Apple has been on top of the corporate world for quite some time now. As the largest company by market capitalization in the world, it holds a unique position of stature and import in the global economy (which is also bolstered by the global nature of its supply chain). Ever since the first iteration of the iPhone hit stores, the company has been on a seemingly inexorable march to the top: hiccups along the way are brushed over as they then recede into the annals of history by simple nature of the sheer dominance of Apple’s core products. Its supremacy all but assured, even problems don’t seem like problems at the time because Apple’s stranglehold on the market basically ensures they’ll right the ship and keep sailing to record profits. But according to some experts, Apple may be in the worst shape its been in for decades.
And no, I’m not talking about Apple’s ‘next big hit.’ Pundits across the consumer electronic journalism spectrum pelt the company with demerits in anticipation of Apple’s ‘next big thing’ or ‘new gadget’ because the company has been so slow to release new product categories or product lines. And weirdly, after a decade or more of the highest grade hardware and software design, build and integration, even when the company does ship a new product line or update, those newest products are increasingly shipping with bugs and errors at an unprecedented rate.
That doesn’t bode well for the future health of the company.
But, given Apple’s market dominance at the moment, these are merely blips on proverbial the radar. Given enough time, and the entrenched nature of Apple’s products in the market and in consumers’ mindshare, Apple rights its wrongs and carries on its corporate domination.
But what happens next?
Apple’s problem at the moment is that futurist consensus seems to be saying one thing — artificial intelligence is the future of computing. And Apple is a leader in neither the hardware necessary to perform those computations, nor the software governing the computation thereof.
In a strange turn of events, Apple was actually one of the first major players in the A.I. field, out in front of rivals Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook. I wrote about this in October, though — everything was playing out in reverse. Instead of being a late comer to a product category, but releasing a superior product and dominating that sector, Apple was the first mover in the voice assistant game and has steadily fallen farther behind the leaders.
That’s likely to cost Apple for decades to come, if some skeptics are to be believed. Mike Murphy, for Quartz:
“The consensus is artificial intelligence is going to be the key differentiator, with every device—whether it’s a lightbulb or a laptop—capable of speaking to each other and making decisions to suit their owners. Big tech firms like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft are saying that they’re now “AI-first companies.” That’s bad news for Apple.
The basic concept is that the future of computing is in A.I., and Apple has surrendered its pole position. And what’s worse, this is unlike the fights Apple has taken on and won over the last 20 years:
“Over the last few decades, it only produced premium products when many of its competitors were racing to the bottom of a price war. It’s less possible to do that with AI, which relies on vast amounts of data to produce useful products, which usually means something Apple is loathe to do—gathering data from customers, or working with others to use theirs.
Now, it does seem as if Apple has noticed its deficiency and is taking active steps to remedy it — Apple snagged Google’s top AI executive, John Giannandrea, earlier this week. Maybe that’s a signal Apple is going to get into the game in a major way. But it’s tough to say how committed they’ll be to A.I. efforts long term until Giannandrea starts to impart and execute his vision from within the company. Either way, it’s an interesting question: is Apple finally losing its mojo? Or is it just a matter of time before they perfect their superior product and release later to market, but corner that very market for quality? It’s a hard question to answer at the moment, but that answer could determine the fate of Apple’s future… or not.