Dediu: Apple is doomed

And not for the first time.

From a Horace Dediu essay posted Thursday on

Life expectancy for humans has been rising but for companies it has been declining… In the modern, industrial era there are very few corporations that survived over a century and the Fortune 500 shows a turnover in inhabitants that resembles that of a plague-infested medieval inner-city. In contrast to their conservative, geriatric organic owners, synthetic companies are more likely to behave like live-fast, die-young punk rockers.

So it’s no surprise that Apple, at age 43, is seen as being well past its sell-by date. And yet it seems to be saying, somewhat faintly, “I’m not dead yet”. By generating more cash that can be comprehended by human observers and by controlling assets that are well beyond the means of many countries, they (it?) is confusing us with its persistence.

The confusion is exhibited in the following graph which shows the crises in confidence by that wonderful reflector of human perception–the stock market. By voting millions of times a day, the market shows us with great precision the totality of human emotion with regard to an asset. That emotion turns rapidly negative on Apple with surprising frequency.

Eight deaths in 43 years: Apple II, Mac (2x), iPod (2x), iPhone (3x and counting).

Click to enlarge. Not seeing? Try the website. 

See also:Podcast: Horace Dediu’s unified theory of Apple 


  1. David Drinkwater said:

    Yes, but Apple eats its own dead (through self-cannibalization), so as long as it keeps dying, it will be very well nourished.

    March 16, 2017
  2. John Kirk said:

    First, this is a top-notch chart. very well done.

    Second, when skywatchers of old observed the heavens, they noticed that planets and other heavenly bodies rotated around the Earth. But then they noticed that they didn’t all rotate in the same direction or at the same speed. Observers started to construct a series of “plates” upon which the various heavenly bodies rested. Eventually, observers documented nearly 500 separate “plates”.

    As a philosopher king, who helped to create a comprehensive study of the heavens, once observed (paraphrasing): If I were able to advise God at the creation of existence, I simply would have advised him to make existence simpler”.

    In fact, God did make a simpler system. It was called gravity and it replaced previous theories on how the planets moved. Then it, in turn, was replaced by the theory of relativity.

    I’ve always loved studying Apple because they break all the rules. (Or do they?) They are an anomaly. (Or are they?)

    When you notice an anomaly as large as Apple, you have to — well, you don’t have to, but you probably should — wonder whether if they are succeeding despite flouting the rules, or whether it is the rules themselves that are at fault.

    I think one day — probably long after I’m gone — we’ll discover an equivalent to gravity that explains why Apple continues to succeed. Until then, we’ll just have to put them on their own separate plate.

    March 16, 2017
  3. Fred Stein said:

    Nice chart.
    The chart also shows declining stock trading volume over the last 5 years, despite large and long price swings. Hopefully that means traders leaving with investors coming in and/or staying.
    Kipling’s “If” comes to mind. (excuse the sexist term at the end)

    March 16, 2017
    • David Emery said:

      As we’ve discussed in previous threads, the declining volumes are partly due to Apple stock buybacks. But those declines are for substantially more than just buy-backs. They include Buy-and-Hold like Berkshire-Hathaway.

      There’s something to be said for a lining of reasoning that says “If the successful pros are holding onto their AAPL, I guess I should, too.”

      March 16, 2017
      • Fred Stein said:

        Agree. The smart alex in me would say, the wise buying out the foolish.

        March 16, 2017
    • David Emery said:

      (And in these enlightened times, “You’ll be a man, my son” is fungible. “You’ll be whatever gender you choose, my child.” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. 🙂 🙂 )

      March 16, 2017
      • Jonathan Mackenzie said:

        Someone somewhere posted a picture of Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons and suggested that this will be considered a “robot-ist” image in 50-100 years!

        Our culture changes. “Things were different then” can be a cop out, but it is also undeniably true. If it was so much more horrible in some way back in the day compared to what we deem acceptable today, that’s a good thing in my book. It shows we’re making progress.

        This applies to technology as well as culture — which is apt because both arise from the exercise of our intelligence.

        So when for example it becomes possible to make succulent meat completely artificially, we will begin to think differently about the slaughter of millions of animals each year for food. But it would be unwise for the well fed of the future to judge our current behavior exclusively through their own moral lens.

        That industrialization and the end of slavery overlap is not a historical accident. The interplay of culture and technology was working its mojo.

        It is an exercise for the reader to imagine Apple’s role in this interplay in the 21st century.

        March 16, 2017

Leave a Reply