Apple - two years from now...

I read an interesting article today titled 'Apple Fined for Misleading iPad Ad in Oz'
(see link for full article) And soon the dots began connecting even though I am not in Australia, neither am I a fan of Apple products, nor do I have more than a casual interest in the Steve Jobs cult.

But this article bothers me. It may be the initial sign of a vanishing cult. Like the Incas (or if you want something closer home, Nokia.) The charm of the brand is fading - and very quickly too. 

This along with other developments Galaxy III's Android based innovation, Microsoft's attempt at a Nokia takeover, Apple's copyright cases against Samsung, combined with Tim Cook's selective presence (or absence) from the media, I get a strong premonition. If you look around, the Apple product owner is 'less' of an evangelist, considers it less of a cult today than just an year ago. 

The erosion has begun - and it was to be expected. Steve matters more than just his legend.  The 'fab' status that Apple products accord, are diminishing. A Macbook is not inclusive and i know of at least 4 Mac users who have bought Windows laptops because of lack of compatibility and as one ex-Mac users says its better than 'having to pay for everything-but-breathing.'

As we know, Apple has not been great at inventions, though it is  great at improvements and innovation in existing products. Much of what Apple has done has to do with taking inventions and altering and packaging them extremely smartly. It was not the first with GUI (but its external box and the aesthetics and interactivity gave it a following. It was not the first one to make a compressed storage unit (which became the iPod), but its design and convenience helped sell hundreds of millions of units. The origin of the tablet (the matter is sub judice) is still under debate. I really wonder what they are going to come out with next. 

But let us look at the future. We've had the iPad 1, iPad 2, New iPad - all mere improvements in previous version. (what's next? I am guessing between 'A very New iPad', or 'Much Newer iPad'??) If iPad was a website or a software product, it would just be called ver1, ver2, ver3 (so far). Not much has been altered to make you want a new one desperately. But millions still change to the next version - because it is seen aspirational. The iPad owner feels better by carrying it - like a Louis Vuitton accessory. So, a typical Apple buyer has actually only a fashionista (and a very vain one at that). Unfortunately, when the world economy goes through its dips like it is doing now, fashion goes out of fashion. Unlike luxury fashion where demand is inversely proportional to price, Apple products are meant to be functional, but they attempt fulfilling a luxury need (rather than a functional one). This mismatch is bound to affect the brand, its products and the following in the absence of the 'cult' figure or 'cult' mantra (read product).

Seems to me that the most valuable company in the world may be cut to half its size, market-cap and following in just 2 years. Look out for everything that appears in the media about this brand, and you'll will be able to see its down-trend. Tim cannot be himself, he needs to fit into existing shoes.  The smart second in command cannot become a leader, without the leader's charisma, charm, oration and vision. When a guru runs a company, its followers leave with the guru!


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