Tuesday, January 17

2012 Predication #2: iTV Will Prove Apple's Waterloo

Should Apple's all but confirmed iTV make landfall in 2012 I expect that it will serve as a fitting high-water mark for the high-flying tech company.

In this sense perhaps the Battle of Waterloo, which marked the once-and-for-all final defeat of Napoleon, is the wrong metaphor. Instead the Battle of Borodino, a contest which Napoleon won and allowed him to enter Moscow but also ultimately led to his later retreat from Russia in 1812, may prove a better analogy.

All great runs ultimately meet the same fate

I'm sure the iTV will be a huge hit and will make a great addition in Apple's ecosystem. I'm so frustrated with the TV market that it was the subject of a rant a few months back. Let me be clear: TVs are begging for the Apple treatment.

And there is no doubt that Apple will be a successful, highly profitable company for years to come. Apple is more than Steve Jobs, and there is enough magic and momentum to sustain success for the next 3-5 years, at least. But having said all that some recent trends for Apple aren't looking so hot.

Apple is squarely in the competition's cross-hairs and very few -- if any -- companies have historically been able to sustain the level of success achieved by Apple this past decade. And the reasons are well known: people leave, get rich and lazy, retire, distracted, all of the above.

But perhaps the biggest problem will be Apple's own DNA, which is based on cult of personality, not long lasting institutions. Steve Jobs lionized and embodied the Great Man school. In contrast Bill Gates' favorite business book was Sloan's My Years with General Motors, a rather dull treatise on the art of running a large corporation through a series of committees. As so often happens following the departure of a dominant, charismatic leader there is growing talk of an Apple palace coup. Jockeying and politics won't make success any easier in Cupertino.

There is nothing Apple does that can't be replicated, and part of the evidence of that comes from Apple increasingly turning to the courts to fight its battles. Steve Jobs' seethed vitriol from his deathbed over Android's success. Because Apple controls its products end-to-end it has to flawlessly execute by itself every time. But there are literally hundreds of younger, hungrier companies competing with Apple. In some ways the relative demise of Apple is simply a numbers game.

The iTV will likely be insanely great in the way it integrates and simplifies our digital lives, and it is a product I'm very much looking forward to. But I predict that it will also mark the plateau of the greatest run in tech history.


  1. Makes perfect sense. And no doubt the media will all say it was because Jobs was no longer at the helm and not all the other more important reasons for its being dethroned. The tec world moves quickly, and like any boxer in the ring, the crown is worm usually for short duration.

    1. Oops. "worn" not worm, though all good worms deserve another.