苹果和Facebook帝国为什么注定要衰落

没有什么能永远持续下去。1.苹果到顶了吗?苹果第一财季iPhone销售虽然仅达预期范围的下限,利润预期令人失望,但2012年苹果收入仍居全球第一。结果苹果股价却大跌10%,有点歇斯底里;苹果的硬件目前仍然会使它保持优势,但长期来看,竞争会使它优势丧失。成败关键在于它是否能够再推出像iPod、iPhone、iPad这样的产品。2.Facebook推出了“图谱搜索”,它正在互联网上制造“带围墙的花园”,想成为又一个AOL。但那只是噩梦,它会像AOL那样以失败告终。人们虽然目前仍看好Facebook的社交服务,但为了利润,它会对不断增加对用户的侵犯和操纵,必将成为互联网历史上的一个注脚。
【文章说明】这是《观察家》杂志刊登的一篇评论,作者通过保罗·肯尼迪《大国的兴衰》中大国的崛起和衰落,类比当今两大科技公司苹果和Facebook也必将衰落。
【文章全文】

                  Why the Facebook and Apple empires are bound to fall 
History should teach us that for today's technology industry titans, the only way is down. Just ask Microsoft
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?
If you think "hysterical" is a bit harsh, then ponder this. Although Apple did not sell the 50m iPhones that had been forecast for the quarter (it "only" shifted 47.8m) and sales of its Mac computers were down somewhat, nevertheless the quarterly results mean that in 2012 Apple earned more in the year than any other corporation, ever. And even the quarter's supposedly disappointing earnings of $13.1bn were the fourth largest of all time, according to the same metric. And the reaction of the stock market to this news? The share price dropped 10% in after-hours trading.
Then there's the social network Facebook with its billion users, which is likewise the focus of much hyperventilating comment. Recently, the Mark Zuckerberg empire launched its latest deadly weapon with the catchy name of Graph Search – as in "social graph". Facebook's new tool is just an algorithm that finds information from within one's network of friends and supplements the results with hits from Microsoft's Bing search engine, but to read some of the commentary on it you'd think that Zuckerberg & co had invented either a perpetual motion machine or a through-ticket to hell.
"Facebook's new search engine attempts to build walls around the internet and keep its horde within its gates," wrote the webmaster of a respected online magazine. "It's a nightmare and it will probably work."
Actually, it's Facebook's latest attempt to become the AOL de nos jours. And, in the end, it will fail for the same reason that AOL's attempt to corral users within its walled garden failed: the wider internet is just too diverse, innovative and interesting. But because Facebook looms so large in the public consciousness at the moment, it's difficult to keep it in perspective. Which is why Kennedy's book makes such salutary reading.
So what we need to remember as we wade through the current overheated commentary on Apple and Facebook is that nothing lasts forever. I have been in this racket long enough to remember a time when Microsoft was at least as dominant and scary as these two companies are now. Spool forward a couple of decades and Microsoft is still around, but actually it's an ailing giant – profitable but no longer innovative, trying (and so far failing) to get a foothold in the post-PC, mobile, cloud-based world.
Although the eclipsing of Apple and Facebook is inevitable, the timing and causes of their eventual declines will differ. Apple's current strength is that it actually makes things that people are desperate to buy and on which the company makes huge margins. The inexorable logic of the hardware business is that those margins will decline as the competition increases, so Apple will become less profitable over the longer term. What will determine its future is whether it can come up with new, market-creating products such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Facebook, on the other hand, makes nothing. It just provides an online service that, for the moment, people seem to value. But in order to make money out of those users and satisfy the denizens of Wall Street, it has to become ever more intrusive and manipulative. It's condemned, in other words, to intrusive overstretch. Which is why, in the end, it will become a footnote in the history of the internet. Just like Microsoft, in fact. Sic transit gloria.

【文章名称】Why the Facebook and Apple empires are bound to fall
【文章作者】John Naughton
【文章来源】The Observer
【文章链接】http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/jan/27/facebook-apple-only-way-is-down


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