in this case.

In its long history, Apple was never accustomed to being the leader. They always played a great number two while nipping at the heals of companies like Microsoft, IBM and Dell. It was the perfect storm of the right devices at the right time that helped them leapfrog their competition to get to the mountaintop.

While many expect them to be the company that sells the most phones and laptops, they have always been a company that worried more about profit than the volume of sales. While Android is starting to take the sales throne, you must understand they are getting there by doing something Apple is not built for: discounts.

To use a car analogy, Apple is very much the Mercedes and is happy to let companies like Samsung be the Honda Accord.

In this light, it makes perfect sense that the market is becoming more crowded. Still, the question lingers about what's next. Will it even come from Apple? Certainly many hoped that Jobs kept the cubby stocked before his passing, but it's becoming clear he did not.

Can CEO Tim Cook not only carry the baton but run with it? Most consider him a process guy and not an innovator. Still, Jobs was a legacy guy as much as an innovator, and he almost certainly was smart enough to know that picking his successor was as important as anything else he did while running the company.

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