Historically, This Is Apple’s Biggest Problem And It’s Haunting The Company Yet Again

In a recent missive I asked who is to blame for Apple’s ridiculously crazy stock drop. The answer is more hysterical than historical. Apple, even without dear leader Steve Jobs, seems to be cruising along and racking up record revenue and profit numbers, along with ever growing unit sales.

So, what’s the problem?

As I look at it, it’s the same problem Apple has always experienced. Apple innovates and drives new technology into the market, either creating a new segment, or disrupting what was considered a mature market segment.

Look at the Mac first. Apple’s Mac OS and graphical interface defined computers for decades to come. Apple, of course, profited by the innovation and market disruption but fell into a malaise of mediocrity until Steve Jobs returned.

In other words, Apple innovated and disrupted, while others came in to claim the territory. It’s the pioneers who get arrows in the back, but the settlers that get the land.

Not much has changed at Apple. The company pioneered the new generation of portable media player, only to see the market shift toward smart phones which provided more value than the iPod.

Apple entered the smart phone business with a unique package that brought about quick disruption and destruction of traditional players, but was quickly copied by Google’s Android which dominates the market (though, not profits or revenue).

Apple expanded the iOS-based iPhone and iPod touch to move quickly into the tablet arena, disrupting Microsoft and their OEM partners, and creating an entirely new post-PC era. Apple owns a chunk of that market segment’s revenue and profit but is besieged by competition.

Frankly, Apple’s position now with smart phones and tablets and an integrated ecosystem of apps and developers and services is vastly superior to Apple’s position with the Mac back in the 1980s and 1990s.

So what?

Stock market analysts, tech media critics, and the technorati elite think this is the same old Apple. Innovate. Disrupt. Get clobbered by the competition, similar to what happened to the Mac at the hands of Microsoft and the PC.

In short, Apple’s biggest problem today is Apple’s history of yesterday. With the Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, App Store, and iTunes, Apple’s fortunes have neither been better, nor the company more richly rewarded for innovating and disrupting.

Despite that better-than-ever positioning, the aforementioned elite still view Apple as the victim of the Microsoft vs. Apple era, rather than the victor in the post-PC era. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook’s big challenge is to continue to grow Apple above and beyond the innovator, disrupter, and eventual loser to the forces of competition.