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Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook could run it for another decade, assuming the retirement age at the company is not 65. He is currently 54. And, at Apple, there is no reason to believe the board will not prolong Cook’s job at the top if he is doing it well.
Cook could see the release of the iPhone 16, the iPad 12, as well as the Apple Watch 9, an iTunes store with apps that operate well beyond anything consumers and businesses can fathom, and versions of the Mac that current PC users would not recognize today. Cook’s largest challenge, however, is almost certainly the creation of products that are not on Apple-controlled production lines now, or even on its design and drawing boards.
The most important cautionary story for Apple is Sony Corp. It once ruled the portable device business, as well as high-end sectors for cameras and television screens. It was the envy of the consumer electronics industry 15 years ago, before Apple released the products, particularly the first iPhone, which has made it the most valuable company in the world based on market value.
Apple’s current and early presence in streaming television and e-commerce likely will be severely eroded by the number of companies already in these businesses. Amazon.com and Netflix Inc. will press their advantages, although streaming may eventually be available anywhere with universal 4G, or 5G, coverage. Wi-Fi access may become a technology of the past.
Some form of artificial intelligence could allow consumer electronics users to control features with their minds, and not their hands or eyes. If these technologies do evolve, Apple would need “first mover” advantages to cripple competitors like Samsung.
All of this goes to say that, as has been true in the past, for Apple to be as successful in 10 years as it is now will require wild but targeted imagination. It has had this since Steve Jobs resurrected the company a decade ago, which means it has been done at least once before, and it holds the promise of being done again.