The mood at WWDC is getting worse each year, as the feverish pitch of deception is starting to make Apple look vulnerable.
I wasn’t really enthused this year about WWDC, so much so I wasn’t going to even write about it. It’s not that Apple has no idea what comes next right, it’s just a bit of an awkward time for it. I’m no iOS fanboy, but it’s always interesting when tech companies are in transition. Apple is sort of in the purgatory of transition, smartphone saturation and the real secret, Apple is unable to keep up in AI.
Apple’s iPhoneX in 2018 Q1 was still the world’s best selling phone. However, even with Apple doing well compared to Samsung so far in 2018, it still only has 15% of the market and even with great profit-margins, it’s a real issue.
Apple Music has about 41 million subscribers, well behind Spotify. The AppleWatch has made amazing progress, but the demand just isn’t there for wearables as we have seen with Fitbit’s own struggles.
Apple Needs to Pivot Past Phones
So if the iPhone X sold so well, a full 16 million in Q1 of 2018, why did Apple reportedly tell suppliers it would need 20% fewer iPhone components (Nikkei Asian Review) for the second half of the year. Apple must go big with its AR smart glasses, which should launch before 2020 and with original content with a rumored approx March, 2019 launch.
Apple’s entire identity has been lost in the smartphone. I would not want to be an iOS developer in 2018. Siri mysteriously lost her way and fast-forward a few years later and all you hear is Alexa this and Google Assistant (now Duplex)that. Siri shortcuts do sound useful, as compared to the kind of broken Alexa and Google routines.
Apple’s secretive software regarding autonomous vehicles is just too tightly under-wraps, that usually means it’s not going well. Apple feels well, just late (HomePod), expensive and sort of pretending to be contemporary or worse yet, innovative.
Apple’s Failures are Starting to Outnumber its Successes
Apple’s marketshare in China is sort of probably very likely in decline. It’s hard to get good figures, and on top of this:
Reuters reported that Apple expects total iPhone shipments this year to be 80 million — a steep decline from the 100 million Apple had planned for the same time last year.
That Apple somehow sold 16 million iPhone X in Q1 feels a bit like a miracle. In March, Morgan Stanley said it expected more than half of Apple’s revenue growth over the next five years to come from services. If Apple is a walled garden, it may have to go the route of the subscription format. It’s hard pressed to pivot too late into mobile advertising like it somehow failed to do previously, Google and Facebook have too much of a lead now.
I don’t really care about Apple, though one of my favorite writers Steve Kovach has been doing a lot of stories on Apple recently, and it has gotten me thinking about the future of the world’s most valuable brand. With a market cap of $942 Bn. it will almost surely be the first corporate brand to be worth over $1 Trillion U.S. dollars.
The truth is Apple is neither here nor there, and a bit like Microsoft, is trying a lot of different things to diversify its business model. Apple must compete with faster rising brands such as the Huawei, Amazon and Tencents’ of the world.
Apple is still cashing in on its past glory, Apple generates about two-thirds of its revenue — and, most likely, much of its profits — from the iPhone portfolio. But as this decreases, it’s like what would happen if Facebook’s digital advertising suddenly tanked. It will redefine these companies, because they are so reliant on one revenue source, too reliant.
Apple’s Home Base is a Crutch to Develop New Revenue Streams
It’s not that Apple has been resting on its laurels, just that Apple cannot replicate what it has attained in the past. It’s not on the leading edge of anything but its own ecosystem. Amazon and Google have outwitted it to the Voice-AI interface and smart speakers, it’s not likely to be very relevant in original content given the pace of Netflix and Amazon and other competitors like YouTube, Disney, Hulu, etc…
Siri and HomePod feel more broken than the AppleWatch once felt, and will one day have to compete with a Facebook device and a Google screen that’s another smart device for YouTube, on top of Alexa and Sonos devices. Apple Pay will likely have to compete with a Facebook cryptocurrency on the blockchain. The dire fact is Apple isn’t an innovative company because it takes all of Apple’s energy just to well, be Apple.
Microsoft has the direction of Azure in the Cloud, Google and Amazon have so many directions it’s not even funny, Facebook has such a hold on mobile advertising and potentially, news; Apple is a bit like a hardware company with no place to go. Meanwhile Samsung, Huawei and even Google are making phones better and better, among others.
Apple will switch entirely to OLED screens in 2019, likely raising prices (and causing stress and stock value dips for LCD companies). But does it even matter, do we even really care? It’s hard caring anymore what Apple does, and that’s a branding and product problem.
Amid all the gimmicks, bells and whistles, what will we even remember fondly? Apple does not make the largest share of its profits from advertising, services or software. With each year that goes by, Apple is more about the past, than the future.
Apple still builds a lot of cool things, like AirPods or, has a nice App store. I’m all for walkie talkie smart watches, well in theory! But if I didn’t grow up with Apple products, what are the chances I’m going to be seduced into Apple’s walled garden now in 2019 or 2020? This isn’t the convenience of Amazon or the ubiquity of Google, or the utility of Tencent or the enterprise functionality of Microsoft — this is just another sexy brand.