For and Against: Will 2012 be a good year for Apple?
Will Apple's market domination and success continue into 2012 without the inspiring influence of founding father Steve Jobs?
When Steve Jobs passed away last year it felt more like the death of a much-loved statesman than of a figure from commerce or technology. I don't remember the same reaction for any other major corporate figure in recent years. But that's because Steve Jobs was like no other businessman or inventor of our age, and so I suppose it's fair enough to be concerned for the future of 'his' company.
Personally, I have very little doubt that in this coming year Apple will thrive, prosper and even enhance its reputation as the provider of the coolest tech on offer. But given that Jobs was so iconic, and bearingin mind the slump in the company's fortunes after he was forced out in 1985 and how he led the company's comeback more than a decade later, why am I so positive about the outlook for Apple in 2012?
There are many reasons: I could start with the fact that Apple's sales figures in 2012 are already pretty much pre-determined by the current generation of iProducts that are available now.
The team responsible for Apple's game-changing products is still in place, headed by its senior vice president of industrial design, the recently knighted Jonathan Ive. Ive is credited as the leading designer and conceptual mind behind the whole lineage of Apple products starting with the iMac, through the MacBooks and onto the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. He is a multi-award winner with over 400 patents to his name; as recently as 2010, Fortune magazine named Ive as the "world's smartest designer".
While Jobs will be hugely missed, don't forget that his long illness (he was first diagnosed in 2003) did not stop the company becoming one of the world's largest technology companies by revenue (over $65bn in 2010) and profit.
In fact, Ives is only one of a set of top execs who have been with the company for more than a decade ' others include Tim Cook, Jobs' successor as CEO who held the post while he was absent through illness, Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's chief financial officer, head of product marketing Philip Schiller, and Scott Forstall who heads Apple's development of software for the iPhone and iPad. In other words, the team Jobs put together and which has been responsible for so much of the company's success is still very much in place.
But the main reason Apple will go from strength to strength is the sheer weight of the brand, the ubiquity of its products and its market penetration.
Apple, according to a study by global research agency Millward Brown, is now the most valuable consumer-facing brand in the world. Somehow it manages simultaneously to appeal to businessman, tech geek, child, adolescent, teenager, home user, stay-at-home mum and silver surfer alike. I work in marketing at tech company Harwin. I use an iPad to present new company developments because it is very portable, easy to use and ' crucially ' because it says to customers (without needing to use the words) that Harwin is a modern company with an up-to-the-minute approach to business. Shamelessly, I am associating my company with the values if the Apple brand'and I am not alone.
People choose Apple for many different reasons. The cool, funky factor makes iPhones the number one must-have item for teenagers and the stylish, while the sleek design of Apple's iMac and MacBookAir PCs and laptops makes even non-techies fall in love with 'their Mac'. And it's a love affair that I believe will last. According to the Economist, Apple's share of the tablet market is over 61 per cent. Combined, the total Android share is about 30 per cent and under pressure. While many other tablets offer the same (or even better) performance, they do not have the 'wow' factor.
Apple changed the world by making technology desirable and easy to use. While other companies make products with the same functionality they are following a trend ' set by Apple ' and they lack any immediate differentiating element.