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The new Apple iPhone 5 is displayed Wednesday Sept. 12, 2012. (Eric Risberg/AP)
The new Apple iPhone 5 is displayed Wednesday Sept. 12, 2012. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Apple at the summit: The trouble with being No. 1 Add to ...

And even if Apple is now a giant, calculated player interested in locking in customers to its own ecosystem, it has ultimately been successful for all the right reasons – simply put, people want to buy what the company makes. “If they were really going in the Big Brother direction, it would all be in the service of Apple and not in the service of the consumer,” Mr. Golvin says. “And that’s not in their DNA at all.”


Apple’s next battleground

But in Apple’s broader ecosystem strategy, which covers everything from book publishing to movie rentals, there are still plenty of industries other than smartphones left to disrupt. The problem is, disruption comes with downsides.

Consider television, a necessary medium for Apple’s overall media strategy. Despite its disruptive influence in the music and mobile industries, Apple has not made a noticeable dent in TV, even after several attempts. Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin says Mr. Cook will be in for withering criticism if Apple winds up to swing at the giants of TV again and meets with anything less than blockbuster success.

He also notes that the iPhone 5 lacks near field communication, or NFC – the wireless technology that is key to swiping your smartphone like a credit card. Although Mr. Golvin says Apple wasn’t that afraid of the music industry, putting NFC on the iPhone 5 could have sent alarming signals to the behemoths of global finance. But the very fact that a technology company that barely made a dent in the technology industry a decade ago can now pose a threat to traditional commerce illustrates just how powerful Apple has become. Indeed, the image of Apple as any kind of underdog – as it once presented itself in the famous “1984” commercial – is now inconsistent with the fact that Apple is now the world’s most valuable corporation.

In October, 2010, a gleeful Steve Jobs crowed about the damage Apple was doing to Canada’s BlackBerry maker. “We’ve now passed RIM and I don’t see them catching up,” he said. “We’re out to win this one.”

Since that time, Apple, with its new-found heft, has pursued its rivals in the courts without mercy. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, in a recent interview with Bloomberg, was dismayed at the company’s recent patent victory over Samsung in a California court.

“I hate it,” Mr. Wozniak said. “I don’t think the decision of California will hold. And I don’t agree with it. ... I don’t really call that innovative.”

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  • Updated May 25 4:00 PM EDT. Delayed by at least 15 minutes.


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