Opinion by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Is Apple rotting?

rotten apple
Credit: Rich Brooks, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

Sure, Apple has more cash than God and Bill Gates combined, but how long can its reign last if all its new products are blah?

I remember Steve Jobs crushing it time after time with his new-product introductions — his “One more thing“ was the most exciting phrase in technology.

“One more thing” didn’t always herald a winner. You’d have to be a hard-core Apple fanatic to remember Mac DV. But Jobs kept the Apple hype machine running all the way to the top of the Fortune 500.

He’s been gone for a while now, though. In his place, Tim Cook has done his best. But slowly and surely, Apple has been losing its mojo.

Take, for example, the company’s latest toy-release party, where it announced two smaller versions of existing products. Except for its 4-inch screen, the iPhone SE has the same specs as the iPhone 6S. The 9.7-inch iPad Pro tablet is little more than a scaled-down version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro tablet, albeit with a better camera: 12-megapixel images and 4K video versus the12.9-inch iPad Pro’s 8-megapixel iSight camera with a top video resolution of 1080p. So, if you’re going to be shooting video with an iPad — God knows why — the iPad Pro 9.7 is a better choice.

Maybe I’m being too harsh. After all, the new, smaller iPad Pro also comes with the Apple pencil.Clearly, this tablet is a PC replacement.

In his Tech Decoder blog on Computerworld.com, John Brandon said this may have been the “single most boring Apple event in history.“ Nonsense! He must have forgotten that we also learned about the iPhone recycling machine, the Liam, which is really cool — to mechanical engineers.

At the same time, Apple quietly released a new version of iOS, 9.3, but it proved to have a bug that would brick older iGear. What is it with Apple and its iOS releases? It seems every time it comes up with a new one, the new version kills off older devices or, even worse, fouls up Wi-Fi.

Apple used to be able to get away with crap software. I mean, are there any real fans of iTunes out there? But I don’t think it can get away with that anymore. Apple’s fortunes were built on the excitement it could generate, but at this point all the excitement has been wrung from iPhones and iPads. Smaller versions of existing products don’t cut it the way an all-new gizmo poised on the edge of a nascent market niche does. The new iPhone and iPad are smaller in every sense of the word.

Maybe you (and maybe Apple, too) think none of this matters. After all, the company has $216 billion in cash reserves. But 68.1% of its cash comes from the iPhone, whose revenue was flat in the last quarter. In fact, Apple component suppliers are starting to idleas iPhone demand decreases. Indeed, Apple is forecasting a sales decline for the first time in more than a decade for its next quarter.

I’m not saying that Apple is dying. A company whose net worth is bigger than the gross domestic product of Sweden, Argentina and Taiwan, to name but three, can weather a very long dry spell. But there is a faint stink of corruption about its overripe devices.

As someone who writes about technology companies, I don’t invest in them — darn it — but if I were an unconstrained betting man, I’d start shorting Steve Jobs’ old company. Apple is starting to rot.

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