Is this the end of the age of Apple?

Is this the end of the age of Apple?

If anything, MedMen, on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, Calif., looks just like an Apple Store. It’s decked out with blond wood tables on which a range of products are artfully displayed — the Puffco Peak portable vaporizer, an electronic Dosist vape pen, the latest issue of Ember magazine and, of course, so much weed delivered in an astonishing variety of ways, from tinctures to gummy bears to cookies to just plain joints.

A crowd of customers is attended to by cheerful staff members decked out in jaunty red hoodies and carrying iPads. “Let’s be buds” urges a sign on one table. It certainly looks like it’s going great at this chain of weed dispensaries. But — like a lot of businesses around the newly commercialised marijuana industry in California — MedMen is struggling. The latest quarter of this publicly traded company showed a net loss of $66 million on revenues of $21.5 million.

It had lost $79 million the previous quarter. Not enough weed supply and too much expansion are among the reasons given for MedMen’s problems, but the disconnect between the company’s promise and reality made me think hard about some other terrible news this week: Apple’s announcement that it was going to miss its projected revenue by billions of dollars this quarter. Apple has hung the moon for investors for so long now that the idea of the company struggling sent the entire global stock market into a paroxysm of fear and plunging indexes.

It is, to use an old California trope, going to be a real bummer for Silicon Valley. Now stick with me here, because what’s happening across what are considered fast-forward industries like cannabis and tech is worrisome. Where is the next great boom of innovation going to come from, when even the strongest brands and products might not be sure things anymore? Apple is not only a bellwether company in tech but also the most expertly managed one under Tim Cook.

He, of course, was preceded as chief executive by Steve Jobs, who had brought the company back from the brink of bankruptcy in 1997. Since then, it has been all uphill, to the point this summer when Apple reached a $1 trillion valuation — the first publicly traded American company to reach that high — with a price of $207.39 a share. Today it’s trading at $142.64, and analysts are predicting it will settle around $135. Yipes.

Part of the problem is the meltdown of the economy in China, where Apple products are popular, and the Trump administration’s trade war. But as Ina Fried of Axios noted: “The problems Apple saw in China go far beyond just Apple. But Apple’s iPhone problems extend far beyond China, too.” Indeed. The last big innovation explosion — the proliferation of the smartphone — is clearly ending. There is no question that Apple was the center of that, with its app-centric, photo-forward and feature-laden phone that gave everyone the first platform for what was to create so many products and so much wealth.

It was the debut of the iPhone in 2007 that spurred what some in tech call a “Cambrian explosion,” a reference to the era when the first complex animals appeared. There would be no Uber and Lyft without the iPhone (and later the Android version), no Tinder, no Spotify. Now all of tech is seeking the next major platform and area of growth. Will it be virtual and augmented reality, or perhaps self-driving cars? Artificial intelligence, robotics, cryptocurrency or digital health? We are stumbling in the dark. Apple has dabbled in a lot of these areas, but it still makes its money by selling mobile phones and the accessories around them. And while I love my AirPods and lose them weekly, my forking over $159 to Apple for my sloppiness is not going to help compared with buying a cool new phone.

That business has surely levelled off, as no one upgrades quite as quickly as they did before, because of everything from the price tag and being worried about a recession to the simple fact that the new phones don’t offer that much more than the old ones. There is no question that Cook and his team have done a tremendous job taking advantage and managing this last cycle of innovation, but it’s apparent that it’s now winding down. This is a big issue not only for Apple but also for all of tech. There is not a major trend that you can grab onto right now that will carry everyone forward.

The last cool set of companies — Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest and, yes, Tinder — were created many years ago, and I cannot think of another group that is even close to as promising. Well, rental scooters. OK, they’re cool, but they are a derivative of the car rental business and are not going to make the big jumps in innovation that need to occur now. How innovation happens is a much more delicate thing than people imagine, a dance involving money, opportunity, timing, execution and, most important, one great idea behind it all. Where is that next spark that will light us all up?




Managing the ‘Space-InBetween’ Individuals

Managing the ‘Space-InBetween’ Individuals

Enterprises have been historically dedicating much of their efforts to optimising human-capital strategies in an effort to win the war on talent; building-out comprehensive talent management systems, validating leadership competency models and designing the best possible leadership development pr


SCW to further promote women entrepreneurship

SCW to further promote women entrepreneurship

Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of His Majesty the King and President of the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), has stressed the council’s keenness to go ahead with the women’s empowerment programmes, mainly in the economic field, to achieve family stab

New programme to employ 240 newly-graduated Bahraini docs

New programme to employ 240 newly-graduated Bahraini docs

Chairing the Cabinet session yesterday, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa launched a programme to employ 240 newly-graduate Bahraini doctors. Under the scheme, which will be implemented over two years, beginning from 2019, the new graduates will be trained and

Roommate killer’s jail term reduced

Roommate killer’s jail term reduced

An Indian man who stabbed his roommate to death last June has got his 10-year jail sentence reduced by the High Criminal Court of Appeals. The 38-year-old defendant was sentenced by the criminal court to 10 years of imprisonment in January, after he was found guilty of killing his roommat

Dog torturer’s custody extended

Dog torturer’s custody extended

A man who was arrested for torturing a dog in Bani Jamrah village will remain in custody pending further investigation, it was announced yesterday. Northern Governorate Chief Prosecutor Mohammed Abdullah said yesterday that the case has been referred to the concerned court. This came a da

50 birds worth Dh20m killed by lightning bolt

50 birds worth Dh20m killed by lightning bolt

As many as 50 rare birds worth over Dh20 million were killed when a lightning bolt hit a farm in Al Dhafra area in Abu Dhabi, Al Bayan reported. According to the farm’s owner Khalfan bin Butti Al Qubaisi, the birds had won many trophies in competitions. They were priceless, he said.

Probe ordered

Probe ordered

The Cabinet yesterday chaired by His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, has ordered a thorough probe into allegations of two girls selling drugs at a school in the Northern Governorate. The Premier ordered the formation of a high-level committee, under the

Jakarta opens mass rapid transit system

Jakarta opens mass rapid transit system

Indonesia’s capital inaugurated its first mass rapid transit system on Sunday, a $1.1 billion project seen as crucial to tackling some of the world’s worst traffic congestion. President Joko Widodo and other officials joine

MAX anti-stall software fix ready

MAX anti-stall software fix ready

A fix to the anti-stall system suspected in the crash of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet that killed 189 people in Indonesia is ready, industry sources said Saturday, as the company tries to avoid a lengthy grounding of its planes. Boeing was d

Sri Lanka opens work on $3.85bn refinery

Sri Lanka opens work on $3.85bn refinery

Sri Lanka began construction yesterday of a nearly $4 billion oil refinery it hopes will revive foreign interest in its shipping facilities after Beijing’s takeover of a nearby port spooked international investors. Prime Minister