Apple Fights On Without Its Muse

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By Don Clark and Ian Sherr

Apple Inc. has lost its visionary at a time when the company is headed into battle with its most serious challengers yet—and has shown some rare signs of vulnerability.

The day before Steve Jobs died, his successor, Tim Cook, took the stage to sell the world on Apple’s newest iPhone. Though executives spent 90 minutes touting a raft of new features, the gadget didn’t create the sort of immediate buzz Mr. Jobs’s recent creations have enjoyed.

That muted response was ill-timed for Apple: Just a week earlier, Amazon.com Inc. unveiled its Kindle Fire, which costs less than half as much as the iPad and is seen by analysts as the most credible threat to Apple yet in the tablet-computer market.

Rival Google Inc., meanwhile, has used its free Android software to edge past Apple in the market for the operating systems that power smartphones. It has also struck a $12.5 billion deal to buy Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., pitting the Internet giant directly against Apple in the handset market.

Apple still sells more smartphones than any competitor, and also leads by a wide margin in the tablet market that has emerged since Mr. Jobs unveiled the iPad in 2010.

“IPhone is the number one smartphone in the world and continues to be number one in customer satisfaction,” an Apple spokeswoman said in response to questions about the competition. As for the Kindle Fire, she noted others have introduced tablets with seven-inch screens and a limited number of apps, and “none of them have gained significant traction against iPad’s incredible momentum.”

 

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(Published Oct. 7, 2011 on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.)