Has Apple Lost Its Groove?

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While Apple has had some good news lately (it reached 50 billion downloads from its App Store, signed a deal with CW to have the network’s content appear on Apple TV, and its UK retail locations received the top customer-service rating in Britain), it also is going through some tough times as a brand.

A recent poll from Bloomberg notes that, “71 percent of poll respondents say the Cupertino, California, company has lost its cachet as an industry innovator, which includes 28 percent who say it is permanent and 43 percent who say it may be a temporary hiccup.” While some Apple loyalists remain dedicated to the company that has brought the world such innovations as the iPod, iPhone, and iTunes, plenty of folks in the general population aren’t as high on Apple as they used to be, with some turning to competitors like Google and Samsung. “Google plays offense while Apple has recently settled for playing defense,” Forbes reports. “Apple is struggling to maintain its position in the market, while Google is expanding its position.” 

Google’s shares have gone over a record $900 while Apple’s are now just above $400 after being over $705 in late September. While it can be difficult to keep up with its own track record of innovation, Apple apparently has got to keep pushing in order to keep the masses satisfied. “Where Apple went wrong is they began to confuse version releases and feature improvements with innovation,” Forbes reports. “What Apple is learning the hard way is even the most loyal base of consumers will jump ship when provided a valid reason to do so.”[more]

Yahoo! Finance points out that Google’s stock is now more reliable than Apple’s, an attribute once widely given to the tech company. “Google’s business dynamics are less vulnerable to the kind of hit-driven product cycles and profit-compressing competitive gambits that withered investor confidence and trashed growth expectations in Apple,” the site notes.

This week, Google launched its streaming music service, All Access, which will directly compete with services like Spotify and Pandora, (and perhaps an Apple program that’s on its way). It also announced upgrades to its maps and games services, as well as merged its communication programs under the Hangouts brand. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook will be in Washington, D.C., Tuesday to propose tax changes to a Congressional subcommittee “that would encourage firms to bring home more of their offshore funds,” The Huffington Post reports. The brand, along with many other large corporations have been accused of balking taxes both abroad and domestically. The idea would be “to put more companies’ offshore money to use creating jobs and conducting research and development in the United States.” AppleInsider.com has it that the company had more than $102 billion in cash overseas at the end of March, up 24 percent since the end of September. It remains to be seen what benefits Cook will propose for his company, which paid $6 billion in federal income tax last year. It is also in the middle of dealing with an antitrust suit in Europe that accuses “the company of conspiring with five of the largest publishing houses to fix prices on electronic books,” according to the New York Times. The five publishers have all settled, but Apple is pressing forward with its defense. 

“I can tell you unequivocally,” Cook said, according to AppleInsider, “Apple does not funnel its domestic profits overseas. We don’t do that. We pay taxes on all the products we sell in the U.S., and we pay every dollar that we owe. And so I’d like to be really clear on that.”

Meanwhile, the brand is still battling to try and dislodge Samsung as the top dog in global Smartphone sales. The brands have gone head to head in marketing, with Samsung often poking fun at Apple loyalists. Apple is also still dealing with fallout from the poor labor conditions of China’s Foxconn Technology, which manufactures Apple’s iPads and iPhones. The company hired the Fair Labor Association last year to recommend new procedures, but while most of those recommendations are now in place, Apple is having difficulty bringing down workers’ number of hours, according to the New York Times.

Perhaps the company is finally feeling the longer-term effects of the October 2011 death of company co-founder Steve Jobs, who was always seemingly pushing for innovation. One person who has recently come out from Jobs’s shadow is his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, who is currently worth about $11.5 billion. She has always been a private philanthropist, but the New York Times reports that she is ready to be more public in her giving. 

“It’s not about getting any public recognition for her giving, it’s to help touch and transform individual lives,” said philanthropist Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, who has been a pal of Powell Jobs for 20 years, according to the Times

Maybe some of that good karma will rub off on her husband’s old company.

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