It's simple, really. Something drastic changed at Apple. Oh, the company still has legions of brilliant people, great products in the pipeline, a strong corporate culture and, by all accounts, a capable leader in CEO Tim Cook. But there's one thing Apple lost that can't be replaced: the relentless passion, maniacal vision and intense focus of its late founder.
Imagine if an Indy car team went on a tear as impressive as Apple's, winning race after race after race. Everything would have to be firing on all cylinders--the car, the pit crew, the driver, the ability to adjust to changing weather and track conditions, you name it. Now imagine the car losing its driver, who also happened to be the team's founder and visionary. I don't care who it put behind the wheel next; things just wouldn't be the same. There are too many other fast, strong and capable racing teams who want to win just as badly.
Four short years ago BlackBerry had a market share of more than 50%. Today it's less than 3%. That's creative destruction in action, and no company--not even Apple--is immune from its furious forces. Apple's stock has fallen 21% this year and, given its recent lofty heights, is likely to drop even further--perhaps for an extended period of time.
Several weeks ago at the All Things D conference Tim Cook was, according the The Wall Street Journal, unable to "articulate a vision beyond" Apple's passion for making great products." That, in a nutshell, is the problem. Apple can continue to develop new products, have its share of wins and be a dynamic, valuable company. But it can never be the same.
Steve McKee is president of McKee Wallwork + Company, and author of When Growth Stalls and Power Branding. A marketing strategist for nearly three decades, Steve has been published or quoted in many top news outlets and industry publications, and writes a monthly marketing column for Businessweek.com.