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Apple Death Knell Counter - Apple Has Been Declared Dead 19 Times Since February, 1996 [Updated]

by , 3:15 PM EST, October 29th, 2002

[12/6/2002 - Update: Our friends at NewsFactor have published a doozy of a column by one "James Maguire" titled "Crunch Time for Apple." According to Mr. Maguire, Apple just needs to do three things to survive, otherwise it's lights out at 1 Infinite Loop. Those three things are "It has to offer Macs at prices comparable with Windows, at speeds as fast as those of Windows-based PCs, with complete Windows compatibility." That's all. No, seriously, that's what this person wrote. It was published on December 5th, and has the "New!" sign in front of it. Thanks to Observer Spider for the heads up on this one.]

[12/2/2002 - Update: Geek.com published a report from the 2002 Microprocessor Forum, where the author says the consensus was that Apple is doomed. Thanks to Observer DM, who pointed us to Insanely Great for the link to Geek.com. We also added Michael Dell's famous advice to Steve Jobs from October of 1997, thanks to a reminder from Observer Adam. Lastly, for today, we added the Web site "Apple's Demise," a site dedicated to tracking Apple's death. Thanks to Observer Ron Silvers for the heads up on this gem.]

[11/27/2002 - Update: We have added a piece by Michael S. Malone, the author of Infinite Loop: How the World's Most Insanely Great Computer Company Went Insane, published by Forbes. The article is titled Apple R.I.P., and was published on 10/5/2000. This brings our total to 15 Death Knells since 1996, with many more still to come. Thanks to Observer Peter Benson for the link.]

[11/6/2002 - Update: We have begun adding some of the Death Knells mentioned by David Pogue in Macworld Magazine article published in 2000 called "The Desktop Critic: Reality Check 2000." That article includes many Death Knells, with commentary from Mr. Pogue. We also began adding some of the Death Knells in "101 Ways To Save Apple," an article published by Wired Magazine in June of 1997. The new articles have a "New!" in front of the date to make it easier to follow what's been added. This brings our total to 14 Death Knells since 1996, with many more still to come.]

[10/31/2002 - Update: We had requests to clarify our criteria for those who are looking for articles to include in the list. Accordingly, we added those criteria below. Thanks to those Observers who asked about this. We have also added a quote from Michael Dell in the summer of 2001.]

[10/30/2002 - Update: We have added a link from June 30th, 1997 submitted by an anonymous Observer.]

It happens every few weeks: Someone new jumps on the bandwagon loudly proclaiming that Apple will soon be dead. It's been happening since the early 1980s, and still Apple, and its doom sayers, keep chugging along. We decided that it would be interesting to collect these stories, prognostications, predictions, and premature eulogies in a sort of testimonial of buffoonery, and we are calling it The Apple Death Knell Counter.

We shall keep a running total of the number of times that Apple has been declared dead or dying, with links to each one (whenever possible), the date it was published, and the person who so blithely set upon the path of being utterly wrong. With luck, we'll eventually get back to the primordial Death Knell, whose peals have rung on long past their normal life spans.

Our Criteria:

  • We are looking for published predictions and statements of Apple's demise from pundits, journalists, analysts, and editorialists. These statements can be in the form of quotes, especially from analysts, or entire pieces dedicated to Apple's imminent death.
  • Pieces where the author wishes, encourages, or hopes that Apple would change some aspect of its business are not eligible for listing, but pieces saying that Apple will shut its doors unless it changes some aspect of its business probably will be included. For instance: "Apple needs to move to x86 in order to increase market share," would not be a statement of doom. "Apple will be having a fire sale on office furniture to its bills in 6 months unless it makes the move to Intel now," is an outright prediction of death.
  • Articles where Apple is referred to as "beleaguered" are not necessarily eligible, and in fact, the vast majority of such references are simply colorfully negative descriptions that do not qualify as an Apple Death Knell.
  • We'll make the decision on what is included in the list on a case by case basis, and the criteria may be refined as we go.

We ask you to send us information on any new, or old, death predictions, be it a link, or a scan from an old magazine, or other information. We'll then add it to the counter, duly noted in chronological order, on this page. We will also be adding a Hall of Buffoonery for those with the most dead-Apple predictions.

Apple Death Knells

New! - 11/05/2002 - Crunch Time for Apple - osOpinion, by James Maguire
Relevant Quote: So, the challenge Apple faces is a tough one. It has to offer Macs at prices comparable with Windows, at speeds as fast as those of Windows-based PCs, with complete Windows compatibility. If it can't do that, the brand will simply fade away, a quarter of a percentage point at a time. I'll miss it.

10/28/2002 - IT Trends 2003: Desktop and Mobile PCs [PDF] - Giga Information Group, by Rob Enderle
Relevant Quote: Apple is being driven out of every segment but consumer: Companies are driving out non-standard hardware and both increasingly view Linux as a better alternative platform and UNIX as a platform they don't want to resurge on the desktop. The lack of management tools, pull back of key vendors like Quark and an anticipated drop in market share below 2 percent in 2003 are obsolescing this platform. Apple's continued technical disadvantage against Intel is expected to force them to adopt x86 technology by the end of 2003. [Commentary by TMO]

10/18/2002 - Reflections from the Microprocessor Forum - Geek.com, by Sander Olson
Relevant Quote: Apple is in long-term decline. Even if Apple adopts the IBM 970, no one at the MPF expressed any confidence in Apple's future. The near consensus was that Apple was in a long term, perhaps terminal, decline, and that the 970 would not be enough to save it. Every year more Macintosh users convert to Windows, and this trend will continue unless Apple comes out with another "insanely great" product.

6/17/2002 - E-Mac, i-Mac, No Mac - PC Magazine, by John C. Dvorak
Relevant Quote: [This is more about the Mac than Apple, but follows Mr. Dvorak's negative coverage of Apple.] Isn't it about time the Macintosh was simply discontinued—put down like an old dog? Why, exactly, does Apple maintain this line of machines instead of starting fresh or at least introducing something new with fresh legs. The Mac has become the AS/400 of desktop computing, except for the fact that it's prettier. Of course, if Apple never moves forward, what happens to the copycat Windows platform? [Commentary by TMO]

2002 - Apple's demise - Web site dedicated to tracking Apple's downfall, by Paul Hsieh
Relevant Quote: Who says Apple is Doomed? I DO!

10/25/2001 - Apple's Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel - TheStreet.com, by Arne Alsin
Relevant Quote: It's too bad for Apple that the ending to this chapter in the PC story has already been written. The company had the ultimate first-mover advantage many years ago with an array of better products, a vastly superior operating system and even the best commercials! Apple's story now is fodder for business historians -- don't make it fodder for your portfolio. [Commentary by TMO]

9/5/2001 - Apple Core of Ailing PC Sector - Bear Argument - TheMotleyFool, by Paul Larson
Relevant Quote: So why am I here relaying my bearish thoughts on Apple yet again? Because, basically, nothing has changed over the last nine months. That is, beyond Apple seeing greatly decreased sales while ringing up copious losses. Moreover, the company's competitive positioning still has the company as nothing more than a niche player fighting for its survival in the mean world of PCs. [See also the accompanying Bull Argument by Rick Aristotle Munarriz that was published with this piece, as well as commentary from TMO.]

4/16/2001 - Q&A: The Tech Slump Doesn't Scare Michael Dell - Interview with Michael Dell
Relevant Quote: Q: What is the future of Apple Computer?
A: Silicon Graphics.

Q: That bad?
A: Maybe it's a little bit different. But if you look at proprietary computer companies, whether it's Digital or Silicon Graphics (SGI ) or Apple (AAPL ), I think the fates are all relatively similar. We know how the movie ends. It's just a question of what happens in the middle. Apple has a very little customer base. If you look at the economics, it has been extremely hard for Apple to get a return on its R&D with a shrinking volume base. It's not to say that Apple's products aren't innovative or cool, but the economic factors here are so overwhelming, it's very hard for them to swim against that tide. [Commentary from TMO.]

1/5/2001 - Technology's walking dead - ZDNet, by Michael Kanellos (Though the bio is about Paul Somerson, under whose name this piece appears to have been originally published)
Relevant Quote: [Article about tech predictions] 2004: Apple
Watch for the big fire sale. Pretty designs and overpriced blue plastic can only get you so far. [Commentary from TMO.]

12/11/2000 - Why Apple Is Losing Its Appeal Again - BusinessWeek, by Sam Jaffe
Relevant Quote: Investors may be asking themselves what Apple can do to revive its fortunes. The likely answer, unfortunately, is that Steve Jobs has no white rabbits left in his hat. Apple appears to be facing a dead end in its business growth, the victim of mismanagement and unmitigated hubris. Apple lovers are a loyal bunch, and they'll probably stick with the company. But Jobs's dream of becoming the world's biggest computer-maker will likely remain just that -- a dream. [Commentary by TMO]

10/5/2000 - Apple R.I.P. - Forbes, by Michael S. Malone
Relevant Quote: Steve Jobs can't run companies, but he has proven that he is a genius at motivating teams of people to produce extraordinary products. In fact, he may be the greatest project team leader in the history of high tech. That is no small achievement. But it does not translate to being the CEO of a giant corporation. Jobs failed the first time running Apple, failed at Next and only succeeded at Pixar because the company worked around him. He succeeded in the short term during this, his second, Apple tenure because he ran the whole company as a product team. That only works so long. Why is he a poor CEO? Because he's mercurial, insufficiently engaged by the more boring (but crucial) operations like distribution and, ultimately, because he's a pretty nasty piece of work. In the best of all scenarios, Jobs would hire a competent CEO and focus on product development, but his ego would soon lead him to undermine his replacement. Steve Jobs is Apple's Alcibiades: the company can't live without him, or with him.

10/5/1998 - OH, DO I LOVE MY iMAC - BusinessWeek, by Peter Burrows (Negative Comments from then Oppenheimer analyst James Poyner)
Relevant Quote: How will iMac fare once the novelty fades? ''This computer is a fashion statement right now, but those things wear off,'' says Oppenheimer Securities analyst James D. Poyner. ''If Apple intends to sell lots of machines based on how they look, that's a pretty tenuous story.'' The iMac has to hold its own in a market of sub-$1,000 (and falling) PCs. And Korean-based E-Machines has announced plans to sell an iMac look-alike for less than $600, say analysts.

10/6/1997 - Sybase's Chief Exec Says Microsoft Faces "Crossroads Crisis" - TechWeb, by Steve Burke (Negative Comments from Dell CEO Michael Dell)
Relevant Quote: Faced with a similar question on what he would do if he were acting chief executive Steve Jobs, Dell chief executive Michael Dell said, "I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."

6/30/1997 - Apple Abandoned By Jobs, Ad Agency - Tabloid, Author unknown
Relevant Quote: n Apple spokesperson acknowledged that a block of 1.5 million shares had been sold on Thursday but would not confirm that the sale involved Jobs. But the California Technology Stock Letter confirmed that the shares belonged to Jobs, according to the Newsbytes News Network. Jobs' sell-off of stock at rock-bottom prices is a clear indication that even the Apple co-founder -- who recently returned to the fold as uber-consultant to floundering Apple CEO Gil Amelio -- thinks the company is a dead fish. [Thanks to an anonymous Observer for the link.]

6/1997 - 101 Ways to Save Apple - Wired Magazine, Death Knell by Nathan Myhrvold, chief technology officer at Microsoft
Relevant Quote: "The NeXT purchase is too little too late. The Apple of the past was an innovative company that used software and hardware technology together to redefine the way people experienced computing. That Apple is already dead. Very adroit moves might be able to save the brand name. A company with the letters A-P-P-L-E in its name might survive, but it won't be the Apple of yore."

1997 - Surrender To Win - The Writeside Review (Specific author not known)
Relevant Quote: [We love the Mac, blah blah blah...] But we have had enough. Apple cannot continue on its present course and expect to survive. Apple and (by default) the Mac are in a downward spiral that, unless reversed soon, will prove fatal. (Don't let the early, limited success of the Mac clone market mislead you—most of this growth has come at Apple's expense. And, contrary to popular opinion, we do not believe the Macintosh can survive without Apple.) The popular press, the corporate marketplace and the public at large all believe Apple is dying, or dead.

2/6/1997 - The Untold Story of Apple's Demise - Bug Net, by Bruce Brown
Relevant Quote: Now that the Apple Macintosh is disappearing as a mass market product (it did not even make the top five in US sales during the last quarter of 1996), this soap opera will mercifully fade from the headlines. But the lessons remain, and bare heading: inept, amateurish management can ruin the best product and brightest company.

2/5/1996 - Apple of Sun's Eyes - Time Magazine, by Stewart Alsop
Relevant Quote: One day Apple was a major technology company with assets to make any self-respecting techno-conglomerate salivate. The next day Apple was a chaotic mess without a strategic vision and certainly no future. [Article found through David Pogue's column "The Desktop Critic: Reality Check 2000" in Macworld Magazine]

1/25/1996 - A Rotten Apple and A Rising Sun [Google Cached Link]- Article by Timothy Szykula, Death Knell uttered by Stan Dolberg of Forester Research
Relevant Quote: These facts were summed up by Stan Dolberg of Forrester Research who said, "whether they stand alone or are acquired, Apple as we know it, is cooked." [Article found through David Pogue's column "The Desktop Critic: Reality Check 2000" in Macworld Magazine]

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