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Top analyst: 'Apple will decline'

Without a charismatic leader like Steve Jobs, Apple will fade, a leading analyst says.

Story highlights

  • Forrester CEO says Apple needs a charismatic leader like Steve Jobs
  • Company will coast two to four years on its momentum, then fade, he wrote
  • He says shifting to a more bureaucratic leader won't work well for Apple

The CEO of a top research firm didn't mince words about Apple in a new blog post.

"Apple will decline in the post Steve Jobs era," wrote George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research. "Here's why."

The iPhone and iPad maker will coast for two to four years on its current momentum, Colony said; but Jobs, who died in October, left a void because his successor, Apple CEO Tim Cook, doesn't possess his star power.

"[W]ithout the arrival of a new charismatic leader it will move from being a great company to being a good company, with a commensurate step down in revenue growth and product innovation," Colony wrote.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment for this story.

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The fade Colony describes doesn't appear to be on the immediate horizon.

    This week, Apple reported doubling its profits in the first three months of the year, largely on the strength of the 35.1 million iPhones it sold (a number that far exceeded predictions). The company said it also sold 4 million Mac computers, 11.8 million iPads and 7.7 million iPods during the quarter.

    Colony predicted that Apple's long-term fate will mirror that of onetime industry leaders like Sony and Kodak when they lost enigmatic leaders, or Disney in the 20 years after Walt Disney's death.

    In his post Wednesday, Colony described Apple in almost religious terms. "Charismatic organizations are run by people with 'the gift of grace,' " he wrote, citing sociologist Max Weber.

    But when that leader is gone, shifting to a more bureaucratic leader (which works for some organizations) doesn't translate well, he wrote.

    "In charismatic organizations, the magical leader must be succeeded by another charismatic -- the emotional connection of employees and (in the case of Apple) customers demands it," Colony said. "Apple has chosen a proven and competent executive to succeed Jobs. But his legal/bureaucratic approach will prove to be a mismatch for an organization that feeds off the gift of grace."

    Colony pointed to Apple executives Jon Ive and Scott Forstall as being better suited to run the company, saying they appear to possess the charisma and design sense to "legitimately" lead Apple.

    Forrester is a global technology research company founded by Colony in 1983 and is considered a leader in analyzing the technology industry.