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Has Apple peaked?

by Scott Bicheno on 22 July 2010, 07:00

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

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Fan-boy ire

To many, the iPad is just a big iPod touch, and that kind of over-the-top marketing is starting to grate with even traditional Apple fans. My brother - Shaun - is an unashamed Apple fan-boy, and I consulted him when writing this piece as I don't own any Apple products. He has an iPhone, and iPod and has worked with Macs in a professional capacity for over a decade.

"The iPad was the ultimate in product launch bathos," said Shaun. "It offers so little more than screen size compared to existing products, and many of the features so widely anticipated were not present. It was still presented to us as the answer to all of our hopes and dreams, which is patronising and disrespectful." You see?

"Products seem to be taking longer to get produced and launched now, and media hype is starting earlier in the production process," he added. "I feel like the fan boy loyalty is being taken so badly for granted that first products are deliberately being launched ‘feature light' in order to fleece the suckers first up.

"There is a space in the iPad for a camera but it is an empty space, for now. Video conferencing was always going to be a key component of such a product and when the next one comes out with a camera, the existing ones will be crap."

Shaun's fan-boy irritation extends to Antennagate, and the ensuing press conference (embedded below). "The ‘not such a big deal' argument is where I feel most Apple fanboys will get the hump," he said. "We buy Apple because of its excellence of design and engineering, its longevity and ease of use.

"Attention to detail is where Apple kicks its competitors' arses, so a phone that does not function as a phone and whose ergonomics have not been properly researched or tested is unacceptable to us. This is the kind of fault that we laugh at when other people buy another brand of product and pat ourselves on the back in the knowledge that such a horrible oversight could not happen to us, while we pay the significant Apple premium.

"Not only is this a big deal, it's actually bigger than the media yet realise or have stated. It is the chink in the armour and it suggests a systematic failure in Apple's product development, which we have not seen since the return of Steve Jobs over 10 years ago. It is a sign that the company is headed in the wrong direction and it is by no means the first sign either.

"No iPhone has functioned very well as a phone, this needs to be written by somebody," said Shaun bordering - with some justification in the case of this piece, it must be said - on telling me how to do my job. "I have the 3G and the signal is weak. Sometimes the signal drops off so badly that I have to reboot. Some of these problems get resolved on the quiet with software updates but they are rarely owned up to.

"Apple software has been pretty flaky for a while: Mail is buggy, Safari crashed on a great many sites (especially ones with aspx forms I think), so now many serious Mac professionals use Firefox and an alternative Email client. iLife/iWork are not such good interfaces as we are used to, and are expensive and shoved down our throats. There are some OS features (native ODBC driver, proper remote desktop access) that should be standard in a ‘high-spec' machine; they are in Windows but not MacOS."