Fast Company magazine's cover story about Apple and its fading star for 2008 hits stands today and after reading an advance copy of the article, and appearing on air yesterday with its author, I blogged about my thoughts on the criticisms.
This morning, the mag's executive editor, Will Bourne, responded to my post by opening that he has "no problem with your taking issue with the story. Believe me, we expected plenty of criticism (we actually had our office doors reinforced for the occasion.)" While that might be a little hyperbole, he goes on to say that he's not exactly sure I "demolished" the cover story since by the end of the post "you're half-way agreeing with our central premise. As the piece states clearly, we weren't saying Apple is going under, or that it's going to lose customers in droves..."
Will claims Apple CEO Steve Jobs "ain't gonna recreate the iPod/iTunes synergy in the video space, which is where the next wave of mega-growth is coming." He says Jobs has failed to create the kind of content partnerships that made iPod such a smash, and that absent those partnerships, "he failed to create a video platform for the home that can deliver the vast universe of content out there." He adds that "the heat Apple generated via the iTunes/iPod phenomenon is going to be very hard to recreate, and without it, Apple is, well, a hardware maker. It has plenty of room to grow, but the feeding frenzy, we're suggesting, is likely to taper off. It's hard to be the 'It' girl forever."
And finally, yes, Will says Fast Company is indeed calling a top to Apple stock. He does acknowledge, as I wrote yesterday, that Fast Company has "been wrong before," reporting four years ago that Apple was on the verge of hitting the innovation wall. And of course, we all know what's happened to the company and its shares since. "But that's the risk you run in not simply recycling the conventional wisdom."
The fact is that's exactly what Fast Company is doing right now. "Recycling" what was thought to be the conventional wisdom four years ago. At that time, the mag's article seemed reasonable and yet Apple since has exploded. Who's to say the company isn't poised to do exactly the same thing again today?
Look, past performance is no guarantee of future results. But if you look at the trends lining up right now: digital entertainment, Mac's far more broad appeal in the marketplace, with the company selling over 2 million computers for the first time last quarter, and with Apple's nascent entry into the booming wireless world with its iPhone; Apple is sitting pretty.
I think Fast Company is trying to take a contrarian view on arguably the hottest company in tech right now to generate "heat," and controversy, and get people to read what else might be in the magazine. I certainly don't begrudge the magazine from doing so. That's the journalism business nowadays. And this is a business. Reasonable people can disagree. And we do.
If I didn't successfully "demolish" the cover story, I hope at least to call its premise into question. If these trends continue, and so far there's no reason to think otherwise, I think a bet against Apple, longer term is a sucker's bet at best. And since "Fast Company" has gone over this ground before, you have to consider the source when looking at what the magazine is predicting today.
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