Peak Apple

The iPhone and the iPad are great products sitting on top of Apple’s supremely successful app/content ecosystem. Even though iOS is looking rather dated nowadays and iTunes has never really been that good, they are still more than good enough for most peoples’ needs and the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. Overall there can be little doubt that Apple’s mobile offering is the best in the market.

Aiguille de Chardonnet

So why does it appear that we’ve reached peak Apple and from now on it’ll be all downhill? Of course many advocates will challenge that statement, but stand back and look at how different Apple is today from this time last year. This year’s product launches have felt a little desperate with the usual great fanfare for an iPhone with a slightly taller screen and an iPad with a slightly smaller one. It’s probably best not to mention the iMap fiasco or the launch of the new iPad, followed shortly afterwards by the launch of the even newer iPad. It all seems rather reactive and defensive, where has the innovation and that fabled product release cycle gone? This isn’t the Apple of old and the changes have nothing to do with Tim Cook’s leadership, rather this is the result of a longer journey and a destination that was almost inevitable.

The iPad’s much heralded grip on the tablet market is slipping; with IDC reporting that in Q3 2012 iPad has 50% of the market, a steep decline from 66% in Q2. Still, half the market is a fantastic achievement, but with recent launches of very good lower cost Android tablets from Google and Amazon there is every sign that this is only the start of the iPad’s decline. Possibly more significant is the recently reported loss of faith in the Apple followers, with Strategy Analytics finding that ‘only’ 75% of current iPhone owners in Western Europe were likely to buy another Apple smartphone. Again 75% is a fantastic achievement but a year ago it was a mildly stunning 88%.

From a personal perspective, the iPhone 4S is possibly the perfect device, so why have I recently purchased an Android tablet and phone? For a tablet the 7inch format is just about perfect for anyone who wants to use it on the move and until the iPad mini, Apple thought a small tablet was a stupid idea but that’s not the whole story. For a smartphone the iPhone ticked all the functional boxes but still I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy one.

When I thought about it there were 3 main reasons:

  • Apple is just too expensive: the competition is almost as good, and in some places better
  • I don’t want Apple deciding what I can and can’t do: I love that it all works so seamlessly but I want the freedom to choose what’s best for me
  • I don’t like Apple: I like the products but not the company

That last point should be the most concerning for Apple, focusing on making great products is one thing but you also need to be a good ‘citizen’. I don’t think I am the only one who no longer feels Apple is something to aspire too. It’s starting to feel a little like BMW in the late 80’s – undoubtedly great products and engineering but all a little too smug and arrogant. BMW managed to turn that around, preserving the good stuff but getting rid of the attitude.

Somewhere along the way Apple started to believe its own hype and that arrogance was only ever going to end up here – peak Apple.

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