There were stories today that Apple slashed Retina iPad screen orders from Sharp. There was little context or analysis, and little attempt to tell the reader what it may and may not mean, simply citing one or two anonymous sources. It follows a similar story from the Wall Street Journal last week about iPhone 5 screen orders being cut, suffering from similarly poor context and analysis, citing similar sources.

There hasn't been a single Apple keynote yet this year. Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Craig Federghi, Eddy Cue and Jony Ive haven't taken a single step onto a single stage, or shown off one atom of new hardware or one bit of new software or services. Yet Apple has taken a huge hit on the market and in mind share, areas that, until very recently, they dominated.

If you wanted to plan an assault on Apple, you couldn't do a much better job.

You take a company at the height of their powers and value, manufacturing the largest amount of the best hardware ever released, and you write articles calling it boring and claiming it lacks innovation. You make them the headline in a series of articles in a major newspaper, casting them as the big bad in everything from Chinese factories to local retail outlets. You use them to jumpstart your own manufacturing processes, you clone their product lines, and then you run adds making fun of the people who buy their products, painting them as brainwashed and bamboozled, as hopelessly uncool and cluelessly unhip. You dump product at cost or just above it, commoditizing and undermining the hardware that makes them money. You frighten their shareholders with rumors of low demand, and spread false expectation that new products and new products alone, endless, impossible streams of them, are the only way to ensure the company's very survival.

You attack their brand perception and market valuation at every level, and in ways very difficult for a highly focused, highly secretive public company to respond.

Yet, whether you believe it's by coordinated intention, consequential destiny, or simply a confluence of events, none of this is new. Traders talked about attacking the stock as far back as the iPhone's Macworld launch. BlackBerry, Microsoft, and Palm all tried attacking the iPhone's usability and feature sets. And dumb click-bait articles were dished out and devoured long before Apple even shipped their products.

But Apple was the underdog then, the rebel, the disruptor, the shiny new thing, and none of it mattered very much. No longer. Now they're the establishment, the mainstream, the status quo, the iteration, and cliched as it sounds, there's only one way left to go.

Daring Fireball's John Gruber has pointed out several times that this is something that has plagued Apple from the beginning. It's a cycle based on much older perceptions. That Apple is inherently flawed, and any success it has is a fluke. That Apple has bright, brief moments of Apple II and Mac and iPod, built up each time only to come tumbling back down again. Now it's the iPhone and iPads turn.

Yes, Apple has new leadership. It's Tim Cook now, and not Steve Jobs at the helm. Yes, Google and Samsung, once close partners, are now fierce competition. Yes, Apple has new competition, competition that use to be close partners. It's the services expertise of Google and manufacturing muscle of Samsung, and no longer the software of Microsoft or the devices of BlackBerry and Nokia. Yes, when BlackBerry 10 launches in a few weeks, iOS will be the oldest major operating system in mobile, and not the newest. And yes, Apple's stock, once absurdly low, currently getting kicked in the gut, has made them among the most highly valued -- and targeted -- in the world.

But it's impossible to point to anything delivered by Apple in the 2012 and say it's substantively different than what was delivered by them two years ago or four years ago when they were riding high in minds and markets, or different on average than what's being delivered by their competition today.

It's perception. It's psychology. It's how the unbeatable fighter, once scratched, is suddenly seen as beatable. It's how the only cool product option, once questioned, is suddenly just one among many options.

This, as much as software and services is the challenge Apple faces this year -- that the invincible and infallible titan that could do no wrong, has now lost that luster, and has become quite vincible. That where once bullets bounced off their chest, and they leapt whole markets in a single bound, now their enemies have found their kryptonite.

It's why we're being inundated with blogger ennui and pundit apathy. It's why we're being subjected to endless opinion pieces saying Apple needs a TV, or a watch, or an espresso maker, and bigger, cheaper, more colorful versions of all of it, and faster.

But here's the thing -- Apple has been here before. They've been to the very bottom, and they came back. Apple knows they're beatable -- that everyone is beatable -- and they know how to fight their way back. It's part of them now. It's why they make less expensive products rather than cheap ones, and why, up-cycle or down-, they'll stay profitable and stay in the fight. They'll keep making the best products they can, which may cost them in trends but keep them in business.

That experience, that understanding, is what makes Apple so interesting to watch not only month to month, but year to year and cycle to cycle.

Crazy stories will continue. Competition will increase. Click-bait will thrive. Pressure will only increase. And Apple will have to address it, on stage, on shelves, and online.

And it's what's going to make 2013 so interesting.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments



"you run adds making fun not of them, but making fun of the people who buy their products, painting them as brainwashed and bamboozled, as hopelessly uncool and cluelessly unhip"

Isn't this the same as the 1984 Macintosh commercial?

It was brilliant then and it is brilliant now.

I completely agree with you. I thought the Samsung commercials were funny and struck a chord of a long time apple stereotype. I know some found them insulting, but personally, I found them clever and funny. The comparison to the early Mac commercial is spot on.

People like to be offended by the Samsung ads and claim that it is really bold to attack the competition like that. Those same people are the ones that blatantly ignore when Apple does it. Did we all forget about the "I'm a PC and I'm a Mac" ads? Not to mention the 1984 Macintosh ad you are referring to.

It is all just business strategy and it shouldn't affect your life in the least bit.

Amazing article, great job Rene!

This article explains apple's current situation. IOS is great, there is no denying it, but apple is no longer the underdog. They do not have to fight for their survival and in some cases this has turned out to be devastating.(Blackberry)This year will be the real test for Apple... The test to determine if it will keep innovating (By innovating I mean basically redesigning IOS from the ground up, not simply putting a new look to it) or like others (Blackberry) simply fall from heaven.

Anyhow, BB10 rocks! (and so does IOS :)

Ironically, the picture from Hulk shows Rickson Gracie, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert who retired undefeated. But then again, I guess Georgia knows that.

It's not ironic. I chose Rickson particularly because of his reputation, and because of the crazy stories that swirled around him. (I must have watched Choke dozens of times over the years.)

Rene this is the best article you've written that I can remember. Sometimes I want to rule the world just to get rid of the mean spirited people who play games of influence for a price. Having writers admit that they put out stories just to affect Apple's stock price should be grounds for inprisonment. But we know that white collar crime here pays. People can bring down the economy and not suffer any consequences. So I'm not surprised that there are a_____es that want to prop up Google, Samsung and Microsoft or whoever hash't the integrity to create their own wealth. Thanks for a great article. I support Apple and have done so since the late seventies. I buy Apple and there isn't one Samsung or Microsoft or…benefitting from my money Google is harder to do away with but I try to use DuckDuckGo when I can. Don't be evil is long gone and now evil is under the floorboards everywhere you turn...

Please. Save your butthurt and visions of black helicopters for the Loop. Do you honestly believe that there are no tech "journalists" or bloggers firmly entrenched in the Apple camp. Look up "MG Siegler", read a few of his articles and get back to me. The days of "Apple against the world" are long gone.

Rene....Excellent job! This is EXACTLY what I needed! I keep reading these articles and stories. I've was wondering what the heck is going on with Apple and these reports!!! Didn't know where to look for some sense until I read your article. Now my feelings ;-)

First Sam(e)sung is hitting Apple hard and I mean, I really don't care about Android because it just looks toyish to me (green army robots, I mean really? as well as the whole look of it and performance is just not great to me and moreso confusing). And now BB is coming back, and by the looks of it (I owned a BB Storm) they are gonna come back and they are going to get back most of the old true BB lovers because that is one heck of an awesome and powerful OS running for them. I mean it may not be as easy as iOS, but it looks much more polished than Android by far. If I were to get a new phone if Apple really got to me, I'd go back to BB, if they were a hit, ha. If Apple cannot come back with powerful hits this year (these baby upgrades are just sad to be quite honest) to make people say 'WOW they are serious still', then I am gonna be really afraid for Apple. Yes what you have written makes sense and is beautiful, but I think that because it's in the MOBILE world, Apple would have to seriously wake up and smell the worm because they are just being pecked at and bruising. Their iPhone is really what brought them back. Let's be honest.

People have a hard time as it is dealing with the ridiculous Carriers pricing and they just want a phone with tons of working features that deliver a fast and powerful and unique experience and does over the top over another OS that will draw them into the OS. The metal and glass and the beautiful construction and precision that Apple uses in their devices and arguments is not going to matter to consumers much longer. It will all come down to price and function. If it's plastic and 199.99 or lower, offer SD slot (or whatever else interests people), great OS, bumped up Security (especially with BB in the house soon again), those phones will sell. People see Apple and think wow too expensive maybe we should consider something else for now (see, time is the enemy in Mobile world). And they will see another device and just compare the two and just stick to what works for them, and once they get used to it, the avg consumer is just going to stick to the brand, just as long as it works for them through the years and keeps them happy and trustworthy.

I think it's going to be a war on Quality OS over Quality device. New chip speeds and OS functions is the main drive of a Mobile phone, I'm pretty sure they know how to make a device and not fall apart be it plastic or metal--so what lol. If you drop your phone, hope your have insurance, if you take a chance well maybe you have some $ saved up. Matter of Choice here. People today have so much to do and only so much more every day, that they will see through Apple and say 'wow honey that other device does this this and that' and the men(or women) will say 'yeah babe we can't spend much on a mobile device if we want that hot tub', and Apple just does that, 'oh wow sweetie they just added it in the new OS, but it's old news now'.

The whole bring it to you now thing is old for Apple. Congratulations you perfected it over the years, SEE SIRI BETA, stutter. Yes they may go down for now, but if they do not UP the ante with iOS 7 and give much more function and a drastic improvement in many areas (device and OS but especially OS), they are just going to get slammed in the corner by the others and just maybe people will realize 'ok I really can't be without that one more thing that other guy has'. See what I did there? ;-)

As for I, I would just like to see different ways of opening things, rotations, easier way to change my ringtones within my friggin OS such as saving it to my ringtone files and deleting easily as I use my device, not make the notification at the top flip onto my current app OYE and probably a who buncha new additions to surprise me, yeah!. Yes this may not be what Apple wants, but in order to keep your people you must listen to them hellooooo what BB never did until now. The reason I left BB and wanted an iPhone oh so bad, was because the smoothness, and apps (which are eh now), the cool OS design, but now I am looking at BB and thinking wow cool OS different functions (just ooooh and ahhhhing me) which is what iOS 7 needs to do for people! If I am not mistaken, I just recently saw a BB 10 video of when you take a picture, you just tap anywhere on the screen? Uh hello, I've been wanting that feature for so long. Why is it that hard to implement in an OS? You can add Passbook but not something that's going to be used much more often?? I rather have a ton of features NOW rather than in another year, because you can always perfect it, as well as add something better in the following years. This new Apple team should come up with something drastic . Basically this is the Mobile world. If you are not going to play hard these days, then you mind as well go home or they will take you home. It's called business. Come on Apple, surprise us!!

Yes, the entire world, every company on the face on the Earth is involved in the giant conspiracy against Apple.

Or the simpler answer: they really have lost their touch, the OS really is stale, and people really will take their money elsewhere when they find out something is better.

What they don't understand that there is NO revolutionary product that can Disrupt the status quo. The status quo is SOCIAL and INTERNET, in these areas Apple is quite good. Sure the future maybe the wearable devices or something else, however, now is NOT the time for these devices. Just look at Sony's smart watch or "futuristic google glasses". They are simply irrelevant at the moment, and Google doesn't even know what is it going to do with these glasses.

Re: "There was little context or analysis, and little attempt to tell the reader what it may and may not mean, simply citing one or two anonymous sources."

True or not, the "story" served its purpose. Tons of hits on the web page, tons of links to the page from other sites, and it helped keep AAPL down for all those institutional hedgers.

There are still a few more days until the Apple earnings call, so we can expect more unsubstantiated sensational rumors about Apple until then.

"But it's impossible to point to anything delivered by Apple in the 2012 and say it's substantively different than what was delivered by them two years ago or four years ago when they were riding high in minds and markets, or different on average than what's being delivered by their competition today." Apple maps would disagree with you (while delivering you to the wrong address).

For me crack berry was never even an option coming from the Palm world of devices the offerings of RIM were just some corporatist Widbloze wannabes just waiting to screw you over and sell you out with back orafice type bullshit and their bloatware in cahoots to rip off dumbass companies by forcing them to be tied to an upgrade cycle of hardware. Now where the Apple is losing its shine is where they too with the governance of Cooke and the waves of sicophants that have invaded the overly tempting fruit and its stockpile of monies to slowly turn Apple into something more akin to the unpalatable Microsoft and Blackberry and their model of profit over style and innovation rather than style and innovation that permits you to generate better profit margins with your products. A model more in line with the neocon stink tanks marching orders for corperate governance. It is ripenfornthe picking and it will be drawn and quartered just like everybody now that its guardian and protector Steve Jobs is gone apple fandom be damded. In my opinion the iPhone 5 is what it is because it is more the creation of bean counters then artists and engineers. I for one prefer by far the feel and styling of my iPhone 4 and I have waited for the 5S perhaps even the 6. It is for me a step back from the wow of the original iPone and its successors style and form factor that knocked my socks off the 4 family the rest of them including samdung just wholesaledly ripped Apple off no matter what Lawyer driven Courtgames say. Lawyers and Beancouters and their overlords the Banksters, look no further for Apples downward spiral, look no further for our whole economic systems demise.

A). So who is behind this "conspiracy to crush Apple", then? Samsung? Google? Microsoft?

B) What "less expensive" product is being referred to here? The iPad Mini? Less expensive than what? The "new iPad" or the "iPad 4"?

Are there any grains of truth in any of the stories surrounding the reduction in manufacturing of parts used by Apple? Are there any facts at all that we can substantiate, or is it that any complaint about Apple "must be wrong" for, what reason, exactly?

Not everyone was "overwhelmed" by the iPhone 5, iPad mini, "new iPad" or "iPad 4". Apple is a very different company under Cook. While there may be logical explanations for reductions in capacity, the silence company from Cupertino on those comments, isn't helping Apple at all and yes, their stock is being hammered. Why exactly is that again?

Typo. Meant to say at the end that "The silence response from Cupertino on those comments isn't helping Apple at all".