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5 Things That Could Slow Apple's Success

Let Apple's example be a lesson to you: Staying on top of your game--no matter how successful you are--is a never-ending struggle.

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The press is wondering if Apple has lost its cool. Investors are punishing the company for slower iPhone sales than expected. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple has cut its screen orders in half as a result (though there's some doubt about accuracy of that story).

Is Apple on the decline? I see five factors that may be affecting the company's momentum. It doesn't matter what size your business is or how successful--all of these challenges suggest there really never is a good time to rest on your laurels.

1. Samsung Domination

Samsung has taken over the smartphone market. According to Millennial Media, Android handsets made by Samsung are wholly dominant, holding a 46% market share as of Q4 last year. I've noticed this trend myself, walking into a local AT&T store and seeing one customer after another head straight to the Galaxy SIII display and bypassing the iPhone altogether. Clearly, Android phones are gaining ground and that is not good news for Apple's market share.

2. iPhone Slide

Speaking of the iPhone, there are signs that this super-light, powerful phone may be losing some luster. For one, the iPhone 5 doesn't have the same allure the device once had for developers: There are fewer iPhone-only apps, especially for business use. But, most importantly, many business and consumer users already have a smartphone. Apple may be working on a low-cost iPhone to spur sales, but there just isn't the same market opportunity the company has enjoyed over the past few years.

3. iTunes 11 Design

The re-design of this popular music app is a head-scratcher. Apple has always led by example with good UI practices. For some reason, even basic functions like transferring a playlist to an iPod seem difficult. Some features disappeared entirely: for example, I haven't been able to find a detailed album list view yet. And, there are too many menus. You can see a list of artists, a library view, and the File menu all at the same time, plus two more pop-up menus.

4. Touch Laptops

While I'm not a big fan of the Windows 8 user interface, it's clear that this new OS is now wholly dominant. And there's an upside: Touch notebooks do move us away from the mouse and provide an alternative for the keyboard. Apple is content to rely on the amazing success of the iPad, but that tablet is hard to use for real productivity. The MacBook has an incredibly high-res display, but no touch screen. That could cause some business users to stick with Windows.

5. Lack of Innovation

The one factor that could create a downward spiral for Apple is simple lack of innovation. Over the past few years, the company has been making sequels to its most amazing products. That can work for Indiana Jones or Star Wars, but tech buyers are savvy: They want something that is so cutting edge that it changes how they work. Apple needs a homerun--maybe something like an Apple TV with voice recognition and easy access to online shows. Or maybe it is a completely different device. Whatever it is, it must be something unexpected that reignites the brand.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Jan 30, 2013

JOHN BRANDON is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.
@jmbrandonbb




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