Apple faces a 'decade-long malaise,' says analyst

One Wall Street analyst sees a "decade-long malaise" ahead for Apple, as it deals with fallout from bugs in its iPhone devices.

"We believe Apple lacks the courage to lead the next generation of innovation (AI, cloud-based services, messaging); instead will become more reliant than ever on the iPhone," Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz wrote in a research note. "Over the next decade we believe the stock will generally underperform the market."

With more competition and slowing advances in products like phones, computers and tablets, Uerkwitz wrote that he expects fewer customers will be willing to pay higher prices or upgrade their devices at the same rate over the next decade.

A customer trying an iPhone 7 in an Apple Store.
Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images
A customer trying an iPhone 7 in an Apple Store.

As the iPhone approaches its 10th anniversary next year, "cracks are showing in the Apple wall of invulnerability," Uerkwitz wrote. Still, he notes that the company's growing emphasis on software and services could serve as a defense, although those have less utility and appeal in the large and highly regulated Chinese market.

His comments come as the iPhone maker has recently offered fixes for two different long-standing bugs.

Last week, Apple launched a repair program for "touch disease," which leaves iPhone 6 Plus devices with flickering, unresponsive screens after being dropped. Then, another new repair program emerged, this time for battery replacements on iPhone 6s models that unexpectedly shut down.

But Roger McNamee, co-founder of Elevation Partners and a technology investor, said that while he agrees with some of Uerkwitz's conclusions, the note was "click-bait."

"The law of large numbers makes it almost impossible for Apple to outperform the market materially," McNamee told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Monday. "And it's just reached a scale where hyper-growth is very hard. But accusing them of not having the courage to lead AI is ridiculous."

This isn't the first time an analyst has rung the death knell for Apple. More than a year ago, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi told CNBC the tech company's best days were behind it. Apple shares have fallen more than 6 percent over the past 12 months.

However, McNamee said that Apple is doing many interesting things to maximize its growth, while artificial intelligence is a "catch all for every new computer project that doesn't actually have a use case." Many of the early efforts of AI aren't a "must have" for consumers, McNamee said — and some are even problematic.

"At the end of the day, the challenge that we face as technology investors is that we are coming off the mother of all product cycles with smartphones," McNamee said. "And there really is nothing on the horizon one-tenth as large. You look at something like virtual reality — a concept I think will produce a really significant business opportunity — by comparison to smartphones, it's tiny."