History should teach us that for today’s technology titans, the only way is down.
Nothing lasts forever: if history has any lesson for us, it is this. It’s a thought that comes from rereading Paul Kennedy’s magisterial tome, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, in which he shows that none of the great nation-states or empires of history – Rome; imperial Spain in 1600; France in either its Bourbon or Bonapartist manifestations; the Dutch republic in 1700; Britain in its imperial glory – succeeded in maintaining its global ascendancy for long.
What has this got to do with technology? Well, it provides us with a useful way of thinking about two of the tech world’s great powers. The first is Apple. The past week saw a veritable torrent of hysterical reaction to its quarterly results, coupled with fevered speculation about its future. The globe has been hypnotised for years by Apple’s metamorphosis from a failing computer manufacturer into a corporate giant that, on some days, is now the most valuable company in the world, with bigger cash reserves than the annual GDP of some countries. But as with all inexorable growth curves, the question on every commentator’s lips is: has Apple peaked?
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