The Slow Decline of Apple [falling further away from the tree]

Sentiments towards Apple continue to ebb. A series of unpopular moves and events continue to vex the company’s public image, and it seems to be willingly allowing itself to do so. This culminated in a recent  #boycottapple tag trending on popular social networks, which in my view, must have been be one of the most trying denouncements to stomach. Apple was once the cool, popular underdog that made great products that gave cheer to people and something to cheer for in the face of other giants ruling the tech industry.

The consumers, the people, were its proud, loud, self-proclaimed, efficient marketers. Even if Mac fans weren’t jumping ship immediately, that had to hurt. Obviously, Apple, even in the face of popular disapproval believes it is enough in the right. The general public opinion is not favorable, but that means nothing if Apple’s claims turn out to be legitimate. But even if there is an eventual victory, I believe it would be a pyrrhic victory having deteriorated the feel-good emotions that it enjoys amongst its most ardent supporters.wwdc2012-june-11-15

The largest recent hole drilled in the tech giant’s thus far impenetrable armor was in connection to a claim of a lack of viruses on its operating system. Towards the end of 2011, reports of the Flashback virus on Macs hit the news, thus proving to the world that the Mac OS wasn’t exactly bulletproof but because of its very small adoption it wasn’t particularly attractive for crackers to target the OS. Worse yet for Apple was its allegedly slow response to the attack. Having never faced such an attack, they appeared to be at a loss – a case of continuous safety causing complacence.

Add to that a fairly lackluster World Wide Developer Conference compared to its normal standards. Presentations continued to be made with very picturesque words describing the incredibility of its products, but analysis of all the announcements made in the following days proved Apple short. One particular point that irked the developer community was how the recently announced Macbook Pro was rumored to have its memory chips soldered in, meaning that one could not even upgrade the memory on their computers.
Or as Apple would have preferred it, they would just have to buy a newer machine. Mac fans will still go for it, but those sitting on the fence and probably longingly looking to pick up an overpriced Mac one day would have just turned and left. To add insult to the injury, Google significantly upstaged Apple at its own developer conference a few weeks later. A point by point comparison on latest features left Apple biting the dust.

And then there is the matter of litigation that continues to irk people everywhere and continuously lights up the discussion boards. Apple has been suing a few companies – typically Samsung of late – alleging their patents are being used without permission. Unfortunately for Apple, what is hitting the press is what makes it look quite the dolt, for example, alleging that a single tap on a smartphone is a swipe of zero length, and apparently it holds the patent for swipe.

Even as the community laughs at Apple and even has its occasional lawsuit thrown away unceremoniously by judges like Richard Posner, others aren’t working like that. A recent injunction on the sale of certain Samsung Galaxy devices dealt out by judge Lucy Woh in San Jose has given Apple a temporary victory. Or has it? Google and Samsung, though appealing the decision, decided on an alternative move – they are giving an update to the software on the said devices (and probably others) that no longer uses Apple’s idea. Winners – the consumer, Google, Samsung. Losers – Apple, alone in its corner, and a resounding round of booing from an audience watching the event closely.

Apple clearly has had to suffer some public ache in recent times. People might allege that the company has slipped since the sad demise of Steve Jobs. Definitely not so. Most of the current events are a continuation of a stand that Jobs took while he was in control at the company. Current management is only following his footsteps. However, one thing that stood for Jobs irrespective of his mercurial behavior was that he brought out amazing products and that too with flair. People are apprehensive now whether Apple has a repertoire of products that could charm the market in the future. So far, this year hasn’t looked good. And its recent outing in the courts make it seem desperate to hold on to their currently plush seats while demanding that everybody else also sit down.

In spite of recent misadventures, Apple still continues to be a powerhouse and will be so for a while. Autumn and a change of season might also bring bounties. There are rumors that keep the fans and the industry excited, including an iPhone 5, a more affordable version of the iPhone that could garner a much larger market, and that ever expectant question one has for an innovative company – what do you have after the iPad? Even if innovations reduce and sales of future devices run lower than expectations, it will continue to survive on the basis of its app store.

They have a great thing going there and developers are eager to put out applications. That’s good. The big question however is going to be growth from here on – if the tide of current public sentiment doesn’t turn around and more people don’t adopt its products, they will have less people to sell the apps to. And if it’s going to be continuously shooting around in the air, it will tend to scare off people.

The author, Sathish VJ is an independent technology enthusiast with a keen interest in everything technology. He is currently rediscovering the web, mobile, newer programming languages, and businesses around it. You can discover more about him

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