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Will Apple’s Staggering Growth One Day Be Its Undoing?

By Candice Leigh Helfand
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File photo of new iPads on display. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

File photo of new iPads on display. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (CBS Seattle) – This week, research was released that showed approximately half of American homes to be in possession of at least one Apple product.

Be it an iPad, iPod, iPhone or Macbook, a reported 55 million households – and counting – make use of Apple technologies in their everyday lives, according to CNBC’s All-American Economic Survey.

It also revealed that the desire for Apple technology bridges generational, gender and political gaps.

This news came on the heels of the release of the iPad 3, the latest in an arsenal of tablets, smartphones and personal computers whose consistent use and widespread consumption have set profit margins in the billions and stock shares soaring for the California-based company.

The long lines of anxious enthusiasts seen around the world leading up to the release show that fans are still as passionate about their products as ever.

And for the time being, experts don’t see a big problem cropping up for Apple in regards to over-saturation, mainly – and ironically – thanks to the existence and power of its competition.

“Saturation is not a huge concern. If anything, Apple devices will continue to proliferate a wealth of gadgetry, digital media and applications,” Ryan Radia, associate director of the Center for Technology and Innovation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told CBS Seattle. “In no market is Apple so dominant that other choices don’t exist … [or] that other meaningful alternatives aren’t there.”

But could it one day become too much for the average consumer?

Frank Cioffi, founder of Apple Investor News, has wondered, along with others, if Apple’s staggering growth may one day be its undoing, especially in the eyes and hearts of those who entered into the culture early.

“We [original Mac/Apple users] were happy to be part of a small band of Davids going up against a Microsoft Goliath. To see where we are now, where [Apple is] the Goliath, it’s extraordinary,” he told CBS Seattle. “I have to wonder if the American trend of loving the underdog, but hating the Goliath, is going to happen with Apple. Will there be an emotional saturation with Apple? Will people turn against them?”

Daniel Levine, executive director of the Avant-Guide Institute, which deals in trend consultancy, told CBS Seattle that the technology super-giant could in fact see a backlash from the American populace one day, after their meteoric rise to the top.

“American consumerism is full of boom and bust cycles,” he said, citing Microsoft and Google as examples of companies presently experiencing a downward trend in consumer perception. “Apple will be the brunt of that as well … though we’re not at the beginning of the end [for them] just yet.”

Levine said that, in fact, some buyers have already expressed frustration with the insular nature of Apple products.

“When you use their products, you’re locking into buying everything from [them],” he explained. “The technologies are interoperable with each other, but not with other products outside the Apple ecosystem.”

He added, “America is, at its heart, a country about freedom – when people realize that they’re stuck in a certain environment, they will backlash against that.”

And for a free nation that upholds value and function above all else when deciding what to buy, such factors could lead to a switch in preference.

Shawn Dubravac, director of research at Consumer Electronics Association, said their research shows the American consumer placing price and available features above brand loyalty when making an informed purchase, though the concept of staying within a certain family of products does also rank high on the list of priorities.

“Consumers will, in any market, make the decision that fits best with them,” Dubravac additionally noted to CBS Seattle. “And because of the [relatively short] life cycles of these [telecommunication] products, consumers are presented with opportunities to reassess the products they use – and want to be using – over the next horizon.”

Also, in the grand scheme of consumer electronics as it pertains to the average household, Apple and the type of products they make are merely a portion of a much larger whole.

Prototypes for a variety of “Jetsons”-era items seen annually at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas all show how technology will play a larger part in the inner workings of homes across the nation. And according to Dubravac, it is not outside the realm of possibility for Apple to make its presence known outside of its production wheelhouse as opportunities to expand present themselves.

“Because the market is so large, [companies] have to focus on where [they] can add value to the community,” he said. “I certainly can’t imagine Apple wouldn’t, over time, venture into other categories … just like any manufacturer of any product who meanders into adjacent categories to offer value.”

For Gerald Celente, publisher of The Trends Journal, the implications of technology seeping further into our everyday lives go beyond a question of Apple’s increased dominance in the market, and into a discussion of technology having a seeming unhealthy power over the nation.

“The reality is that America and much of the … industrialized world is hooked – we’re addicted,” he said to CBS Seattle. “Will [Apple] go away someday and have someone else take their place? You never know – no one could ever forecast that.”

But Celente does see the potential for success for Apple’s future, in a way.

“I don’t see [consumers] getting tired of Apple in particular. The narcissistic value of Apple is the narcissism that runs the country,” Celente added. “Look at the name – iPhone, iPad. ‘It’s my pad’ … it’s very intelligently done.”

Cioffi said that Celente’s perspective is part of a growing trend of frustration with technology overall, a phenomenon which may spell trouble for not only Apple, but its competition as well as time goes by.

He noted, “In the next five years, we’re going to approach saturation … with technology, rather than just with Apple.”

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