The thing about successful innovation is that it becomes assimilated and imitated quickly. The bigger the breakthrough, the bigger the market pressure for follow-up wonders. Without a constant flow of big ideas, customers become complacent, competitors catch up, and investors catch on.
On Tuesday, Apple Inc. will have to answer critics who have worried the company has lost its entrepreneurial spirit and innovative drive since Steve Jobs died. They point out there has been a void of new, must-have i-devices since Tim Cook took over as CEO more than a year ago.
At the same time, Apple has reversed course on its long-held corporate resistance to paying shareholder dividends and stock buybacks. Instead, Apple has been returning billions of dollars of its cash hoard to its investors rather than making a rash buyout of another company or tech
nology it would be better off without.
Sure, Apple hasn't unleashed a new iPhone that has customers rushing to upgrade. Nor has it unveiled a long awaited TV product. The June announcement of its iRadio streaming music service was greeted as an obvious, if late-to-the-game strategy. Instead, the company has concentrated on the foundation of its mobile device business, introducing a new operating system to be out in the fall.
Apple will have a lot to crow about when it releases its quarterly results Tuesday after the stock market closes. IPhone sales likely remained robust, even with competitor Samsung getting rave reviews of its Galaxy S4 smartphone, and the iPad remains the tablet of choice, eating away business from the traditional PC business.
Apple stock is about two-thirds the price it was nine months ago. Anticipation anxiety over its pace of innovation continues. That's the future price of past success.
Tom Hudson, a financial journalist based in Miami, is the former co-anchor and managing editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television.