A little over a year ago, Strategy Analytics reported that Apple had lost its ranking as the world's number one smartphone vendor. Less than a month ago, Buzz Marketing Group published a report showing Apple was no longer cool among teens. And last week, pretty much everyone announced that Apple had lost its title of world's most valuable company. With its stock prices continually declining, the end may be nigh... but why?
Pale Horse: Death
Steve Jobs was the face, brain, and soul of Apple. When he passed away, the company didn't just lose an executive, it lost the force that had guided it out of the doldrums and into the forefront of tech, business, and pop culture. Jony Ive, the genius behind many of Apple's most beautiful designs, has proven competent as Jobs' spiritual successor, but he lacks the ability to unite, inspire and drive the company in exciting and bold directions.
Black Horse: Famine
Apple rode an unprecedented wave of success as it revolutionized nearly everything it set its sights on. The iPod defined the personal music experience, and then in a three-year span Apple replicated that feat with smartphones (iPhone), ultra-portable laptops (MacBook Air), and tablets (iPad). The revolution seems to be over, though. Apple has done little more than tweak its existing products recently, and the buzz on its one device of the future, an Apple HDTV, is lukewarm at best.
Red Horse: War
According to Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs' authorized biographer, the late CEO felt that Google's Android operating system was a rip-off of his company's iOS, and he was prepared to wage thermonuclear war against it. Apple has had some success on one front, in the courtroom, where it won a $1.05 billion judgment against Samsung last year. In the global marketplace, however, Apple is taking a beating. Samsung (and other vendors) have embraced emerging markets by offering a variety of options at lower price points. There are strong rumors that Apple will be creating a low-cost iPhone later this year, but what it gains worldwide could be lost due to cannibalization in the US, and regardless, it'll be playing catch up.
White Horse: Conquest
Perhaps the biggest obstacle Apple faces is the inevitable decline after so many victories. The company has used style, personality, celebrity, and its high-end reputation as marketing tools. This approach has fueled unimaginable sales, but over time the trendsetter eventually becomes the norm. Customers who want what's fashionable aren't looking for the norm, they're looking for the new trendsetter. The commercials with hip kids holding a spot in line outside the Apple store for mom and dad (instead of for themselves) may be more truth than clever advertising.