Apple was frequently doomed, now it’s worth a trillion bucks – go figure

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Apple has finally become a trillion-dollar company, the first US-listed company to do so. You’ll be hearing a lot about what a remarkable achievement this is in the financial sense, as well as a lot of oohing and aaahing from Wall Street mavens who admire very big numbers (as long as they’re black and not red), and the inevitable hand-wringing from other analysts wondering, “But how long can this last?”

Yada yada yada.

As some of you may know, I’m a technology guy. I don’t give a flip about share prices, market valuations or other Wall Street hoodoo. I’m not saying they’re not important – I’m just saying my opinions about a given tech company are based more on what they actually do (and how well they do it) rather than whether it’s revenues are hitting some analyst target. (Oh no! Acme Gizmo Corp only increased its Q2 profit by 20% instead of 22%! Epic fail! O woe! O they’re doomed! Yada yada. And furthermore: yada.)

Which is why for my money*, the big news about Apple’s trillion-dollar achievement is the fact it achieved that at all – given over 20 years of predictions from financial and tech “experts” that Apple had finally peaked as a company, the glory days were long gone and we should all put our money in a proper device company like Nokia or Samsung.

Seriously. I have literally lost count of all the times that Apple has made its annual new-product announcements, only for naysayers to say, “Is that it? Looks like Apple has run out of ideas.” (For the record, The Mac Observer has been keeping count since 1995 – they were up to 71 as of the start of this year.)

Easy example: I remember analysts being underwhelmed by every upgrade to the original iPod until it became the iPhone – and even then, tech fans complained because it wasn’t even a 3G iPhone (partly because Apple believed Wi-Fi would deliver a better app experience – which of course, at the time, it did).

While the iPhone and its accompanying App Store ended up defining the mobile internet ecosystem as we know it, analysts still managed to find things to complain about. Granted, a lot of that was the result of Apple setting its own bar higher and higher. But every year we heard a fresh round of declarations that Apple had lost its mojo in terms of design innovation, or was making dumb decisions that the market would never accept (“Where the hell is the headphone jack?”), or was limiting its growth potential by insisting on a closed, tightly controlled hardware/software ecosystem at a time when everyone else was going third-party/open-source. I recall a number of analysts pointing out that Google’s Android ecosystem was so much bigger, and that Android phones would consequently outsell iPhones to the point that Apple was doomed to be a niche player.

Some niche.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before

The point isn’t that we should never listen to experts, or that Apple never makes mistakes or dumb decisions. It just seems that so many of the “Apple is done” predictions were based on criteria that – in the end – didn’t matter in real life. What mattered is that Apple stuck to its guns, did what it knew how to do – sometimes leading, sometimes trailing, but moving forward, nevertheless – and now its market valuation somehow has 12 zeros in it.

Hey ho.

And of course the 12 zeros don’t really matter that much – not to me, anyway. Which is why if/when Apple eventually slides down from that watermark (and personally I think it will one day – only a fool would believe company and market growth can feasibly be one endless hockey stick), I doubt it will spell the end of the company, barring some major scandal of Biblical (or Enron) proportions.

Either way, I imagine Apple could arguably lose one or two zeros at this stage and still remain a viable player. If Apple’s star starts to fall fast at all, it may be the result of a disruptive change in the mobile ecosystem that will impact all incumbents, not just Apple. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, beware the doom prophets who try to tell you Apple is done. I’m sure it matters if you have money on the table – and again, I don’t understand (or particularly care) how the Wall Street machinations of all this works, so feel free to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about. What I do know is that we’ve heard the “Apple is done” meme before – many, many times. So the hand-wringers might bear that in mind.


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