Three Technologies That Could Blindside Apple, and They’re Not What You Think

| Particle Debris

It's something to ponder in a sensible, not hysterical way. We know that Apple is a wealthy, successful company right now. And will remain so. But few companies survive for a hundred years or more, as IBM has. So, for some unconventional speculation, what would be the possible failure path for Apple 20 years down the road?

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Companies fail in unexpected, unpredictable ways. Some believe, incorrectly, that Apple's failure path lies in limits to growth. Others believe, incorrectly, that it will be lack of innovation. Others believe, incorrectly, that it will be the fault of Tim Cook's lack of vision for personal computing, the one so well formed by Steve Jobs. My personal belief is that it will be none of those obvious, but wrong, things.

I believe it will because Apple will focus all of its R&D on consumer related products and miss the Big Picture when it comes to data storage management, what supercomputer research and expertise can offer in artificial intelligence and, finally, robots.

When a company sells products to the enterprise, painful as it is, it walks over the hot coals of enterprise issues daily, and the level of expertise in the storage of massive data escalates. Apple hasn't done that, and customers are, I think, suffering as a result. It will get worse as our casual, consumer grade storage capability progresses from terabytes to petabytes.

Similarly, when a company develops expertise in supercomputers, it positions itself for serendipity and inovation in the future of humankind's interactions with smart machines. IBM has always done that, and it's paying off with Watson. For example, "How IBM's Watson Will Change The Way We Work." Siri is a clever, vocal front end to data lookup and local OS operations, but, to be fair, Siri is no Watson.

Finally, the amount of research into robots, helped especially, by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs' initiatives to help disabled veterans, and the work being done in Japan to help the elderly, means that robotics will become the next big commercial business.

Apple's executives are always watching for the Next Big Thing in consumer electronics. But I think the next major revolution will arrive, in blindside fashion, from completely different sectors, maybe in combinations.

That's how it usually goes.

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Tech News Debris for the Week of October 28

It's interesting to compare a company, like Apple, that makes lots of money to a company, like Amazon, which loses money. I've heard it said that Amazon considers profits a waste of money that could be spent other, better ways. Anyway, here's an article that's perhaps longer than you may be used to, but it's worth every word. Read and enjoy: "Is Amazon in trouble?"

Every time I visit my doctor's office, I see a Windows XP screensaver on the PCs. I've expressed my concern in the past, but now I may need to print out this article and take it in. " Microsoft warns Windows XP stragglers: The end is nigh, malware cometh."

In contrast, compare the situation to Mavericks. Mavericks ended October with an 11 percent adoption rate, according to Gregg Keizer at Computerworld. That's triple the adoption rate of Mountain Lion. The rapid uptake of Apple's Mavericks, provided for free, means that Apple's developers will benefit from a less fragmented user community, as they have with iOS. Mac users will benefit, and it'll will be less tedious to write for Macs.

All this slowly increases the value of Macs in the minds of consumers so that as the PC industry declines and becomes demoralized, Macs will retain their attractiveness and perceived value. Sales will hold level rather than decline. For, as you know, the minute anyone can draw a curve that shows an unequivocal decline in Mac sales, not only will there be endless rants in the press, but the Mac's brand will also become damaged. And that will hurt sales. It's recursive.

Speaking of damaging your brand, how would you like to buy a beautiful new MacBook Pro and have it smell of of cat urine? Of course, we know that Apple pays far too much attention to the manufacturing process to let that happen. But others? Maybe not so much. "‘Cat pee smell’ forces Dell to replace thousands of new laptops."

Who, me?

Are you one of those people, like me, who has never been particularly enthusiastic about Apple's mail app? In our timeline, because of how Microsoft provides Outlook and because Apple's Mail app is free, there's no real money to be made investing in a 21st century mail app. Plus, given its virtual monopoly in email on the Mac, you'd think that Apple would take a leadership role and build a charming, capable email app because it's the company's responsibility to do so. But Apple hasn't, as evidenced in small part by this review: "Apple Mail 7 review: Small updates don't offset big headaches."

Tobias van Schneider told me that the .Mail project has slowed down. Unibox may not be for everyone. That leaves a host of scattered, legacy email apps, of various capabilities, to chose from. I suppose if I weren't using Apple's Mail app, I'd be using Mozilla's Thunderbird. Anyway, here's a handy roundup of what's available these days. "Ditch Mavericks's Mail: Other email apps you can try." Don't get your hopes up.

The reason I always read Daniel Eran Dilger is because he's smart, he understands Apple and he routinely exposes the shallowness of many other Apple analysts. Here's another fabulous essay that showcases Mr. Dilger's expertise: "Apple now sitting on $10B in deferred revenue, more than Samsung or Google earned last quarter." This one is a Particle Debris must read.

Finally, let's have some real fun. How would you like to play with an original Mac Plus running System 7.0.1, via an Internet emulator? After it's done booting, click on the display, and you can actually operate the Mac, run Desk Accessories, play with Kid Pix, etc. Amazing work.

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I, Robot image via Fox Films.

Kitten via Shutterstock.

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7 Comments Leave Your Own

adamC

As far as I noticed Apple’s web service is their weakest chink in their chain of service to serve their users inline.

My belief they are waiting for their massive server farms to come on line.

Yes Apple is a consumer oriented company and their entry into the enterprise is through their users.

Btw their use of solar energy to power their building maybe part of their research into renewal energy.

Winski

I’m at an age now that it will NEVER HAPPEN in the rest of my lifetime.. SO, I don’t care !!!

Virtualryan

So what are the three technologies ?
Watson and ? ?

John Dingler, artist

Hi John,
I think that Apple will continue to succeed in whatever technological direction it takes as long as it maintains focus on the consumer; Let the other guys have the IT whiners and corporate malcontents.

John Dingler, artist

I meant to add “Let the other guys have the IT whiners and corporate malcontents on their race to the bottom of performance and device quality.

wab95

John:

Greetings from Edinburgh.

Just a quick note. Your ‘three technologies’ are pause for thought, and yes, could potentially blindside Apple, assuming of course that they are truly doing nothing that could address these potential product line deficits. However, each of these appear to be endeavours on a very long trajectory before commercially viable implementation (apart from the enterprise strategy), so there is room for adaptation, should they choose to go this route. Your latter two are of such scale that, in my view, Apple are better off letting the core technologies come to maturity by the hands of the scientific and technical communities before trying to move towards commercially viable products in those fields.

The Amazon and Dell ‘cat pee’ pieces, in light of Eran Dilger’s piece on deferred revenue, to quickly encapsulate, simply underscore one thing: Apple are held to a higher standard. Can you imagine media storm that would ensue if Apple’s MBP line smelled of cat urine (even if not biological in origin)? Yet, other than your article, I hadn’t even seen this on the blogosphere. In short, who cares if Dell’s laptops smell of pee? They already look like poop, so why not? That could even be their tagline, and it wouldn’t hurt their sales anymore than Windows 8 and their own shoddy build quality already has; ‘Looks like poop, smells like pee. Dell laptops. Look for ‘em next to the kitty litter section’.

I don’t entirely agree with Dilger that Bloomberg doesn’t understand Apple. I think they do, at least more than they let on. Rather, they, like so many others in media, use sensational headlines to garner clicks and eyeballs as they appear to, disingenuously, cry ‘doom’. However, as Dilger acknowledges, buried in the body of their stories are the details of Apple’s robust performance indicators. They know this, quite well. Indeed, I’ve seen that Cory Johnson on Bloomberg West, and others, not only seem to get Apple, but also tacitly acknowledge Samsung’s relative weakness and not infrequent shadiness. The media, however, need a story, and none is more heroically proffered than one by Apple, and to quote the scientist on Mission Impossible II, ‘Every hero needs a villain’, hence the duality, even when it is a false dichotomy (Apple vs Samsung).

Good stuff, all the same.

ctopher

Yes of course, because of all of the “next big things” that have come from the likes of Cray, IBM and Terradata! /sarcasm (bien sûr)

What makes you think that Apple can’t create personal robots or big data solutions? As you so often remind us, Apple didn’t create the computing on the go platform, instead they created the industry standard for how they should operate. Remember what the intelligentsia said about Apple entering the mobile phone business? “Too little too late…” “Everyone else has a head start…” “The competition will not sit idly by…” and yet in a year or so, they defined the category.

I don’t think it’ll be technology per se that blindsides Apple, instead it will be another company that takes a laser focus on what consumer can and will do with whatever new technology comes to the fore.

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