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Apple's three biggest weaknesses

A customer takes the iPad 2 for a test drive during last month's launch of the popular tablet device.
A customer takes the iPad 2 for a test drive during last month's launch of the popular tablet device.
  • Is the iPad 2 really "post-PC" if you have to plug it into a computer to activate and sync?
  • Apple's Ping and GameCenter "social" products fall flat compared to Android
  • Apple TV is no threat to established TV companies like Comcast or DirecTV

Editor's note: This is another in a series of Business Insider commentaries debunking common tech myths.

(Business Insider) -- Apple and CEO Steve Jobs have celebrated a string of huge hits over the past several years, including the iPhone, the iPad and the MacBook Air.

Reviews have been mostly glowing, sales have been strong and investors have cheered, sending the stock up 40% over the past 12 months. Apple, which was struggling a decade ago, is now the world's most admired and highly valued tech company.

But Apple is not perfect. In fact, the company has several weaknesses to address:

1) The cloud. Apple has been bragging about how the iPad 2 is a "post-PC" device, but you still need to plug it into a computer to activate and sync it. The easiest way to get photos off your iPhone is to email them to yourself. You still can't sync your iTunes music over Wi-Fi or 3G. This is a shame.

Apple needs to think about the cloud the way Google does -- as the future of mobile services. You shouldn't be tied to a USB cord to access files. You shouldn't need a PC to use a "post-PC" iPad. You shouldn't have to email a map link from your computer to your iPhone.

Perhaps this is part of Apple's new version of iOS, due sometime this year. (See our list of suggestions for iOS 5 here.)

Explain it to me: iPhone's new home
  • Apple Inc.
  • Apple iPad 2
  • Apple iOS

The company has a huge new data center in North Carolina and can't be blind to the fact that other companies -- Dropbox, Amazon, Google, etc. -- are doing very cool things with the cloud.

But for now, Apple is still weak here -- MobileMe and Apple's iOS push notifications not withstanding.

2) Social. Apple has tried to do "social" a bit with Ping, its social network based around iTunes music, and GameCenter, its social gaming service. They aren't huge hits. Apple has not been able to go as deep integrating Facebook or other social networks into its products as some Android devices or Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 have.

Some of this could be to reduce Apple's dependence on other companies, so the iPhone is more reliable. But it seems that Apple and Steve Jobs don't really get social, and don't see its value. That could burn them in the long run.

Or perhaps, again, this could be addressed in the next version of iOS. For instance, Apple could go a long way by making the iPhone's built-in Photos app more social, like the popular Instagram app. And Apple's marketing boss Phil Schiller is all over Instagram. So it's not like the company isn't highly aware of what's out there.

This isn't to say that Apple should replicate Facebook, or even try to build its own general-purpose social network. But integrating your existing online social connections could be useful for many of Apple's products, ranging from the iPhone's address book to the App Store to photo sharing. So it's time for Apple to do more here.

3) The living room. The new Apple TV just got a small upgrade, in the form of live video streaming for MLB and NBA games. But it's still the weakest of Apple's products, with a relatively limited selection of video. And it's definitely not something TV companies like Comcast or DirecTV are worried about.

Apple could improve Apple TV with an app store within the next year or so -- gaming could be big! -- and more video content sooner. But it's a challenge, because this is a situation where Apple has to decide between being a good platform -- and allowing rival companies like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon to thrive -- and being a dominant content seller by keeping an iTunes monopoly.

The good news for Apple is that no one else is really putting up a fight here yet. Google TV isn't a big success, while Boxee, Roku and TiVo Premiere haven't caught on with mainstream consumers. So Apple can take its time. Heck, Apple may even come out with an actual television someday.

Also, these are all areas where Apple is relatively in control of its destiny, and can make improvements.

There are some other areas where Apple is vulnerable, such as the threat posed by Google's Android system, and possible production problems because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But that's a different list.

Copyright © 2011 Business Insider.


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