I understand that many may interpret this as borderline lunacy to suggest the fall of such an important and successful tech company. With that said, bigger surprises and downfalls have happened in the past. With Apple being one of the biggest examples by taking innovative success in the 80s, nearly destroying their credibility in the 90s, and then to come roaring back in the 2000s.
The 2000s focused on mobile, but the 2010s will focus on the cloud. As a result, consumers will demand services where they can access all their content anywhere, in turn removing the power from a single device. So less will be dictated on what your device can do, as opposed to what your device can connect to. So let’s play along.
So how will Apple fail? For me it’s a combination of things. Most importantly it’s where the industry is going: the future of content and how we manage it in the cloud. As less and less hands-on consumer-controlled infrastructure will play a role, more and more will move to the cloud. What do I mean by this? Operating systems, document composition/management, applications, music, movies, and almost everything else is moving off your device and onto a server/cloud. Who owns the cloud? Not Apple.
As a result, device hardware will play less of a role in overall computing. Taking a lot of the power out of Apple’s hands and redirecting to Google, Amazon, Facebook and others. As a result, how open your system is, will ultimately dictate how much your system can do. Apple’s success is dictated on how much of their system they can keep closed. Because Apple keeps you in their ecosystem, they can in turn charge you for almost everything. But what happens when individuals using Apple products see other devices that allow them to compose word documents in the cloud, use applications they don’t have to install, and connect with more third-party solutions all for free? How does Apple compete?
Apple doesn’t understand the cloud. Currently the company tries to use as little of it as they need to, to pull you back into their system. Google is an example of a company maximizing what they do well in relation to industry trends. The Mountain View company has found a way to give you everything for free, and in some cases at a better value (meaning features) than other systems. Google Docs is an example – with this article being composed on the service. Because everything is synced automatically, you now have immediate access to your content across anything holding an Internet connection – all you have to do is sign in. It takes up no space on your system, with global access, as well as collaborative abilities across one document. Larger files are also migrating to the cloud with products like Google Drive and Dropbox that use file and folder structures similar to typical hard drives. Apple is still focused on older systems like AirDrop, that allows users to sync content that is stored on your PC – but otherwise not really utilized in the cloud.
So Apple has its popular operating system OS X, but traditional operating systems are not the future. The browser is. In the next five years, the tech landscape will completely evolve again. You may not see it now, but the browser is the current framework of where operating systems will end up. All that’s needed is connectivity. But what if the Internet were as abundant as electrical sources? So if you could charge your device, you could connect your device? For several of us, this environment already exists, and will become the norm this decade just as electricity did in the 20th century. This will also apply to applications as well. Video and photo editing will one day be in the cloud – and in some cases already is. As this becomes more prevalent, it will be who has the best browser, not the best OS.
Google’s Chrome browser currently runs several web apps, one of them being Google Docs. These web apps also allow some products available for offline use, but as the global infrastructure improves, the need for offline use will go away as well. The cloud will drastically reduce the demand for horsepower and hard drive space, and focus on the ability of cloud providers and services. Because everything is maintained in the cloud, you will never have to install anything ever again. No download wait times as your products will always be up-to-date automatically. Currently, users can log into Chrome, and in turn sync bookmarks, apps, and history across any device they choose to log into. Apple lacks a real presence at all in this environment. They are still obsessed with getting you to download bloated stand-alone software products on your system. Their browser Safari is a joke compared to other available options, and hasn’t seen a major revision to improve speed, plugins, or apps ever.
There is a lot of turf in this space still left to claim, and we’ll see if Apple can pull its head out of the sand fast enough to make a dent. Because in five years the traditional operating system will be dead, the browser will be king, and Apple could be the next RIM or IBM. Failing to adapt, causing them to drowned under their own weight (RIM), or moving from consumer products to specialty items for businesses like servers and high-end production machines (IBM). In turn, serving a supporting role to a cloud environment that has moved on without them.