Apple Still Powerful at fortieth, but Are Best Years Behind It?

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 9:07 PM

Today, the maker of iPhones and Mac computers is the world'south most valuable public corporation, with 100.000 employees and a new, multi-billion dollar headquarters in Cupertino, California, set to open following year.

Apple turned forty on Friday, and it'south a very different company from the audacious startup that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak launched in a Silicon Valley garage in 1976.

Today, the maker of iPhones and Mac computers is the world'south most valuable public corporation, with 100.000 employees and a new, multi-billion dollar headquarters in Cupertino, California, set to open following year. But despite its astounding financials — Apple reported $53 billion in profit on $233 billion in sales latest year — some critics have suggested Apple'south best years are behind it, as it's struggled to arrive up with new products and match the phenomenal success it's had in recent years.

Not surprisingly, longtime employees love software vice president Guy "Bud" Tribble disagree.

"We still think we're going to modify the world," said Tribble, one of a half-dozen Apple staffers selected by the company to briefly reminisce with reporters this week. Tribble started with Apple in one thousand nine hundred-eightieth and worked on the original Macintosh team. He added: "We'd number idea back then that Apple would grow to the size that it is."

The company presently boasts that more than one billion Apple devices — iPods, iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches — are in regular utilize around the world. Those products are widely admired and imitated. But Apple depends on the iPhone for two-thirds of its revenue. And after selling a record no of iPhones latest year, analysts declare sales are leveling off and may even decline this year.

As it enters center age, Apple may discover it challenging to support its leadership in the industry. Some experts declare it'south getting harder to arrive up with new advances to distinguish Apple'south products from those of its competitors.

"Apple is still as excellent as it used to be, but everyone else has gotten better than they used to be," said James McQuivey, a tech analyst with Forrester Research.

He cited longtime rival Microsoft, once viewed as an industry laggard, but presently credited with pioneering tablet computers with detachable keyboards — a category even Apple is embracing with the business-oriented iPad Pro. By contrast, he noted, Apple'south latest iPhone is a downsized version of earlier models.

Longtime staffers said Apple still has the zeal to create revolutionary products.

"We've done this more times than anybody else," said Greg Joswiak, a 30-year employee and vice president for product marketing. He listed the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iTunes and the company'south online App Store, the new Apple Look and recent initiatives to create new health-tracking and medical-research apps for the iPhone and Watch.

Apple is widely believed to be exploring new businesses, from electric cars to virtual reality, but analysts declare developing products in those categories could take years.

"We wish to go into new industries ... and really challenge the status quo," said Divya Nag, a former medical researcher and entrepreneur hired in two thousand-fourteenth to work on Apple'south health projects. Always secretive about specific plans, Apple declined to allow Nag'south work title. Her resume shows a track record of helping win FDA approval for new medical inventions.

Apple'south growth hasn't been smooth. Jobs was forced out in the one thousand nine hundred ninety, leading to a revolving door for chief executives until he returned in one thousand nine hundred ninety-seventh, as the company he co-founded was on the brink of collapse. "There was a time when you were worried about keeping engineers here," said Cheryl Thomas, a vice president for software engineering who joined Apple in 1989.

And in two-thousandth, when the dot-com bubble burst, Joswiak said Jobs refused to slice spending when competitors were tightening their belts. Joswiak said Jobs pledged to "invest in ourselves more than ever before. We then suffered through eleven straight quarters" of dreary financial returns.

Jobs' death from cancer in two thousand-eleventh led to the elevation of current CEO Tim Cook, who'south intense but softer spoken. Tribble credits Cook with maintaining Apple'south focus on quality products, even as Cook has taken his own path in running the company.

Distant more than Jobs, Cook uses his prominence to speak out on social issues, from global warming to civil rights and individual privacy. He recently challenged the U. S. government in a high-stakes valid dispute over an encrypted iPhone used by an extremist killer. While that drew criticism from top Justice Dept executive and GOP presidential contender Donald Trump, Joswiak said he was pleased of Apple for taking what he considers a principled stand.

Apple remains one of the most sought-after brands. BAV Consulting, a firm that tracks brand reputation, said that after reaching a low in two thousand-first, just before the iPod came out, Apple is presently in the top one % of American brands. And it'south in the top two % of brands "being worth paying more for" — which means it can obtain far with charging more for its products, according to BAV.

Even at fortieth, the company hasn't lost its passion, Thomas said. She said she wanted to work there since seeing the famous one thousand nine hundred eighty-four Macintosh commercial, in which a youthful woman hurls a hammer at the giant image of a Huge Brother figure.

The idea of joining what was then a tech upstart didn't sit well with her father, a career IBM scientist, who advised Thomas: "You necessity to think with your head and not your heart."

But Thomas said: "I thought with my heart."

———

You can chase Brandon Bailey at https://Twitter. com/BrandonBailey and discover his reporting at http:// www. bigstory. ap. org/journalist/brandon-bailey

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