The watch got there in the end. The car didn’t.

Apple bought some incredible talent. They’ve made some great TV and some not-so-great TV.

They have built a tablet so powerful that even they don’t know what to use it for.

Developers and regulators find themselves unlikely allies in a battle against corporate greed.

Apple’s next big thing looks and behaves like a weird hybrid prototype dreamed up by a materials geek and video gamer. Vision Pro does nothing particularly well, and I suspect that even its most ardent apologists don’t put it on much any more.

The company trumpets that build quality is so good that people need to replace devices less frequently, making Wall Street analysts raise quizzical eyebrows. Isn’t meteoric growth already factored into the share price?

It is not news to anyone that Apple is pursuing service revenue. That they are behind in “Artificial Intelligence”—sorry, “Apple Intelligence”—is an open secret.

Still, the phones are great, Macs are better than ever, and peripherals are going great guns. Everything will be fine, surely. Apple is different from other tech companies.

Actually, No. I don’t think it will be fine.

In the 21st century, Apple has grown and grown, delivering spectacular margins by charging a premium for the best kit on the market. The iPhone was the ultimate aspirational handset, the device that reinvented the mobile phone market. It provides 60% of Apple’s revenue, more if you count in the services revenue, which is driven by the ubiquity of Apple devices.

I’ve carried an iPhone since 2008 and never doubted that it was the best handset on the market. It made my Nokia look ancient. Inevitably, as the iPhone grew and grew, the rest of the market tried to emulate it, but Apple kept ahead through innovation and increasingly slick marketing.

In 2024, every phone is an iPhone. Whisper it, but some competing handsets might, by some measures, be better than the iPhone. All the six or seven-inch smartphones look the same, do the same, and even perform the same. Inevitably, the device is becoming commoditised. Rarely will that support premium margins.

Increasingly, Apple looks to service revenue to bolster performance. It fights ferociously to protect its slice of third-party sales and subscriptions, going to war with regulators over it.

Apple doesn’t mine data like Google, although it’s happy to take Google billions (earned from mined data) and position it as the default search engine on the iPhone.

Apple won’t scrape the internet to provide its AI services, as Microsoft does through Open AI, although it did scrape the net to train its models.

Increasingly, Apple looks very similar to other tech companies. It’s gambled billions on things like a self-driving car and a headset that, although terribly clever, doesn’t actually have a use case. It’s pouring money into legal arm wrestles that it can’t win.

There are some very smart people at Apple who surely have a strategy to drive the company forward. This must be a secret strategy because the ones they’re pursuing in the open are going nowhere.

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