I think Apple will fail. In the long term. But so will Microsoft. That’s just the way of things. The crunch will come in a few years time when Steve Jobs’ product progression comes to an end. The decisions made at that point in terms of the direction of the company will forge the future for Apple. Positively or negatively.
If you trust Cook, Ive, and Schiller to make the correct decisions then the inexorable slide downwards will be stalled for a few more years. If not then it has already begun, and did so the day after the Jobs era ended and he bid this cruel world goodbye forever.
Dave makes some good points in his analysis of the post-Steve era, seems like a popular subject these days. My thoughts on this: 2011 was an incremental growth year for Apple, not so amazing as the previous recent ones. At this point Apple’s biggest obstacle is not Samsung/Google/Amazon etc., but its own generated high expectation from users. If you manage to be great for a while, pretty soon everyone will expect that and even more from you. And when they don’t get what they were dreaming of they start calling great products “failures“.
So what does Apple need to do? They have to launch at least one killer feature/product each year to keep the fans and market happy. They somewhat did that in 2011 with Siri on iPhone 4S. In 2012 their launch cycle should bring iPhone 5 and iPad 3 (or whatever their names will be), which should have at least a special “one more thing”.
As long as they keep providing the users with the same “quality by simplicity” products, spiced with a little creative invention on top, they should be fine for the near and medium future. Which isn’t an easy task, but definitely an achievable one for the team left in place by the company’s founder. The ones who said that Steve Job’s greatest legacy was not the iPhone, iPad or Mac but Apple itself were completely right.