Marco Arment on, I guess, a potential demise of Apple:1

Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for. If they’re right — and that’s a big “if” — I’m worried for Apple.”

What if they’re wrong though?

If Google is wrong, and computing continues to be defined by a tightly controlled grid of siloed apps that you poke a thousand times a day on a smooth rectangle of manufacturing excellence, Apple is fine. They’re doing a great job of what computing is today, and what it will probably continue to be for a long time.”

Not quite.

Actually, this is not accurate. Not all of these companies can “win”, some have to fail. So essentially Google, Amazon, and Facebook are fighting for their futures. If they are wrong, some or all likely meet Blackberry’s fate. If they are right, they could still lose and meet Blackberry’s fate because their competitors do it better, or something like that. Blackberry wasn’t wrong — they saw the mobile phone becoming an essential tool for everyone — Blackberry just didn’t win.

Now, back to Apple. Let’s assume that Marco is right and Apple isn’t even fucking trying big data or AI. (I personally feel there is little chance this is a correct assumption, but whatever. It actually doesn’t matter.) Let’s say, for shits and giggles, that Facebook wins at AI and Google wins at big data and Amazon does something else we don’t care about for this post. Does Apple become irrelevant?

If you assume that they do, then essentially you think the iPhone paved the way. You think that the iPod was the first MP3 player, you think OS X was state of the art — and on and on. Apple rarely does it first. None of those things did it first. It’s not a zero-sum game.

Apple succeeds right now because they do it better. Will it be hard to catch up? Maybe, but so far it’s not been hard for Apple at all. Not under Steve Jobs, and not under Tim Cook.

Let’s also not forget Maps. When the iPhone came out, I don’t think Apple was prepared for just how crucial mapping would be. They just relied on Google to get it right. And then, Apple Maps. Is it better? That’s subjective. But it is most certainly good enough. The Apple Watch wasn’t even close to being the first. Is it amazing? Depends. But is it better than any other smart watch? Yes.

So, even if Facebook, Google, and Amazon beat Apple to something, they would all very much want their something on the iPhone. Because: iPhone.

As long as iPhone still trumps all — iPhone still trumps all. Even if Apple has to start 3 years in the hole — we’ve seen them do it successfully with Apple Maps and many other things — it doesn’t hurt them, it just doesn’t help them.

The iPhone trumps, and cash is King. Apple has both — massive amounts of both if we are talking about cash.

Apple can wait and take their time. They can be cautious, they are in a position where they don’t need to skate to where every puck will be, they just need to be ready to drop everything to get to the puck once they think they know where it is about to land. This is a strategy that works for only a hand full of companies because it takes a dominant market position, and cash. This is exactly how Internet Explorer won over Netscape Navigator, by the way.


  1. Perhaps this is more of a warning, or a complaint about iCloud services? 


Posted by Ben Brooks