Apple is doomed by 2020, venture capitalist Fred Wilson told interviewer Michael Arrington at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City.
“I think they’re just too rooted to the hardware,” Wilson said. “And I think that hardware is increasingly becoming more commodity. They don’t have anything in the cloud to speak of, and the stuff they have in the cloud I think is largely not good.” He doesn’t believe that Apple thinks about the cloud—and handling data within the cloud—in an effective way.
Wilson earned a reputation in the tech industry thanks to early investments in a number of startups that later became prominent, including Twitter, Zynga, Kickstarter and Foursquare. But like any investor, he’s also goofed on occasion—such as when he sold his stake in Apple at $91.36 per share in 2009 (“I just can’t own a stock when I don’t believe the company is being straight with investors,” he wrote at the time, according to Fortune). Apple stock later skyrocketed to $700 before dipping back down (as of this writing) to $600, which means Wilson stepped away from a pretty substantial payday.
Whatever his reasons for stating that Apple will become a third-tier technology company before the decade is out, Wilson is right about the increasing prominence of the cloud. Even companies that spent years profiting from hardware—including IBM, Oracle, and Dell—have veered hard in recent quarters toward offering cloud products, as a rising number of client companies abandon on-premises datacenters and IT infrastructure in favor of receiving services via the browser and mobile apps.
Is Apple “cloud enough” to survive in this environment? Wilson doesn’t think so, but others would argue that the company’s focus on apps and its developer ecosystem makes it a strong contender in the cloud realm. Why build an extensive suite of cloud-based services when all those third-party developers are more than willing to build them for you?
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