New products have been the heart and soul of Apple for most of its history. The recent comments by Forrester Research chief executive George Colony have received a lot of discussion.
It is easy to jump on the bandwagon that Apple will decline without that next great thing and the vision of Steve Jobs.
I would disagree with Colony's analysis for a number of reasons. My first thought is that it is impossible for any company, even an Apple, to turn out hit after hit. Setting the expectation that this is the only way Apple can be a great company is to consign Apple to a future which won't be very bright.
The Apple of today is really the result of three straight home-runs by Steve Jobs, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. The Apple of tomorrow does not have to be defined by products that break the mold every time.
There is no guarantee that even if Steve left Apple with that next great thing that it will be another product hit. Despite what has come to be popular wisdom, even Steve had some less than successful products. You might want to remember back to Steve's wonderfully designed PowerMac G4 Cube for just one example.
Tim Cook might be the person who finally turns Apple into an adult company. It doesn't have to be a company that declines like Sony has.
I have already heard some thoughts from Tim which indicate that he might be right for this moment in Apple's history. His comments on the convergence of tablets and laptops are on the money. I just hope he is strong enough to keep Apple from making its OS X operating system look too much like iOS for the wrong reasons.
Apple has a tremendous amount of momentum, and there is plenty that can be done to grow Apple's business. Despite what the technology press and analysts would have us believe, computers besides tablets are not dead. There are plenty of people who will be using laptops and desktops for years to come.
Just as Microsoft is envious of Apple's share of the smart phone and tablet markets, Apple should be eyeing the huge numbers of computers that still ship with Windows around the world. As the world of technology matures, finding new markets with that next great product might be beyond any company's ability.
However, getting beyond a 10% market share in the world of computers could be within the grasp of a Tim Cook led Apple. One of the weaknesses that I saw in the leadership of Steve when I was at Apple was the ease with which a market or a product could be sentenced to a slow death as resources were drawn to that next great thing.
My experience with Tim Cook showed me someone who is willing to tinker with things until he gets them right. It happens to be one of the things that I have admired about Microsoft. That patient ability to keep working on product until it meets customer needs is what has kept Microsoft alive and still making money.
So what would I like to see Apple do to begin its journey to sustainable growth?
Obviously Apple has to keep churning out new iPhones and iPads, but Apple needs to resist the temptation to load them up with features that distract from their core functionality. You can make something better without feature creep. That is part of Steve that Apple needs to keep in the minds of its product designers.
At the same time, Apple needs to focus substantial resources towards making OS X the absolute best operating system for computers on the planet. At one time it was. It no longer is the best. There are things that Windows 7 does better, and I find Windows 7 is more reliable. Apple should not make OS X look like iOS just for the sake of doing it. If there are good reasons fine, but don't mess more things up like we have already seen in recent updates to iPhoto.
Apple should not depend on Microsoft screwing up with Windows 8.
Next Apple absolutely must focus on style with reliability. I should not be sitting here saying that my last three Mac laptops are dead while my last three Windows laptops are still running. There is no reason why Apple cannot deliver its absolute drop dead gorgeous products and have them be ones that have spectacular reliability. You can build a company on reliability and customer satisfaction. You can lose a company if your products don't stand the test of time.
I really don't care if there is another laptop a little thinner than mine if my laptop lasts five years instead of two.
Next, the world of desktop computers is a wasteland. The iMac and the Mac Mini have not revolutionized it. They also haven't taken Apple very far into the world of two digit market share.
There is a product somewhere between the iMac and the Mac Mini with a feature or two from the Mac Pro that could own the desktop world. While it might not break completely new ground, it could be a home run for Apple.
Things will have to gradually change at Apple under Tim Cook's leadership for all this to happen, but I think it is very possible that Apple has not yet seen its peak. Maybe the stock won't be as high, but the company could find a spot in the list of companies who have survived the loss of their visionary leader.
It would be good for all of us consumers of technology if Apple could not only survive but thrive. I really couldn't care less if Apple comes out with a television, but I would be really ecstatic if Apple re-invented the desktop computer and delivered it with the world's greatest operating system.
There are lot of challengs out there for Apple. Android and Amazon will be fierce competitors, but Apple already has a lot going for it and should not face the decline that so many expect.
With that I am back to enjoying spring as it continues to unfold here along the stunning waters of North Carolina's coast. With warming weather I plan to be back out in my kayak and anchored on the oyster rocks once again.