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Apple Not on the Leading Edge of Everything; Analysts Worry

Stephen Van Esch - 2003.04.03

A recent report from MacUser UK indicates that some analysts believe that Apple may have missed the Tablet PC boat. One can just hear the vultures circling.

It seems that Apple has become such a touchstone for the entire PC industry that the fact that Apple is not the only computer company creating interesting products is cause for some alarm. After all, Apple has consistently created knockout computer designs with amazing tech specs.

Five years after the Bondi blue iMac hit store shelves, PCs are mostly dull beige boxes. Well, to be fair, PCs can be equipped with neato lights.

I can see why a few people might be getting nervous about Apple being behind the curve.

I fail to grasp why any analyst would consider the fact that Apple is not leading the charge into a new market as a bad thing. Apple is currently devoting its efforts to a wide variety of projects ranging from new hardware designs to new software to new consumer products. Apple has been very busy behind the drawing board.

Missed a potential new market? Darn it, we're so busy creating all this new stuff that we didn't notice.

If anything, Apple should be lauded for hanging back on something in uncertain times. While Apple is a noted risk taker, one lesson learned from the Cube and Newton debacles is that being too far ahead of the curve can hurt more than help. Better to sit back and let someone else expend the energy and dollars pursuing an iffy new technology.

Apple has no doubt been watching the Tablet PC with interest. It's not news that Apple occasionally hangs back, gets the lay of the land, and then smokes the competition. The iPod is an excellent example of this. MP3 players had been out for some time before Apple entered the game. By watching what the competition was doing wrong and going the extra mile, Apple came up with a winner. Entering the market late has had little impact on the final results.

While I don't put much stock in rumors, the mill seems to be predicting a possible Tablet-like device in the future. What will analysts say then? Too little, too late?

Perhaps part of the analysts' nervousness has something to do with the Tablet PC requiring Apple's blessing? Maybe the Table PC won't have truly "arrived" until Apple has designed one of its own.

The relief would be palpable: "Whew, all those Tablet PC sales had me guessing, but I suppose that because Apple thinks it's worthwhile, it might actually work out."

Of course, being Apple, it's difficult to garner a favorable analysis no matter which analyst is looking at the company.

The fine analysts who present their arguments that Apple may have missed the boat would surely be the first to dance on Apple's head if they had come up with the Tablet PC in the first place. You can just see the headlines "Apple takes Major Gamble on Unproven Product - Cube Revisited?"

They just can't win.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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