The past 12 months have hardly been a disaster for Apple.
Nine million opening-weekend sales of its new iPhones, a stunning new–look iPad and a much–needed change to iOS all helped the company remain relevant in a time of great change in the tech world.
But it doesn’t take much digging to find a few worrying signs that all is not well at Infinite Loop.
Latest tablet market share figures from IDC show that Apple’s iPad range now has just over 29% of the market, down from 40% a year ago.
Samsung is gaining fast, up above 20%, while the boom in budget slates is putting the squeeze on too.
In April, the company posted its first profit decline in 11 years.
It may still be making billions, but the shine has most definitely gone off the firm in the last year.
Why else would its marketing chief, Phil Schiller, make barbs about critics claiming Apple couldn’t innovate during a keynote over the summer?
Other major companies, especially Samsung and Google, have caught up with Apple’s ability to develop exciting new kit.
It all means that 2014 is a crunch year for Cupertino.
It’s almost four years since it introduced a new product category, the iPad.
Considering the speed at which it released redesigned iPods and changed the smartphone space with the iPhone, that’s a painfully long time.
Everything, then, is riding on something new. Rumours suggest that to be the much–vaunted iWatch.
Pegged for an October 2014 release, this product will be the first new category released under Tim Cook’s stewardship and it simply cannot afford to fail.
If it has the feel of a ‘me-too’ product, something which Apple has slipped into thanks to its aping of Android features in the past (Control Center being a good example), then it may not be enough to convince critics that Apple is back to its innovative best.
The iWatch will need to be to smartwatches what the iPod was to MP3 players and iPhone was to smartphones.
Namely, a development so far beyond what’s currently available that it corners the market immediately.
That means a flexible display, killer battery life and unique features that make it better than the clunky workings of Samsung and Sony’s average efforts.
Apple has the capacity to do this. Of that there’s no doubt.
But 2014 can’t be another year of tweaks and tickles to its hardware.
This has to be the year Tim Cook steps out of Steve Jobs’ shadow and delivers something stunning.