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If Apple Fails, Who Succeeds?

So the truth is out there. We know that Samsung’s sales and profits aren’t setting the tech world afire. Most of the sales are confined to low-end gear, and the flagship Galaxy smartphones are also-rans compared to iPhones. But the total numbers exceed the iPhone, so Apple still comes across, to some, as second best, at least until you start to look at profits, where Apple is currently earning 94% of the total.

If you’ve been following the stock market, you’ll also see that Apple’s stock price is in the doldrums, down over 20% over the past few months; it did climb 1.62% on Monday. While the market itself has been in a turmoil over concerns about the economic situation in China, Apple’s problems are buttressed by reports from the supply chain, not confirmed, that Apple cut back orders on iPhone parts. So this supposedly indicates iPhone sales are falling, even though the actual facts of the situation won’t be known for another couple of weeks, when Apple releases its quarterly financials.

For now it’s a quiet period.

But if Apple wasn’t around, would Samsung sell more of their expensive gear, or would more people choose the cheaper stuff? What about Windows 10 and BlackBerry handsets? Oh yes, BlackBerry is building gear compatible with Android, which strikes me as the ultimate example of surrender. If BlackBerry’s own platform — and physical keyboards — are so great, they should demonstrate market success, not retreat into supporting someone else’s app ecosystem.

If Apple wasn’t around, you’d be buying a PC rather than a Mac. Indeed, that almost happened in the mid-1990s, when Apple was only weeks away from running out of cash. That may not seem to be such a huge catastrophe for some people. But it would be for me and tens of millions of others who have made their livings on Macs in an highly productive fashion that is approached only with difficulty on the Windows platform.

Indeed, I recently read an article from someone who regularly updated his PC every 18 months by buying the best of the breed. After switching to a top-of-the-line iMac, and I presume it was the late 2013 5K version, the 18-month period approached, but he decided to keep his current computer since it could handle all the things he threw at it with aplomb.

I think of my own situation, where, in times of greater prosperity, I would buy Macs on a two-year cycle. Selling the old computer meant that the cost of the new one wouldn’t be so daunting. But I suddenly found myself looking at the refreshed Macs, and sticking with what I had for another year. Part of that was due to budget constraints, the other reason was more important. I didn’t see a productivity advantage sufficient to justify purchasing new gear.

Is there any PC maker who is doing much more than selling generic hardware as cheaply as possible? PC sales are down, Mac sales are up, if only slightly. Apple is at least investing money to improve the hardware. The controversial MacBook, introduced last year, may not be the fastest machine on the planet, but it’s faster than many high-end Mac note-books of a few years ago, and it’s not that they were necessarily underpowered.

Apple Watch? For some reason, despite the fact that sales reports are unofficial, confirmed to rough estimates by outsiders, it’s being perceived as a relative failure. This even though other smartwatch makers are doing no better. But if you put the Apple Watch into the ephemeral “wearables” category, which includes devices that may not even offer a watch, or a watch with only basic features, Apple doesn’t come across quite as well.

Until you actually consider what Apple is believed to have earned from Apple Watch sales, and it’s several times what any other company ever earned from similar, or not-so-similar, products, but Apple still isn’t getting the credit. Maybe the company is perceived as too large, and thus it must take a fall at some point in time. If not today, or tomorrow, next week. Well maybe next year.

But if all of the endless doom and gloom predictions about Apple come true, just where do we turn our attention for cutting-edge consumer tech? Samsung? Well, Samsung has the size and resources, but has mostly confined itself to imitating what others do, or delivering features that have plenty of flash but little substance. It brings to mind the pathetic tilt-to-scroll function that appeared on some Galaxy smartphones.

Smartwatches that could also serve as jewelry with gold cases, with bands to match? Well, I suppose one of the luxury watch makers might try — and some are trying — but the world won’t suddenly flock to a smartwatch powered by Android Wear, or a Samsung Galaxy Gear device. Consider how they did before the Apple Watch arrived.

I suppose a case can be made for a Roku media streamer, however. They are quite good, and the latest Apple TV doesn’t even support 4K. But that’s a rare exception.