Since iOS and the App Store have dominated the mobile business for so long, they’re considered “nonsubstitutable infrastructure.”
Non-substitutable infrastructure keeps users from switching to a rival. Its traits:
Organisational or market standardisation.
Strong vendor and third-party support.
Enables additional services and applications.
The NJ Turnpike is indispensable. Even with billionaires building high-speed subterranean tunnels, I’ll keep driving on it. Substitutable infrastructure includes Coke and Pepsi. Morning Diet Coke and afternoon Pepsi. Switching brands is free (but I always think Coke tastes better).
Apple is the “safe choice” for people nowadays. It’s built a positive-feedback cycle that draws customers into its infrastructure: They buy Apple Watches, AirPods, Apple Music, and Apple TV+.
Many believe the Apple ecosystem—hardware, operating systems, and services—and the App Store are unstoppable. They claim Apple’s market advantage will only strengthen as no competitor can topple it.
However, the iPhone and Apple ecosystem will be replaced. The Egyptians, Romans, Ottomans, British, and tech empires like IBM and Microsoft flourish and collapse.
That’s a bad metaphor. Apple, IBM, and Microsoft will survive. While powerful and profitable, the latter two no longer dominate markets or mindshare. Nobody wants to split apart IBM or Microsoft like they do Apple.
I use technological cycles, which have occurred for refrigeration and audio technologies, to explain Apple’s decline.
Technology undergoes five phases:
Different firms make similar technology. Market dynamics create non-substitutable infrastructure. Not always the greatest technology gains commercial acceptance.
Pseudo-challengers copy that standard but fail to replace it because they lack real distinctiveness or have other problems. (Pseudo-challengers often have enough value to persist and coexist with the dominant technology.) The standard returns stronger and seems unmovable.
A superior technology replaces the standard. iOS’s stage 4. Despite competition from Android and Samsung smartphones, it dominates mindshare.
Any new technology must fulfill these requirements to challenge Apple:
It must provide value and difference that end users may immediately utilise. The iPhone’s browser and touchscreen with pinch-to-zoom supplanted flip phones. It gave the internet a PC-like sensation on a phone. It must profit merchants. Software developers have a new market with iPhone applications.
Hardware providers must gain economically. Hardware makers have considerable motivation to create systems to take advantage of new technologies and push upgrades if criteria one and two are satisfied.
I won’t forecast the Apple “i” ecosystem’s successor. That’s stupid. Steve Jobs’ Apple revival was unanticipated. Apple sales were unpredicted by the iPod. The iPhone’s industry influence was unanticipated. Some even scoffed at the iPhone.
As chips become faster, networks get quicker, and AI gets smarter, the technology that topples the iPhone may already be out there. Will Apple make it?