The Fall of Apple

What goes up, must come down, so goes Isaac Newton’s third law of motion more or less. Similarly, the consumer electronics empire that we know as Apple Inc. today is slowly fading into the shadows of existence. Reaching minor success with alternatives to Microsoft Windows computers pre-2000, the launch of the iPod mp3 player in 2001 ultimately catapulted the company into the International market. Since then, Apple has gone onto expanding into different consumer electronics devices such as cell phones, personal computer tablets, and more recently watches. Though despite all this success and large amounts of cash-on-hand, the company has remained stagnant in terms of innovation after the loss of founder Steve Jobs. Once praised by Dieter Rams as a company which takes design seriously, Apple is facing challenges by depending so heavily on senior designer Jonathan Ive.

It is no secret that Jonathan Ive’s design draws inspiration heavily from Dieter Rams, with over 500 products and 40 years of service for Braun under his belt. Ive has even stated himself that “what Dieter Rams and his team at Braun did was to produce hundreds of wonderfully conceived and designed objects: products that were beautifully made in high volumes and that were broadly accessible,” a mantra reminiscent of the modern workings of Apple.

Rams’s Ten Principles of “Good Design” are that it is innovative, unobtrusive, honest, long-lasting, environmentally friendly, thorough down to the last detail, makes a product useful and understandable, is aesthetically pleasing, and is as little design as possible. In addition, Rams believes that product design in particular, “is the total configuration of a product: its form, colour, material and construction,” all working together to serve the product efficiently.

Yet despite achieving the look and feel of Rams influence properly, the products and company itself are slowly failing at creating positively for the consumer electronics market. Apple fails to be honest, efficient, environmentally friendly, or innovative. In 2010, 18 Foxconn employees attempted suicide, with 14 resulting in deaths in the industrial park of Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., one of Apple’s largest electronics contractor manufacturers. Since then Apple has supposedly increased audits to make progress but since the work is all done in house, there is no independent source to verify their claims. Then In 2012, Apple introduced their new Lightning proprietary USB ‘Lightning’ connector replacing the former universal 30-pin dock USB system. Although more compact and easy to use, it was rendered incompatible with all previous generations of products, unless you bought an adapter.

With efficiency being one of Rams principles, Apple is discreetly brushing this topic off aside and designing with planned obsolescence, knowingly creating products which will be inferior very quickly.

Timeline of iPod models and related products

Since the release of the first iPhone and iPod Touch in 2007, every year a new iteration of the monolithic touch screen devices has been made in different forms whether it be strictly for music (iPod), or telecommunications (iPhone), or personal computing (iPad). And facing troubling competition from Samsung on the hardware front, as well as Google’s Android operating system on the software front, Apple doesn’t seem to have a clear vision as to what direction to move forward in.

Daniel Adel for The New York Times. 2009

Meanwhile on the legal end of affairs, Apple and Samsung have spent the past 3 years filing over 40 patent lawsuits against each other and finally reaching a pact in August of last year to cease all patent lawsuits outside of our country .

With the consumer electronics market it seems that Samsung and Google, amongst others, have finally caught up with the industry standard set by Apple so it is now in a moment of saturation. Fewer and fewer consumers find themselves slave to Apple’s early innovation and have moved onto other devices, even using Windows Phone OS, like myself. Apple Inc. is being plagued with equilibrium and complacency. Apple Inc.’s loss of market share is proof of consumers becoming more conscious of their available options on the consumer electronics market. The old PC vs Mac debate may soon be laid to rest as consumers looking for the best bargain over time realize that despite a Macbook’s power straight out of the box, they have more freedom on Windows to customize both hardware and software than they ever will on a Mac.

The age of Apple Inc. as we know it today may soon be over unless Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO, dreams up some new innovations. The company faces a tough challenge ahead to continue its forward momentum that it achieved since the introduction of the iPod, just as revolutionary as the Sony Walkman. Apple has been astoundingly successful in maintaining its brand and products as accessories to everyone’s daily life. Forging ahead in TV or watches and wearable technology may seem to be a step in the right direction, but not a leap enough ahead, even with the Beats by Dre acquisition. Many amongst the business and tech industry communities are speculating nonstop as to what their next move will be. Perhaps the company can take a cue from its own founder, the late Steve Jobs.

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