Apple competitors smell blood - 2012 will be key

Apple is in a semi-vulnerable place currently. They're not actually vulnerable financially, they have a loyal user base and a ton of money in the bank, but if you were to look at the last year here's some things to consider:

 

  • For whatever reason, the iPhone 4S came out 3 months too late. It could have been Japan and a shortage of components, or it could have been delays in iOS 5 development, but regardless it came out late. Had we gotten the iPhone 4s in the summer the argument that the iPhone 4S looks like the iPhone 4 would have not been as strong. Consumers waited 15+ months for the new iPhone, and they didn't get the super new redesigned iPhone they expected. I agree with those that say we didn't need one in 2011, I'm just saying the iPhone 4S would have been better received within the 12 month cycle. 
  • Trickle-down from the above point, without a new high-demand product in circulation for the 3Q the financials suffered. I believe Apple will have a fantastic 4Q, but regardless this was the first actually disappointing quarter even if the reasons were quite obvious (the later release of the iPhone 4S). 
  • The competition is definitely getting better. I do think it's laughable that there were Android fans back with the first release of Android, but they were promised an open environment. That proved to be a lie, however now they do actually have a pretty good OS. Fragmentation, etc..etc.. still exist, there are a ton of issues, but Android is pretty much caught up overall and they do have benefits to their platform over Apple. 
  • While I don't know if people buying the Kindle Fire would have bought an iPad anyway (due to the price difference), the Kindle Fire brings the tablets as an acceptable cheap competitor. Even with poor reviews, this still takes money away from Apple's pocket and might even turn people away from tablets all-together because the Fire simply isn't as useful. 
  • OS X Lion's release seems to be a mixed bag as far as results go. We're not likely to see the true benefits until late this year or early next year. 

My feeling is Apple needs to really grab for momentum next year. The iPhone 5 (or whatever it'll be called) needs to be that incredible device some were expecting this year. And the iPad needs something more… It can't just be thinner, and have a better screen. It needs a killer feature. It needs to have that creative twist that Apple typically adds to products. The expectations for Apple have become that big. 

 

Finally, with regards to the iTV, if this comes out this best be more then a TV with an integrated Apple TV. Phew people are going to be willing to pay Apple prices for a TV. 

 

I'm not suggesting Apple is going to fail and go out of business, but I am suggesting Apple lost some momentum this year and it needs to get it back next year. Otherwise we'll have to put-up with more mocking commercials from Samsung… won't that be a treat. 

 

On the flip-side, if Apple fades a little out of the spotlight that might not be so bad either. Apple has this giant microscope on it. No other company in the world would have had such a PR mess over an antenna being vulnerable when every phone sold has some vulnerability, but Apple gets easy negative press. They also get easy positive press for releasing things like FaceTime and iCloud that have been around forever but the press is quick to promote it because it's Apple.

 

All I can say is, it'll be an interesting 2012!