Apple is Fortune’s ‘Most Admired’ for 6th year in a row

February 28, 2013, 10:38 PM UTC

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FORTUNE — There’s an elegiac tone to Adam (“Inside Apple“) Lashinsky’s essay in the issue of Fortune that names Apple (AAPL) the world’s most admired company (as selected by its corporate peers) for the sixth year in a row.

“For some,” Lashinsky writes, “the news will come as a surprise. Headlines of late have tended to portend Apple’s demise, comparing the computer and mobile-gadget maker to Microsoft (the horror) and wondering whether Apple had lost its cool factor.”

But perhaps, he suggests, echoing Horace Dediu’s “Why doesn’t anybody copy Apple?,” Cupertino’s competitors know something that more fickle investors and consumers do not: That it’s not easy to do what Apple does.

“For those expecting a fall from grace,” Lashinsky writes, “Apple undoubtedly is a victim of its own success. [Steve] Jobs, a legend in his own time and the face of Apple, actively hid his managers from public view, preferring that they focus on work, not self-aggrandizement. What’s more, for a company that without hyperbole can be described as having released four revolutionary products in a decade — iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and iPad — expectations become exceedingly high.

“Yet the still-admiring executives who try to do what Apple does must have a sense of Apple’s persistent potential. Apple’s management bench is deep, if not famous. It’s also easy to forget that six years separated the iPod and the iPhone, which preceded the iPad by another three years. When Apple released the iPad in 2010, it was initially mocked. Three years have passed, making the company not yet overdue to issue its latest category-defining product, whatever that may be. The world expects miracles from Apple. So much so that the absence of one on a regular schedule spells doom to some. Mere mortals at companies that never have put a dent in the universe continue to admire Apple’s accomplishments.”

Lashinsky’s essay, “It’s lonely at the top for Apple,” can be found in the issue of Fortune dated March 18, 2013.