When Apple's iconic co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs passed away a year ago, many observers wondered whether the company he founded and built into the world's leading consumer electronics enterprise would be able to thrive without him.
Now, as a botched launch of the iPhone 5 coincides with the first anniversary of Job's passing, technology pundits are no closer to an answer.
Jobs died on October 5, 2011 at the age of 56 after a long battle with cancer, but left in place hand-picked successor Tim Cook, as well as Jonny Ive, the British designer behind all Apple's great products and an executive team he devoted the last years of his life to training in the Steve Jobs way.
Until the recent launch snafu, everything had been going superbly. Under Cook, Apple continued to sell millions of new iPhones and iPads every week, even in the face of ever-stronger competition. Under Cook, Apple stock has soared from around 378 at the time of Jobs' death to more than 650 dollars now, giving Apple the mantle of the world's most valuable company in history. It is also worth more than double its biggest competitor Google.
But one of the most embarrassing stumbles in Apple's history has many pundits asking if Apple can still execute as consistently as it did under Jobs.
Cook's decision to ditch Google Maps in Apple's latest smartphone in favour of the company's own in-house maps brought howls of derision with the launch of the iPhone 5 and Apple's new operating system iOS 6. Users complained, wrote blogs and launched website ridiculing the new programme's misplaced or missing cities, disappearing landmarks, faulty directions and warped images.
Cook apologized and advised users to use competing products. The best one - Google Maps - however was unavailable. And pundits warned that in its absence Google's Android operating system could gain a decisive advantage in the battle for mobile supremacy.
Even some self-confessed Apple devotees like John Pavley are warning of Apple's demise.
"There's a tremendous amount of speculation about where Apple is headed but it's clear to me that the age of Apple's dominance on our collective imaginations is on the wane," noted Pavley, the chief technology officer of the Huffington Post. "Every era has an expiration date and Apple's is about to come due."
Apple still has a huge range of opportunities, including a massive expansion into China, and an iPad mini that should keep at bay the growing competition at least for a while. But as happened with the iPhone, it is widely projected Apple's rivals or copycats, eventually will close the gap and leave Apple a smaller share of the market.
That's why the challenge for Apple is to continue to dominate by re-imagining technology in the same way that the iPod, iPhone and iPad did under Jobs, notes Tim Bajarin a noted Silicon Valley analyst.
That's a tall order to live up to, but not impossible with technologies such as augmented reality, flexible screens, ever more bandwidth and improved processors coming down the development line.
In the shorter term the most frequent speculation focuses on a successful implementation of everything Apple has learned into an Apple TV device that will become as popular as Apple's other hits. It's a device that will have Jobs' finger prints all over it. Jobs acknowledged not only working on the device - but also perfecting the way it would work. "I've cracked it," he told his biographer Walter Isaacson in the months before his death.
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