Apple Stores on Mars

That's how I read every 'Apple is doomed' headline these days. Apple, which trapped speed-force-imbued lightning in a bottle with iPhone, is finally facing wind resistance almost no amount of additional energy or will can overcome. The company made more money and sold more iPhones — and other devices — than was dreamed possible even a few years ago, and yet they didn't sell more than the year-ago quarter.

So, once again, they get to enjoy the commentary of everyone who's run a company more successful than Tim Cook who has access to the internet telling them what they have to do to survive. And now.

Fair enough. That's how Wall Street works so and so that's how the attention seeking commentary has evolved. Profit is meaningless, business is irrelevant — it's growth that Wall Street wants to see.

To put it plainly, forget that Apple has gotten a Ferrari up to 250 mph on the highway. That's a bad thing because there's very little chance they could push it 260 mph. Now a Ferrari that's still on the starting line, that's exciting. That can go from zero to 100 mph quick. Or crash. Whatever. It's acceleration that matters, not speed. It's potential, not realization.

iPhone gravity well

iPhone was a once-in-a-lifetime business. The perfect confluence of multiple sea changes in computing and communications technology happening all at once, with a company uniquely positioned to take advantage of it. We went from swapping floppy disks on our desks to wireless networking in our pockets in the blink of an eye, and Apple had iPhone there to take us.

iPhone won the smartphone war. It won the even-more-personal computing war. It's over. Seriously. Stop typing your furious retort— in business you keep score with money and Apple took all the money.

iPhone was on AT&T until almost everyone who wanted one had it, then it went to Verizon and the other U.S. carriers, they went international and to China Mobile. Likewise, iPhone was 4-inches or less until almost everyone who was okay with a small screen had one, then it went to big and bigger screens.

What other major new markets are left? Customers are still upgrading, sure. Customers are switching from Android in record numbers, still. New customers are still coming online, of course. Emerging markets are emerging. But even Brazil, Russia, India, China, and the rest have limits. Once almost everyone on earth who wants an iPhone has one, what's next?

That thing about building Apple Stores on Mars up there was a joke. The rose gold planet simply isn't a big enough market.

Apple Watch could be interesting, though it's tough to see a confluence of events similar to those in the late 2000s that led to the iPhone's flabbergasting success. Computing would have to go quantum on the wrist just as communications get... entangled?

Absent another iPhone-sized business, what does Apple do? Not gain oligopoly control over scarce fossil fuel resources — even that's not big enough anymore. Maybe, then, Apple does many smaller things. Maybe now that iPhone has been built up as an enormous platform, it can be used as a platform to build up a great many other, very interesting things.

Interstellar-net of things

Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac are all making billions of dollars for Apple. And you know what they say — a billion here, a billion there, and all of a sudden it starts to be real money. (Actually, it's money so real, and so big, almost every other company in the world would sacrifice their executive teams to the Troll Gods for even the smallest of those businesses.)

Cars, HomeKit, Health, Apple Music, video services, mobile payments, projectables, and more are all on deck and, like App Store, could eventually contribute billions to the bottom line as well.

Apple CEO Tim Cook might have even been hinting as much during the Q2 2016 conference call yesterday. Preparing us for a world that and a company that, in 2017, will be very different than it was in 2007. More on that in a future column.

It's unclear if Wall Street noticed, though. They still don't notice the billions of dollars analysts and investors have given up over the years by misunderstanding Apple so chronically always.

Certainly its enough bullions by now to have funded... an Apple Store location scout to Mars?

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

7 Comments
  • I'd be laughing at all of these "apple is doomed" articles if I weren't also a stockholder. Ouch. Now that the majority of smartphone owners are on payment plans, it's tougher to justify that yearly or 2 year upgrade. When a new iPhone was 200-300 subsidized that was one thing, but after investing $750 in a payment plan over two years - a lot of customers would rather see a $30 decrease in their monthly bill than start a new plan. Especially when a 5S from three years ago is still more than adequate for the avg, non techie user.
  • @Mike Majesty, I think you are right... Wether Apple is able to sell a new phone yearly/bi-annually/tri-annually or at all to their current customers is the test that they are facing. But as long as Apple keeps pushing technology forward in ways that are beneficial to users, they will be able to plead their case et each iPhone release. Also, garnering recurring service/accessory revenues from the install base will also be a key focus going onward.
  • Touché, Rene! Pretty much preempted all the "furious retort" trolls and leaving them in the dust. Alas, you know they'll show up soon, anyway, once they're done with their Fruit Loops....wait for it....
  • Guess you guys could't clean the back of that Apple Watch before you took the picture.
  • Not just the Apple Watch; What happened to presentation?
  • Have to disagree on everyone on earth having an iPhone. Still Apple has lots of room to grow in India and Africa. Don't know in Africa but in India they don't even have apple owned retail stores, mostly its authorized apple retailers. I know it's hard for Rene to take any Apple criticism but the market will react for a quarter like this. Nothing wrong, markets are not Apple fanboys. Sent from the iMore App
  • The iPhone started the smartphone war and was winning but the Android competition caught up and in some cases surpassed Apple. That's the brutal reality. This is a big wake up call for Apple and I'm saying the as an iPhone user and fan. Sent from the iMore App