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Is The Apple Bubble About To 'Pop'

By David Richards | Sunday | 23/09/2012

COMMENT: This past weekend has not been a good one for Apple. On Friday they launched their iPhone 5, then came the realisation that their new mapping software was a vastly inferior application to Google Maps as journalists and owners swamped web sites and blogs with complaints.

Shortly after the mapping problems hit the social networks, along came claims that out of the box hundreds of iPhone 5's had turned up scratched and that the shiny new smartphone was made of inferior materials.

The unmitigated disaster would have seen Steve Jobs hunting the corridors for the culprits if he was alive claims observers.

An incredibly arrogant Company, Apple could not bear the fact that their prior mapping--which actually functioned well--was supplied by Google, a Company who are now seen by the new Apple management team as an arch enemy.

The new Apple iPhone 5 is pretty ordinary. It's definitely not better than the Samsung Galaxy S III or the HTC One range of Android smartphones and here in lies a major problem for Apple, who is now trying to sue Samsung and other Android phone makers out of the market.

Apple management are control freaks who like to micro manage every aspect of their operation and when things go wrong, heads role.  

The New York Times said during the weekend the last time Apple released a truly substandard product — MobileMe, in 2008 — Jobs gathered the team into an auditorium, berated them mercilessly and then got rid of the team leader in front of everybody, according to Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs.

In Australia Apple used to hold press conferences and engage one on one with journalists. That went out the door as Apple moved to spin doctor their messaging via journalists who "gushed" over the Apple brand and Steve Jobs.

The big question now is: 'Has Apple Peaked?'

With the iPod, iPhone and iPad now behind them, Apple has recently moved to try and control more of the content that goes on to an Apple device. They already control the music industry but they are meeting resistance from the movie and TV industry who don't want to engage with Apple on an exclusive basis.

The much muted Apple TV has not been launched and Apple is fast running out of time this year if they are planning to launch a new Apple TV system in time for Xmas.

In the device market, Android is fast taking over from Apple as the smartphone OS of choice. Now with the disastrous launch of the iPhone 5 and several looming problems, one has to question whether Apple will be able to hold on to their momentum without Steve Jobs at the helm.

As Apple's chief executive, Jobs was a perfectionist. He had no tolerance for corner-cutting or mediocre products and he was a stickler for detailer and protecting the Apple brand.

He said their never would be a 7" iPad, now rumours are swirling that new CEO Tim Cook wants to launch one before the New Year.

The New York Times wrote that while Steve Jobs was alive, he was strength; now it's a weakness. Apple's current executive team is no doubt trying to maintain the same demanding, innovative culture, but it's just not the same without the man himself looking over everybody's shoulder. If the map glitch tells us anything, it is that.

But there is also a less obvious — yet possibly more important — reason that Apple's best days may soon be behind it. When Jobs returned to the company in 1997, after 12 years in exile, Apple was in deep trouble. It could afford to take big risks and, indeed, to search for a new business model, because it had nothing to lose.

Fifteen years later, Apple has a hugely profitable business model to defend — and a lot to lose. Companies change when that happens. Larry Keeley, an innovation strategist at Doblin, a US consulting firm said "The business model becomes a gilded cage, and management won't do anything to challenge it, while doing everything they can to protect it," says It happens in every industry, but it is especially easy to see in technology because things move so quickly. It was less than 15 years ago that Microsoft appeared to be invincible".

One consumer sentiment starts turning against you--as Blackberry and Nokia have--discovered it's very hard to come back.

For Apple, whose arrogance is personified, the real issue is whether they can keep on innovating ahead of a surging Samsung and a host of other competitors who have learnt from the legacy and the products that Steve Jobs left behind.

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