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Has the era of Apple passed due to lack of innovation?

(People's Daily Online)

10:28, September 22, 2012

On the early morning of Sept. 13 Beijing time, Apple released the sixth-generation iPhone model, the iPhone 5 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts of San Francisco, the "Holy Land" of Apple fans.

After the release conference, more and more attendees felt the features of the iPhone 5, such as the 4-inch retina screen, back shell with aluminum alloy and glass materials, A6 processor and 4G LTE network support, was no different with the rumors exposed before. They found that the so-called new features had long been exposed on the Internet. The "one more thing" often said by Steve Jobs when he was alive did not appear at the conference.

Senior vice president of Apple Phil Schiller said the iPhone 5 is so far the best and most wonderful version of smart phones designed by Apple, but Forbes Magazine frankly pointed out that Apple had lost its magical aura without Steve Jobs and has become an ordinary technology company.

When the first-generation iPhones were launched in 2007, Jobs described them as "five years ahead of other mobile phones." Now five years later, many have concluded that the success of Apple was mainly attributed to three factors - outstanding product design, successful marketing management and strict security measures. In the era of Tim Cook however, Apple has given up these successful factors and has become a company just for profits.

Some analysts believe that given Cook’s identity as a businessman, the iPhone 5 was produced with small alterations from the previous-generation, thus saving costs while meeting the needs of most users. There was also a similar situation with the new iPad released by Apple at the beginning of 2012.

Although the iPhone 5 with a little improvement is still popular, something will change if Apple continues to rest on the laurels of their predecessors.

Apple is facing challenges within the industry. One week before Apple released the iPhone 5, Nokia and Microsoft jointly released a brand-new phone with the Windows 8 operation system. Although this platform is still not very influential, the combination of Nokia and Microsoft is expected to re-build the glory built by the Wintel alliance in the PC market. Another competitor for Apple is Android. Taking Samsung as an example, data from IDC showed in the second quarter of 2012, mobile phones sold by Samsung accounted for 32.6 percent of the global mobile phone market, but Apple phones accounted for only a little less than 17 percent. Although Apple just won a patent lawsuit against Samsung, it does not have any advantages in this area in non-U.S. markets.

Apple is also facing challenges from inside. In terms of hardware, the company has a growing number of hardware suppliers, leading to the fragmentation of its supply chain. In the past, most parts for its iPhones were from Samsung, but due to their patent disputes since the beginning of the year, Apple has to shift most of its parts orders to Taiwanese factories in just half a year. As the number of suppliers grows, the risks of information leakage increase accordingly. This is an important reason why detailed specs for the iPhone 5 were leaked ahead of its launch.

In terms of software, Apple has a closed ecosystem, and does not allow modification of its operating system by third parties. Although Apple does not reject third-party applications in its App Store, it is trying hard to promote its own applications at the same time. In this instance, Apple is both player and referee. In addition, Apple often comes under fire for some unknown apps cheating their way to the top of the App Store rankings.
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