Apple in 2012: 5 Reasons It Will Be a Tough Year

Even though Apple's competition will not catch up next year, expect an exodus of talent in Cupertino in 2012 and perhaps some internal drama at the top of the Apple organizational chart, say tech analysts.

Thu, December 15, 2011

CIO — Apple's extraordinary run over the last few years may begin to show signs of slowing next year—its first year without visionary leader Steve Jobs.

While we'll probably see an iPhone 5 that takes advantage of maturing, more power-efficient 4G chipsets, a ground-breaking product such as the iPhone, iPad or MacBook Air isn't likely in the cards at Cupertino.

But not all is doom and gloom for Apple; Apple's rivals are stumbling badly and will likely fall further next year. As a result, the iPad may take an insurmountable lead in the tablet market, while the iPhone carves into the Android smartphone lead, simple because competitors will face-plant around iOS.

Here are some bold predictions about Apple's challenging year ahead:

Apple's Enterprise Strategy Gets Cooking

CIOs should expect a warmer Apple with new CEO Tim Cook at the helm. In the past, says veteran tech analyst Rob Enderle, "Apple resisted enterprise pressure largely because Jobs thought IT managers were idiots, likely a holdover from the Lisa days. Cook is more enterprise friendly, and I expect Apple to start embracing the enterprise more as a result."

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But Cook will need to show some restraint with his overtures to the enterprise. Truth is, it is difficult to court both companies and consumers. They are at odds with each other when it comes to usability features. Apple's success is built on consumers loving its products.

"The danger will be if Apple goes too far, as Microsoft did, and forget the user," Enderle says. "In that case, it will likely kill the company."

Will the Next Big Thing Come from Apple?

The bigger problem is on the product side.

While everyone's eyes are on the iPhone 5 for next year (check out this concept video of the future iPhone), it's unlikely Cook can deliver the kind of visionary product such as the iPhone and iPad the way Jobs did. That's because Cook isn't a product guy. As Apple's tumultuous history under executive-types such as John Sculley and Gil Amelio shows, Apple just doesn't do well with an operations leader running the show.

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So why was Cook put in charge in the first place?

"Cook was selected because Steve felt that, when he recovered, he would be able to take the job back—up until the end, Steve though he would recover," Enderle says. "The result is they have the wrong guy at the top job and will either need to reformat the company to address the skill shortfall and redesign it around Cook or find someone to truly backfill Jobs. Otherwise, the company will likely drop into a decline, very slow at first but accelerating as long as the skill mismatch continues."

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