Steve Jobs retired from his day-to-day activities at $AAPL yesterday, and the world has been up in arms over the future of this company. After all, the last time Steve Jobs left Apple formally, the firm seemed to have lost its way during a decade of pain for Mac fans everywhere. Regardless, this time around is clearly different, and here are some thoughts/values we can discern from the situation: Industry Dynamics
When Steve Jobs left Apple during the dispute with John Sculley in 1985, the market was slipping beneath Apple - IBM had put a serious dent into Apple's personal computer market share and Microsoft was already starting their ascension. Additionally, Apple couldn't get their game plan straight, as the Lisa was a massive flop and the Macintosh was not innovating as fast as the IBM (and its clones). There were many holes in Apple's armor at the time, and there certainly was no indication of Apple's domination of the innovation circuit.
In 2011, the world is a bit different - Apple holds innovation firmly in its hands. Major consumer electronics (think Sony, Sansung), software (nearly all web applications), mobile (Nokia, Motorola, HTC, Samsung, RIM) and even enterprise firms hold their model up as the innovation 'team to beat'. While there is real competition across all these sectors, its amazing how much of a lead Apple has created for itself.
- Samsung and HTC have built strong competing phones, but still don't have anywhere near the #s Apple does, nor the draw of their product launches
- There has yet to be a serious tablet competitor, period.
- Despite several exciting alternatives, Apple iTunes is still the music store to beat across the globe, and seems poised to further strengthen that position with their new iCloud and Match services.
- Speaking about Cloud, without any real background, nor a live product yet, Apple is already considered a real alternative to the backup and cloud storage tools that have built strong reputations over the last few years.
- Oh yeah, the Macbook has become the best and most profitable laptop on the market, surpassing Dell, HP, and all the other dominant forces on the Windows side of the world - And that Macbook Air is being copied by anyone with a hope of keeping market share.
- With new Android phones coming out on a cycle of 3-6 months (particularly with new technology, like 4G networks), can Apple sustain the once a year upgrade? Will anyone but the geeky IT guy in the elevator use a Windows Mobile phone, and should Apple care? How does Apple plan to play in the Mobile Payments space?
- Will anyone emerge as a true competitor to the iPad? Will Apple be able to continue innovation and bring us the next big leap on this device?
- Will iPad destroy the Macbook business, and/or will they merge at some point?
- Will iCloud be able to beat Google, Amazon, Salesforce, and emerging competitors in the cloud space?