Apple Needs a "Supernatural" Being to Replace Steve Jobs
On the cusp of earnings, one analyst weighs in on the future of Apple.
"I have followed Steve Jobs for more than 20 years," Trip Chowdhry, the Managing Director of Equity Research at Global Equities Research, told Benzinga. "There was only one Thomas Edison. There was only one Albert Einstein. Nobody has come close. Similarly, there was only one Steve Jobs."
Chowdhry said that while companies often survive when their founders retire or pass on, "[the companies] are just participants -- they are not the trendsetters."
"The question for investors today is this: is Apple going to be a trendsetter or be a participant in somebody else's trend?" Chowdhry questioned. "The jury is out. We don't know. We have to keep an eye on Apple's biggest threat, [which] is not what the company is going to do; the biggest challenge is [happening] internally. They have more internal problems than external problems because they don't have a unified force."
But without Jobs, how can Apple become unified again?
"You can't clone Steve Jobs," Chowdhry insisted. "If that were the case, we would have had many Albert Einsteins. We would have had many Thomas Edisons. But something that Einstein could have done, nobody else could. Apple would need a completely different -- maybe supernatural -- person to continue the pace. But that is unlikely."
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"The question is this: is that a mover?" Chowdhry questioned. "Is that enough? Remember, in 1997 to 2000, what was the innovation? Multiple colors. Apple was the first who had different colors of iMacs -- green, blue. That was innovation and everyone copied that. After that, Acer, Sony (NYSE: SNE), Asus, HP (NYSE: HPQ) -- they all came out with color computers. But Apple realized that that differentiation was not a sustainable differentiation. So they do not do that anymore. Do you see colorful iMacs anymore? No."
Next, Chowdhry said that Apple came out with the first unibody laptop, followed by the slim MacBook Airs. "Today, Samsung, Asus, HP -- everyone is coming out with a slim [laptop]. If Apple releases another slim computer, do you call it innovation? No. It is participation. Reducing the size of Macs is common sense now. It is not considered innovation."
Chowdhry said that he thinks of the slim computers as being "common sense" for one reason. "When Microsoft does something, it becomes common sense, finally," he said. "And if the Windows platform is finally going slim, it is common sense."
Other Areas of Innovation
Going forward, Chowdhry said we should look to other areas for innovation. "What is the next UI?" he wonders. "What is the next killer application? What is the next user interaction? What is the next new form factor? Making it an inch thinner isn't a new form factor anymore -- the MacBook Air already does that."
The real question, Chowdhry said, is what will be the next big thing that Apple will launch? "Not incremental updates, but entirely different products," he clarified. "That's what will drive the stock up."
Chowdhry blames the "same form factor" as one of the reasons why the iPad 3 has had somewhat of a "mixed adoption in the market."
"The iPad 1 and iPad 2 were dramatically different, so iPad 2 became very successful," Chowdhry noted. "The form factor from iPad 2 and iPad 3 is almost the same. To generate revenue further, your design has to change. Not the existing product, but they should come up with something new and unique."
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