While chatting with a senior advertising professional (the erudite kind, who commands a lot of respect and whom I look up to) today, the issue of Apple & its future came up.
In his view, Apple will go bust.
The reasoning: it is too dependent on one individual (Steve Jobs). He went on to add that Apple turned around recently thanks to the iPod and then the iPhone – both disruptive products. Those products, while not inventing anything new, were not just incrementally better than what existed already but were game-changing in nature. With iPad, the disruption continues, having redefined ‘tablets’ as we knew them. So the reasoning was that, this kind of disruptive product creation cannot be sustained in the long run and products which are only marginally better than competition will be the order of the day. And that will create a serious dent in the brand imagery of Apple, which is always expected to deliver something new. It will be difficult for Apple to re-create this kind of magic after Steve Jobs retires – it all depends on the succession plan.
I would agree with him on one count – expectations from Apple (at least among fans) as compared to other companies are different. Speculation is rife before every product launch on the likely features. After launch, every aspect is analyzed and lack of an ‘expected’ feature (‘what, no camera on iPad’?) is bemoaned. And then the comparisons with rival products begin. Which becomes for fodder for Apple baiters (Samsung Galaxy Tab has a camera’, ‘the Olivepad can play Flash files’ etc.).
In my view, Steve Jobs’ DNA is Apple’s DNA. His approach to product development and design is unlikely to be abandoned, if one of his current team members takes over the reign later. If an outsider comes in, its a different matter altogether. The risks for Apple, which could severely impact its dominant nature on some categories could be:
Apple’s complacency with regard to certain geographies: today, Apple is too US-centric. The potential for smart phones are in emerging markets like China & India is huge. But Apple has totally ignored India in the past and continues to do so. Nokia ignored the US in the past and is paying the price today. Will Apple go the same way in Asia? With the iPad too, Apple is letting players like Samsung seize the advantage of first movers. Not to mention advantages like after sales service which Apple is poor at in India.
Competition playing catch up: with iPod, competition could never really match the integrated music service (at least in the US) and later the app ecosystem. With iPhone I think the competition has been very nimble – they closed the gap in terms of features and are upping the ante on Apps. With iPad, competition is reacting even faster. So the pressure of ensuring that the gap between them and others is always wide, is a big pressure on Apple. Not that Apple is taking it easy and showing signs of complacency.
No halo in Asia: the halo of Apple is virtually non-existent in India. So when they keep launching products in a delayed fashion (in the wake of established competition) or let traders have a field day, they are bound to be seen as expensive me-toos who offer ‘poor value for money’. And in India ‘paisa vasool‘ is a major pre-requisite. We want our gadgets to be filled with all possible features but come at an affordable price.
What, dear reader, do you think of Apple’s future? Especially in India?