When will our Obsession with Apple End?


For years I have reported on the development of devices like smartphones, tablets, TVs, and anything else that uses a display as a part of the user interface. For a full disclosure; I personally have been using iPhones for years, I also have an iPod, an iPad and an iMac. One could say that I am a real Apple user. I generally like Apple products and still prefer them over some Android and Windows devices I also own.

Since the introduction of the iPod (terrible display on the first model) the Apple has become more and more known as the market leader that can make or break a new technology introduction. In retrospect, they have done a good deal of product development that has spawned a new direction for displays as well. Just think of the retina display, the 5K displays and lately of the ‘perfect’ color LCD in the iPhone 7. A lot of that has to do with the feel for new technology, the advertising and the unique style of product introductions that Steve Jobs brought to the world.

Meanwhile, product introductions ‘á la Apple’ have gone mainstream and even the introduction of a new USB fan takes a hint or two from the Apple playbook. Still we are looking at what Apple does, talks about or even works on. There are websites that follow every patent application Apple files in detail, to try to be the first in finding a new technology that will make the next generation iPhone the ‘best iPhone ever’. With Apple being a leader for smartphones and tablets, this still makes some sense. However, Samsung is the leader in smartphones and also a leader in tablets, I do not see people paying the same attention to Samsung news as I see them following Apple news. (this may be a US effect! – Man. Ed.) The question I have is, how long will this continue after the Apple leadership in these markets is gone?

Please note that I did not ask if the Apple leadership will disappear but when. There are several reasons I see Apple ultimately declining.

  1. Sony was some time ago as much, and maybe even more, a technology leader for consumer electronics. New design trends and devices were developed and everyone looked at Sony as the market leader. If you feel inclined, you can add the names of such companies before Sony and they all have one thing in common, they are a leader no more. I do not want to bother you with the reasons that I think led to Sony’s demise, I am just saying that it seems inevitable for a market leader to lose market leadership at some point. Apple already did that before the return of Steve Jobs.
  2. Steve Jobs was seen as the leader that brought together a great team of very different and even difficult characters to work together on some outstanding and special projects. These times seem to be over. Apple has meanwhile a much softer approach to their human resource pool with several key people leaving already.
  3. Apple took high risks with the iPods, iPhones and the iPads. Many people predicted a not so great future for some of these products based on a very logical analysis of the consumer markets at the respective times. Of course, as it turned out they were all wrong. Without this willingness to take risks the products would not exist today. Lately so, we hear more about the things Apple is not doing rather than hearing about new products that will take the world by storm.

Today, Apple is not releasing an Apple TV solution beyond its streaming box, they are reducing efforts for the Apple car project and Apple is so far just talking about AR and VR. Nevertheless, there is rarely a day going by without some blog posting about the ‘must have’ feature of the iPhone X or how Apple is focusing on the AR market instead of VR.

The talk about Apple’s AR / VR activities goes back to some comments Apple’s CEO Tim Cook made some time ago as well as some recently discovered patent applications. Of course, Apple has to file patent applications; if not their stock would decline instantly. A market leader that does not work on new stuff? Unthinkable!

It was shown that Apple’s patent foray into AR is about the use of AR in a similar way that Pokemon Go uses a smartphone. Overlay some info on a picture of the video camera and you have an AR application. There are over 5,000 results for augmented reality in the Apple App Store. Apple wants to overlay data on their map app, which comes as a complete surprise.

To be a little bit less sarcastic, Apple knows this and I am sure that they will create an AR app that pushes the envelope at least in some perspective. My point of view is that that so far Apple is more of a follower than a market leader and in that I include that they have been working on this AR / VR stuff for quite some time. On the other hand, I am surprised that the analysts and the bloggers of the world are still following some possible idea from Apple more than they do companies that have developed this technology for many, many years.

So, again, when will our obsession with Apple end? (NH)

Analyst Comment

Norbert makes some good points, but two things are important points. One is that Norbert is in the US and any view of the US media understands that it tends to obsess about single subjects. When some dramatic event happens, there is nothing else on the news. In the same way, the US media sees consumer electronics as Apple. Outside the US, there is less obsession with Apple, I think. Second, Apple is the biggest company in the world, with a market capitalisation at $700 billion that is around double that of Microsoft. In the US, especially, many investment portfolios will depend on Apple’s success. (BR)