Over the last few weeks Wall Street has been wringing its hands over Apple. The once high-flying stock has returned to earth, down 25 percent from its peak.
The word on the Street is Apple has lost it's mojo. Once a company that could seemingly do no wrong, it has lately seemed to be, well, ordinary.
When the late Steve Jobs was running the company and serving as its driving creative force, Apple was more than a brand, it was a lifestyle, a new approach to modern consumer technology.
It started with the iPod, a portable music player making it easier for consumers to always have their music collection with them, accessible at the touch of a button.
In 2007 Apple revolutionized smartphones with the introduction of the iPhone. It quickly displaced the reigning smartphone, the Blackberry, which was designed for business customers who valued its robust encryption and instant access to email.
But Jobs and Apple figured out consumers wanted in on smartphones too, but were more interested in applications giving them access to games and the Internet.
By 2010 Apple again turned the mobile world on its ear with the introduction of the iPad, a sleek tablet computer that did just about everything the iPhone did except make telephone calls.
Last summer a California jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion in its patent infringement suit against Samsung, its main competitor from the Android side of the smartphone world. Apple appeared to be on a roll, but oddly enough that seems to be the time when things started to slide.
Fighting back with satire
Instead of being cowed by the verdict, Samsung appealed and kept turning out products. It introduced several new smartphone models in the time Apple introduced one, and made fun of its competitor with the ad below.
Being the target of Samsung satire notwithstanding, should Apple users care that the company appears to be losing marketshare to its Android and Windows competitors? Does that, in any way, diminish the products the company produces? Let's ask consumers about their recent experiences.
What customers say
"Up to this point, I have been a long, loyal, and valued apple customer," writes Mark, of St. Paul, Minn., in a ConsumerAffairs post.
Mark said he's been an Apple customer since 1987, purchasing the company's desktop computers, Powerbooks, iPods, three iPhone 4s', and an iPad 2. Mark said the problems began when his family upgraded their phones.
"All three of us have had issues with accessing/losing voicemails; many crashes on safari, contacts, and calendars resulting in lost data; battery requires frequent charging (2-3 times daily)," Mark wrote. "My family is beginning to question whether Apple products are right for us. We certainly do not want to act as Beta testers for their products."
Mark isn't alone. Some consumers, like David, of Las Vegas, Nev., seem to have a case of buyer's remorse.
"I lost my Blackberry Storm when it dropped into a huge materials shredder when it fell out of its holster," David posted at ConsumerAffairs. "This iPhone does not measure up to my antiquated 3g Blackberry, which is not available any longer . This truly is not advancement of engineering but in this current state of the world, not much is."
But to be fair, Apple still has legions of loyal customers and Wall Street's perspective and consumers' view are not the same. The problem for Wall Street is that Apple's once-dominant position in the industry is threatened.
Samsung produces great products and more of them than Apple does. While Apple virtually invented the tablet, it resisted the smaller versions of the device until its competitors were well ensconced in that space.
All of this has caused investors to recalculate their assumptions about Apple, hence the falling stock price. But Apple still makes great products and whether one brand is better than the other is mostly a matter of opinion.
For consumers, the overriding question is which product provides what they want and at what price. That's the way it's always been. The fact that Apple may now be just another product troubles Wall Street but consumers probably shouldn't care.