Two months since the death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the firm's management is showing signs of wobbling. The market shares of the iPhone and iPad are declining, and a series of patent-infringement lawsuits against rivals are not entirely going to plan.
Apple's competitors, who were caught on the back foot by the iPhone and iPad, are rapidly releasing products aimed at toppling the leader.
◆ Shrinking Demand
U.S. market research firm Canaccord Genuity recently said Apple's share of the American table PC market is forecast to fell from 74 percent in the third quarter to 53.2 percent in the fourth, with the decisive blow being dealt by Amazon's cheap Kindle Fire, which costs just US$199. The Kindle Fire is likely to grab some 20 percent of the market in only 1.5 month since its release on Oct. 15, on the back of the low price and access to Amazon's huge content.
The iPhone 4S, the last product overseen by Jobs, is also losing its appeal. Some dealers in Korea have already slashed prices by W100,000 (US$1=W1,146) since the product was launched in early November. The phone is also subject to complaints about the short battery life and static and disrupted signal during phone calls. But the main reason is probably that consumers are waiting for the release of the all-new iPhone5 later next year, since the 4S was merely an upgrade of the 4.
KT and SK Telecom, which market the iPhone 4S in Korea, have been caught off guard by lackluster demand, since Apple apparently asked dealers to buy a batch of at least 500,000 units. SK is said to be having trouble selling out the initial batch. And because of the popularity of fourth-generation LTE protocol, SK is focusing more on selling LTE phones than the 3G iPhone 4S. So far KT and SK have sold only a combined 300,000 units. An SK Telecom official said the gadget "has become a headache."
◆ Rivals Going on Offensive
A court in Mannheim, Germany ruled Friday that Apple infringed Motorola's third-generation mobile communications standards and banned the sale of the iPhone and iPad. That could increase the chances of Samsung Electronics, which has also filed a patent suit against Apple in the same town.
PC makers, which were badly hurt by the popularity of the iPhone and iPad, have also gone on the offensive, releasing so-called "ultrabooks," an industry standard for the next generation of laptops recently unveiled by Intel. Ultrabooks are half as thick and weigh half as much as existing laptops, and it takes just a third of the time to boot them.
But analysts say Apple's heyday is not over yet because it still boasts strong software and content. The app store, which opened in July of 2008, saw 10 billion accumulated downloads as of January of this year and reached 18 billion 10 months later, showing how much clout the company still wields among consumers.