Apple Death Knell #70 - Apple's In Big Trouble and Has No Plan B

Apple is doing really well. The company is fantabulously successful, or so Bryan Clark argued at TheNextWeb. But all that success is only masking the reality that Apple is in a heap of trouble with no future. Again, or so Bryan Clark said.

Accordingly, I present to you Apple Death Knell #70: "We've reached – maybe passed – peak Apple: Why the narrative needs to change."

Here's his setup:

Last month, Apple's latest earnings call announced its “most successful year ever.” The numbers were reported, the stories were spun and Wall Street basically anointed Apple the god of capitalism.

They're all wrong.

The actual story, the story we should be telling, involves a different narrative. Apple is the largest company in the world, but success is fleeting. While the numbers are impressive, they don't come close to painting an accurate picture about how much trouble Apple is really in.

Apple's rise under Steve Jobs was historic. Its fall under Tim Cook is going to be much slower, more painful.

That's kind of a new spin on the Apple-is-doomed mantra. The notion that Apple's own success hides its failures is...novel. For introducing something new to the cannon, we must all take a moment to thank Mr. Clark.

Unfortunately, his underlying reasons are just more of the same ol' thing. They break down thusly:

1.) Windows and Android are going to magically come out of nowhere and out-innovate Apple.

2.) Steve Jobs had all of the special sauce for innovation at Apple, and now that he's gone Apple is incapable of coming up with a new product that matters.

3.) Apple Watch doesn't count.

4.) Apple Car will never work and Apple can't beat Detroit, Tesla, or Google.

5.) All of which is proof that Apple has no Plan B. It's an iPhone company and will always be an iPhone company, and smartphones will eventually pass, and Apple is doomed.

Mr. Clark has fallen into the trap that many Apple doubters—he claims to be an Apple fan, not a hater, and I'm giving him the benefit of that doubt—fall into. He can't see where Apple is going next and concludes that Apple must therefore not be going anywhere.

I counter with this: who amongst us saw the iPod coming? The iTunes Store? iPhone? iPad? Apple Watch? Apple Car?

The answer is no one outside of Apple. I mean, we got rumors and leaks on several of these products, but those leaks came because Apple was already working on them. There's a wide line between prognosticating and reporting what the real innovators are actually doing.

This has been Apple's modus operandi since the return of Steve Jobs. While Mr. Clark argues that Apple can no longer innovate without Mr. Jobs, I point to the Apple Watch as the proof he is wrong. That device isn't perfect, and I've argued it's missing killer functionality, but Apple Watch has gotten people to think differently about wearable computing, and it did so without Mr. Jobs's input.

That's a monumental achievement.

Next: Insults and Apple Car

Page 2 - Insults and Apple Car


Insult? May I introduce you to my friend Injury?

Mr. Clark does mix a little insult with his injury by claiming there's little difference between Apple's iPhones and the hodgepodge of Android crap littering the profitless landscape of that ecosystem. He also vaguely insists that Windows is somehow relevant:

There are larger issues on the horizon: For example, how does Apple compete with Windows and Android?

Both have proven to be amazingly adept in recent years not only at competing with Apple in form factor, but functionality as well.

Two companies that are innovating, not searching for identity outside of a singular product.

Two companies that are on the way up, not down.

Firstly, neither "Windows" nor "Android" are a company. Pedantry aside, I find that his unsubstantiated argument requires epic self-delusion. Perhaps your mileage varies. It seems clear to me that Apple is miles ahead on every hardware aspect on the planet save for battery capacity. When it comes to processors, graphics, Touch ID, 3D Touch, Metal, power management, and many other areas, it's almost unfair how much better Apple is than its competitors.

Android's only advantage today is Google Now, though that is a big advantage.

And Windows? Wow. Windows Phone is a distant also-ran, and Windows on the desktop is losing steam...I mean, really? Are we actually talking about Windows and Android beating Apple?

Apple Car? More like Apple Why Bother? lol amiright?

Mr. Clark concludes with a stab at Apple Car:

The autonomous car project sounds promising, but competing against Google and Tesla in addition to auto industry giants like Lexus and Mercedes is an uphill battle full of technology challenges, government red tape and changing century-old transportation conventions.

So what's the next big thing?

I don't know. Apple doesn't seem to either. But until it figures it out, Apple is just the next in a long line of once great companies whose best days are behind it.

Put another way, Google and Tesla can compete with the legacy car industry, but Apple can't. Google, Tesla, and the legacy car industry can navigate bureaucracy, but Apple can't. Note how Mr. Clark has cast Google as the established player in cars, an insurmountable hurdle Apple not even attempt to leap.


Artist Rendering of Apple Car

TMO artist rendering of Apple Car

He has so many straw men lined up in a nice, neat row, with all of them pointing to the obvious conclusion that Apple clearly has nowhere to go.

Apple lives and dies by the iPhone. iPad sales are flat, iPod's are all but irrelevant, and while Mac sales are up, they're nowhere close to the workhorse that can continue to carry Apple should they experience a downturn in iPhone sales. There is no Plan B.

Well, Mr. Clark: says you. You have confused your own inability to see where Apple is going with Apple's ability to actually get there. Don't worry about it, though. Many people have done so before you, and many more are no doubt eager to do so in the future.

Apple's history says the company has a Plan B, C, D, E, and F, and is busily thinking about the rest of the alphabet*, too.

*With apologies to Alphabet.