Apple is taking another double-digit fall so far on Wall St. today and it is not clear what can ease this precipitous fall any time soon. For the last 12 months Apple has enjoyed the title of the world’s most valuable company, but it has now slipped below energy giant Exxon Mobil Corporation. The market cap is now $412 billion at the lowest point today. That is a loss of close to a quarter of a trillion dollars from its peak market cap – I’m going to type that out for perspective.
For all the various reasons that led to this, the competition, the saturation, the conservative expansion of market share throughout the world in new markets, there is little doubt that Apple itself has had a number of missteps that have turned their fortunes around so quickly. To be completely fair – success in the stock market is based on technology, but waves like this are based on emotional responses; Apple has been performing quite well, but they seem to have lost that edge that once looked unstoppable and this is a statement of what people think of their future. They rode that wave of emotion up, and now they’re seeing the down side. The question now is how to turn that around and that is not an easy question.
Apple’s biggest missteps have eroded that customer relationship that was once untouchable. There was the whole Google Maps fiasco, and yes – Tim Cook capably dismissed everyone who had a part in that and made it right by doing so. Siri was, well is a bad product. They put it front and center and it was just bad. The cycles of warm makeovers – “just add Retina display to it” – just doesn’t work for second phase products.
Look at all the frustrated people when the iPad 3 came out – what six months since the iPad 2 was available? They haven’t emerged with a truly new breakout product in close to 3 years. Do they really have to have another one? Possibly, and it might be the rumored Apple TV. But as I’ve noted, the longer they hint and take to bring one to market the more competitors race over to that space and the harder that challenge for Apple is going to be. Some people are taking a look at Cook himself and wondering if he is the man to carry on the Jobs legacy. For all the things he has and hasn’t done as CEO, this is not something that is really fair to say if that is the problem, but results don’t care about fair. Insiders have told us they have confidence that Cook is the man, as chosen by the man himself. This is business – it takes savvy, development, marketing, and brand loyalty – all things that Apple enjoyed not that long ago.
Apple has a legendary stockpile of cash and there is little doubt they are racing to produce. I’ve heard people saying that Apple has lost the edge of innovation. Plenty of companies innovate, you have to have it all to do it like Apple did. Fortunately there is a gameplan already laid out for them by Jobs himself and it starts with restoring the brand. Apple’s claim to fame was always the perception of leading, better and fresh technology, and the time since Jobs’ passing has been marked by incremental improvements to products. That is probably the biggest flaw, they have lost that perception that they are the top dog by their own doing. They need to roll out something fresh to get people bullish on their products again – something simple that says to the user – “this is the way it always should have worked, I must have this”. Looking forward at some of the rumors, there are a few things that could help turn this around and they’re coming soon, we could see some of this at MacWorld:
- iPad mini revision – Yes, add Retina Display – we might as well get all the products baselined with a Retina Display, play that gimmick out and bury it.
- Apple Radio – Rumors continue of a free Apple-based radio service designed to knock off Pandora and other similar services.
- iPhone 5S – The iPhone 5 is a technical and functional marvel, but it failed to capture only but the most faithful in the face of stronger and growing competition. That product did not largely win over new customers.
- iOS 7 – If you are coming out with a new iPhone 5S – it might be time for a new iOS. Look for new features to make this one a win
- Apple Television – Jobs’ biography hinted at this, People are anticipating it – Make it happen, show us the magic
Do a few of those things, Steve Cook, let people know who you are, and start to tell the story of a resurgence of one of the greatest and ongoing technology stories ever. Lastly, pay a lesser regard to Wall St., there’s no need to monetize and string out every product, good or bad, press forward and the public will remain loyal.
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