IT Confidential: 10 Indications Apple Is Headed For A Fall
The indications are there: iPhone anxiety, a Steve Jobs impersonator, a backdating scandal that won't go away--and I just bought an iMac.
It's list time! The list is a journalist's best friend--easy to write and very popular online. So I tossed around a few ideas: 10 Google Searches I Wish I Could Take Back, or 10 Soon-To-Be Incarcerated Software Execs. But since I haven't written about Apple recently, and there's no hotter company right now, I decided on that. Here are my 10 Indications That Apple Is Headed For A Fall.
10) The same reason the Dow won't stay at 13,000--gravity. Last week, Apple reported eye-popping second-quarter financials: a 21% increase in revenue and a whopping 88% increase in profits. Apple attributed the results in part to continuing strength in the sale of its personal computers. That's called being on a roll. You've been on a roll, right? And what happened?
9) Just about everyone who might possibly want an iPod has one. I can't get on an airplane or enter a mall without half the population sporting earbuds. Yet, according to its recent financial results, Apple sold 10.5 million iPods last quarter. It makes me think of the rumor about how the Church of Scientology kept L. Ron Hubbard's book, Dianetics, on best-seller lists month after month: by buying hundreds of copies itself and burning them in the basement.
8) Apple hasn't refreshed its computer line in a few years. Take a lesson from Detroit: Upgrade.
7) When an online impersonator of the CEO is more interesting than the CEO himself, that's not a good sign. If you haven't read The Secret Diary Of Steve Jobs (fakesteve.blogspot.com), you should. It's not only funny but more than a little insightful on Apple's internal politics.
6) Apple opened seven stores last quarter, for a total of 177 worldwide, and a third store is planned for Manhattan. Are there enough thin, cool, good-looking young people in the world to staff them?
5) Everyone is getting tired of those "I'm a Mac ... And I'm a PC" commercials. The Mac dude comes across as smug while the PC guy, who not coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to Bill Gates, elicits sympathy. And if the public starts feeling sorry for Bill Gates, you've lost.
4) There's increasing speculation the iPhone will flop. And it's not like Apple hasn't had flops before--remember the Newton?
3) Windows Vista is better than it's getting credit for. Conventional wisdom says Apple gains market share as Microsoft loses because of a backlash against Vista. But Vista hasn't been given a fair trial, and Microsoft has been known to pull products out of the fire. And beware the backlash against the backlash (see No. 5).
2) That pesky stock options backdating thing won't go away. Last week, Apple's former CFO said Jobs knew the regulatory implications of backdating and agreed to it anyway. The company's board of directors issued a statement of confidence in Jobs, including board member and former Vice President Al Gore. When Al Gore's your backup plan, it's time to reassess.
1) I just bought an Apple iMac, which carries with it my personal version of the Sports Illustrated cover curse. The last PC I owned was a Sony Vaio, and look at what happened to that company. Before that, I owned a Micron PC. You didn't know that Micron, the microprocessor company, made PCs? It did, and good ones, back in the 1990s. In 2001, Micron sold its ailing PC business to an investment firm, which subsequently changed the name of the company to MPC. Sorry, Apple--I didn't mean to throw the hoodoo down on you.
I still love you, Apple, so don't cut off my support. But send an industry tip, to firstname.lastname@example.org. Steve, you can call 516-562-5326.
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