By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
July 6, 2017

George Colony, CEO of tech-industry market researcher Forrester, and I have had a long-running dispute about Apple. He is a passionate member of the Apple-can’t-innovate-anymore camp, a faction of Apple watchers that believes the company went into decline the moment Steve Jobs passed from the scene. I am a slightly less committed member of the Apple-is-still-great (if never again as great) school of thought. I have argued that the last 15 years of the Jobs era was a feat that even the great man wouldn’t have repeated and that Apple remains a powerhouse of excellence despite the gap in years between its great innovations growing wider.

Colony challenged me shortly after I published a book in 2012 that supported this thesis, arguing that Apple would fade without Jobs just as Sony did without its founder, Akio Morita. He hasn’t given up on his thesis, despite the massive increase in Apple’s market value in the ensuing years. He told me recently that Apple’s surge is a testament to the engine Jobs created, not the result of any recent Apple product development.

Now Colony is at it again, arguing that Apple should buy IBM for its Watson artificial intelligence technology. It’s a slim post that sidesteps other arguments he might have made for such a tie up. IBM, for example, is having trouble growing. Apple under Tim Cook, who began his career at IBM, is interested in selling to businesses in a way Jobs never was.

Colony’s evidence for Apple’s inferiority in AI is its also-ran Siri digital assistant. Apple is sensitive on this topic. It gave journalist Steven Levy unprecedented access to its machine learning team last summer to prove that like Google and Facebook, Apple is in this important game.

It isn’t likely Apple will buy IBM, as Colony acknowledges. The mere suggestion that it needs IBM’s technology is another swipe at a company worth three quarters of a trillion dollars.

If only Apple could hurry up and make a car. Maybe then Colony would lay off them.

Adam Lashinsky


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