Your last line show's you've noticed
the first really obvious nail in the coffin of Apple.
Yes, they've got great UI design and yes, they're up there with great specs on their tablet PCs. But now they've lost that they need to fall back to being cheaper than the other guy. Not extra features- not even rebranding limited versions of >5-year-old features. Just cheaper.
Apple's also showing their true colours by not announcing new ground-breaking features on the iPad2. I thought they were innovators?! World leaders, with His Jobsness leading us to a shiny new future?
Nope, nothing. Well, Facetime and HDMI out. But those are features that 1st-generation Netbooks had and that other ARM-based portable devices have had for years. Ah, seems they've run out of existing tech to copy. Damn.
They're playing catch-up with the hardware and are only competing based on their established brand and cost. And as they've always been sold as innovative and exclusive that's a pretty big sign that their rapid rise to power's flattening off now.
The thing about Apple is that they've always been seen as "premier" or "alternative" products by those who bought them. "Think Different" was their mantra, and their customers liked to think they did.
By competing on price you just drive away that exclusivity and alternativity, so you've lost the "pose value". By competing on price you only get people to look at the even cheaper alternatives and at some point very soon the cheaper alternatives will be better specced and better featured.
By pushing yourself as being all over the place- product placing an iPhone everywhere you can or getting Holby City to use totally-non-hospital-safe iPads, for example- you erode it even more.
The bigger and more power-mad they get the less they'll be popular with the che guevara t-shirt population (which is, predominantly, the young middle classes- exactly who they want to buy their stuff in future).
They'll become another gargantuan Microsoft-like corp. Except that MS put a long-term, stock-controlled, managed asset in almost every office in the world (and behind a good few of them), and has produced handsets that (until WinMo 7 at least) competed on fantastic levels of functionality. They have embedded systems, backend systems, mobile and portable systems, games consoles, phones, 25 years of product back-catalogue and a reputation for reliability that's only getting better as the 9x OSes fade into obscurity.
Apple, on the other hand, has produced a fashion accessory. A very popular fashion accessory, but a fashion accessory nonetheless. They've sold a few desktop Macs as well, but that's about it- and that's mostly driven by sales to people wanting to cash in on i-gadget software development.
Which is the most stable base? Getting your fronds intertwined with the world's businesses and homes, or having more chrome than the other guy and preying on the lack of technical knowledge of your users- even while you train them to expect more complexity and technical stuff?
I predict a good few more nails in the coming 48 months. Apple won't go away forever- and indeed we should be glad they didn't last time; they've pushed UI design and smartphone propagation to new heights- but in the next 2 years we'll start to see a decline in them, initially masked by larger sales figures now they're being sold at the likes of Wal Mart, but basically a decline. They'll start churning out units to actually meet launch demand- or maybe just a few thousand short- so they can hold on to people who want the latest gadget (but who'll have much more choice). They'll start cleaning up their act ethically- actually, they've already started that- as what people think of them starts to matter in terms of sales.
Mark my words. When they start raving about mass piracy on their App Store (in that it's clearly the reason for their declining profits rather than them no longer having the majority of smartphone users (leading to an accelerating downward spiral of fewer developers and less ad revenue so fewer developers)) THEN you know they're on the rocks. I'd also accept "when you can develop iPhone Apps on Windows" or "For Free."