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Apple will 'coast and then decelerate', says analyst

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Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new iPad

© PA Images / Paul Sakuma/AP

Apple will "coast and then decelerate" over the next four years as it suffers from the loss of the vision and innovation of co-founder Steve Jobs, according to an analyst.

The US firm saw its share price climb around 9% this week, adding approximately $50bn to its stock market value, after it posted another set of blockbuster quarterly results.

But Forrester Research chief executive George Colony believes that the iPhone and iPad maker risks becoming a company in decline following the loss of Jobs to cancer last year.

In a blog post yesterday, Colony said that corporate history is dominated by examples of companies that have grown on innovation, but then declined, including Apple when Jobs was forced out in the 1980s.

He said that Tim Cook, the successor to Jobs as Apple chief executive, is a "proven and competent executive" but lacks the flair to bring forward ground-breaking new products.

"Apple's momentum will carry it for 24-48 months. But without 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," wrote Colony.

"Like Sony (post [Akio] Morita), Polaroid (post [Edwin] Land), Apple circa 1985 (post Jobs), and Disney (in the 20 years post Walt Disney), Apple will coast, and then decelerate."

Cook was promoted to the Apple hot seat from chief operating officer, but Colony said that the firm would be better handing the chief executive role to the creative talent, including knighted iMac designer Jonathan Ive or Scott Forstall, who looks after iPhone software.

"Without knowing them personally, I would look to Apple executives Jon Ive or Scott Forstall to be CEO," he wrote. "From on far they appear to have some of the charisma and outspoken design sense to legitimately lead the company."

Apple's biggest challenge over the next four to five years will be keeping the existing iPhone and iPad ranges fresh, while also fending off the challenge of devices running Google Android and the forthcoming Microsoft Windows 8.

Cook will also have to introduce new products, potentially including a more ambitious Apple TV solution and the rumoured new 4G iPhone.

But equally, many analysts believe that Apple's ability to exploit the Chinese mobile market, the largest and least saturated, will be key for maintaining its future revenue growth.

"That's the big question," Carolina Milanesi, consumer technologies analyst at Gartner, told Reuters. "From an affordability perspective, I think the opportunity is there to allow it to maintain that growth or at least not to see an immediate drop in sales."

> Apple WWDC 2012 event set for June 11, hints at iOS 6 launch

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