What a difference a few months can make in the course of a company. Barely six months ago Apple was flying high and pumping iron.
Today, “beleaguered” is the latest handle used in Apple’s news. How could this happen when Apple has about $8-billion in the bank and record sales?
What happened to our favorite Cupertino, CA Mac maker? Apparently, it doesn’t take much. Is Apple choking just when Microsoft is weakest?
A few months, a change in karma, stars misaligned, no garlic on the door, whatever it is it isn’t good for Apple.
At the turn of the year, seemingly only a few months ago, Apple was as high a flyer as you could get. They launched the Intel-based iMac, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro, both well ahead of schedule.
The stock was high and everyone was certain Apple was on a roll while Microsoft was on the ropes, staggering, listing, crippled.
While not much has happened in recent months to change Microsoft’s continuing weakened status (it’s hard to call a company with that kind of money and sales “beleaguered”), Apple has stumbled. Again and again, it seems.
I was on the road for much of April, May, June and early July. It happens, though this was longer than normal, even for me. Even with PowerBook in hand, keeping up with all the news remained a challenge.
I felt like Rip Van Winkle this week as I read through the headlines. What happened to Apple?
First, the stock is in the dirt (relatively speaking, of course), and digging deeper. There’s lawsuits all over the place, including suits against Apple’s major executives.
The stock option manipulation problem will linger awhile, as will the suits with Creative Technologies. Creative can’t be feeling too good now that word is out about Microsoft wanting to sell their own iPod-killer portable media player.
Here’s my list of news pimples from the past few months, all of which help to dampen stock, reduce enthusiasm about all things Apple, and make the company look more beleaguered than Microsoft.
Slowing iPod Sales
This one seems to be gaining some steam and credibility, though Apple has not announced any kind of earnings or revenue shortfall for the just finished quarter.
Whatever is going on, it doesn’t appear as though the competition (can you name more than three iPod competitors?) is gaining much, so why the bad news?
Regardless, we’ll see next week if there’s any truth to the slowing iPod sales rumor.
Microsoft’s iPod Killer
We get an new iPod killer every few months, it’s summer, so we’re due. This time it’s Microsoft building a player and willing to buy the market.
Buy the market, Bambi? Yes, it’s tough to uproot iPod users because many of us have money invested in music from the iTunes Music Store.
The latest rumor has Microsoft willing to give us the same music we’ve bought on iTMS to run on the Microsoft iPod-killer. Free. Even Microsoft called such “news” a rumor and speculation.
It could cost Microsoft over a billion dollars to match all the iTMS music sales, but they can afford it. Will they do it?
Empty Product Pipeline
Where’s all the new products we keep hearing about? Adding Intel chips to iMacs, Mac mini, laptops and desktops do not NEW products make.
There’s no doubt that Apple is working on new products, but where are they? What are they? When are they?
Where’s the movies for iTMS? Where’s a MacBook mini? Where’s Airport AV for wireless videos to your TV? So far this year, Zilch with a capital Z.
Stock Option Scandal
Someone did some research on Apple stock options and grants over the past decade or so. Uh oh. Nasty trends were revealed and now Apple will pay.
That’s more bad news, another black eye, and another ditch for the current stock price.
Top Executives Leave Apple
This has been ongoing since the beginning of the year, some announced ahead of time, others with little notice.
To be sure, Apple is not a shallow company with no talent on the bench. To be fair, some of those who left had some well-deserved options to cash in while the stock price was high.
No Movies For iPods, iTMS
What happened to movies for the iTunes Movie Store? It’s an idea whose time has come already.
The problem is multi-fold. Bandwidth. Infrastructure. iPod capability and capacity. iTMS music success—movie studios don’t want Jobs to have too much control over content.
This is a healthy list that starts to stack up quickly but the end result is no movie service for iTMS customers and iPod owners. I want my iPod
… er, movies.
Mac Gurus Move To Ubuntu
This one is a surprise. A few high profile geek type Mac users have deserted the Mac in favor of the Linux flavor Ubuntu.
Ubuntu is very nice as far as Linux goes. It runs on PCs, PowerPC Macs, It’s slick, stable, dependable, and free. But it’s not Mac OS X Tiger.
There’s also 10,000 or 15,000 desktop applications that run on Mac OS X that Ubuntu will never ever never see at the desktop level. Why switch?
It still adds fuel to all the flames around Apple these days.
Lawsuits, Lawsuits, And More
They’re everywhere. Apple just lost their top legal dog. Maybe she knew something we don’t know.
If it’s not patents, it’s trademark infringement. If it’s not shareholders bringing suit, it’s former employees.
I half expect to see a new lawsuit from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak looking for his job back, royalties, or something.
Quality Control Problems
2006 may be the year Apple loses that cherished high quality product crown.
Why? iPods that don’t work, scratch easily, and die young. MacBooks and MacBook Pro laptops that cook meat (thighs), whine, and stain easily.
Is Apple choking just when the gettin’s good? After all, iPods own the portable music player owns the market. Mac sales have never been higher (though we don’t know yet how the Intel-based Mac sales are going—I suspect good).
Profits and cash in the bank have been at all time highs. Still, the list of missed opportunities grows and the press is using the term “beleaguered” again.
What do you think? Is Apple over the hill? Is the company stretched too thin to take advantage of Microsoft’s current weakened situation?
If Apple doesn’t have a few rabbits to pull out of the hat, soon, well… Just remember. What goes up, must come down.