2016: The year Apple stumbled

And 2017 seems set to be an even tougher year for the Cupertino giant.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

2016 has been a rollercoaster of a year, with political upheavals the world over and a constant stream of high profile celebrity deaths. But the tech world hasn't been without its dramas either, and one company that's been keeping pundits and analysts at the edge of their seats throughout the year is Apple.

And 2017 looks to be an even tougher year.

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Ever since Apple made it big with the iPod back in the early 00's and began raking in cash at ever-increasing pace, there have been doom-mongers "predicting" that disaster awaited Apple at every turn.

And yet here we are, it's 2016 and Apple has what is undoubtedly the best-selling consumer electronics device ever, billions of dollars in the bank, and revenues that give it the economic might of a big country.

But all is not well in Apple-land.

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First off, iPhone sales are weakening, and analysts are predicting that things are only going to get worse. Next year's 10th anniversary iPhone might kick off a huge upgrade cycle, but beyond that the consensus among analysts seems to be that the trajectory is headed downwards.

It doesn't help things that both the iPhone 7 and iOS 10 have been plagued by problems, and that as the year draws to a close iOS 10.2 -- which does appear to finally solve a lot of the problems that have dogged this latest release -- is still in beta.

No fun for people who have upgraded to iOS 10 or purchased a new iPhone.

Apple also suffered from supply chain constraints following the release of the iPhone 7, and this not only meant that it wasn't able to keep up with demand, but it also failed to capitalize on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco.

But Apple's problems go beyond the iPhone.

The iPad, which once looked set to join the iPhone as a huge money-maker for Apple, is tanking, and tanking badly. While the holiday season will likely give sales an upward kick, on the whole things don't look good. Even releasing the iPad Pro didn't seem to move the needle for Apple.

The iPad looks like it is on borrowed time.

Then there's Apple's aging hardware line-up. Sure, the iPhone (which is buggy), the MacBook Pro (also buggy), and the Apple Watch have now seen a refresh, but everything else is old and stale and in desperate need of a refresh.

And when Apple did unveil a refreshed MacBook Pro, it seemed bland compared to Microsoft's Surface Studio PC. You know it's bad when Microsoft is now throwing shade on Apple.

As for everything else that needs a refresh, Apple doesn't seem in any rush to do anything. It's almost like it's stretched to the limits by the demands of making and continually refreshing the iPhone line.

To top it all off, Apple hasn't even managed to get its AirPod wireless earphones out in time for the holidays, allegedly due to an audio sync issue. This is a pretty big fail for a company that was crowing about how awesome the AirPods were only a few weeks ago.

Does any of this mean that Apple is doomed? Of course not, and people who pull this card are either catastrophists or trying to distract from the real issue. The problem for Apple isn't doom, but becoming just another tech company, tripping over its own shoelaces, bungling launches, and having to put out fires.

2016 showed that even Apple, with all the money and smarts and consumer goodwill, is just another tech company.

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