Dust in the wind: Apple’s coming fall

Apple’s market cap hits new highs. That can’t be good.

Macalope

Remember how last year everyone was ballyhooing Alphabet briefly surpassing Apple in market capitalization? If you don’t, well, believe the Macalope, there was much ballyhooing.

But forget all that, because now Apple’s high market cap is just a sign of how doomed the company is.

Writing for Wired, Zachary Karabell says “Even if Apple breaks $1 trillion, it won’t stay on top forever.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Alex.)

Indeed. Some say nothing lasts forever except the Earth and sky. These people are unaware, apparently, of the lifecycles of stars as it seems likely the Sun will expand far enough to engulf the Earth, destroying it completely. So yes, certainly when we are talking on a geologic or cosmic timescale, it is certain that Apple will not stay on top forever.

Good information to have. As the Sun turns the Earth into a charred cinder, you certainly don’t want to be the one left holding Apple stock. Think of how embarrassing that would be.

Apple retains an enviable brand image and a devoted consumer base.

And yet…

What if it didn’t? I think it would go something… like… this.

[Avant-garde dance routine.]

…the shadow cast by past corporate behemoths is creeping up on Apple.

Ghosts aren’t real, dude. Read a book.

As valuable as Apple is now and could still become, the company looks vulnerable to being eclipsed in the years ahead, if not threatened to its corporate…

DON’T SAY IT.

…core.

ARRRRRRRGH.

Apple makes hardware. It manufacturers a product.

In the future, companies will demand you pay them in order to view more ads.

So how do we know that Apple will eventually fall?

…take a look at the list of Fortune 500 companies in 1955 compared to today.

APPLE ONLY HAS SIXTY YEARS LEFT. SELL, SELL, SELL.

Eventually, you see, the things that people have been saying for 30 years will catch up to Apple—and for some reason that is completely inexplicable, never have—will eventually catch up to Apple.

The world, however, is moving quickly toward a digital future where devices become commoditized.

The theory that commoditization will catch up to Apple one day cannot fail, it can only be failed. By reality. Over and over again.

Karabell posits that because people are storing more data in the cloud, moving to different platforms is easier than ever. The Macalope would love to be able to lock these “All is now open!” people in a room with the “Unfair lock-in!” people. They could fight or not, whatever, the point is just to get them in the room and then lock the door and never open it again.

And the door is soundproof.

And then you and the Macalope, we get in a fast car and drive and just drive and drive for days, the wind in our hair, feeling more free than we’ve ever felt.

Let’s do this, Madeline. Let’s live the dream.

Today, Apple is run by unquestionably competent executives. It does not, however, spin a vision of the future with Apple at the center of a new, evolving ecosystem.

You can believe that, it’s perfectly fine, but if that’s what you believe it takes to win the future, then you must also expect that of Apple’s competitors. As a warning to Apple, Karabell notes how Nokia and BlackBerry were once on top but then were all but gone in just a few years. The way Apple did that was by reinventing a platform in such a compelling way that no one else had a choice but to accept their vision. While some of Apple’s competitors may have slightly better AI or be slightly ahead in car technology or augmented reality, there is very little evidence that any of them are capable of the kind of fundamental rethinking of a problem that destroys entire companies.

To believe that Apple will dominate the landscape for years to come, simply because of where it is today is to ignore how quickly things can change…

There is no doubt this is true. But it’s also kind of obvious in the way even a ’70s band that’s somewhat ignorant of the stellar lifecycle understands.

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