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Chief executive's pruning aims to keep Apple fresh.

Chief executive's pruning aims to keep Apple fresh

What is the future for computer hardware and software giant Apple, the world's most valuable company?

Is it set for a fall from grace, or has a recent sweeping reshuffle at the top of the company set it on course for even more spectacular growth in the years ahead?

In the September 20th issue of Computing, Graeme Burton puts forward the former view. In his article, 'The fall of the house of Apple', he argues that the seeds of the company's decline have been sown over the last five years because of its failure to appreciate how the demands from users in the smart-phone sector, which it defined, have widened beyond its ability to satisfy them.

The author concedes that the iPad remains the world's best-selling tablet computer. But he claims that its lead is being rapidly eroded by a range of tablets, based on the Android operating system, being developed by the likes of Google and Amazon.

Graeme Burton concludes that Apple will not collapse, like some other companies in the sector, but its decline and eventual fall are already assured.

In contrast, Murad Ahmed, in the October 31st edition of The Times, says that Apple has embarked on a new direction following 'a breathtaking display of executive power'. Chief executive Tim Cook removed Scott Forstall, who led the team behind the software for Apple's mobile devices. This followed the fiasco of the new Maps product for the iPhone 5, which 'lost' entire cities and moved others far from their real locations. Tim Cook also removed John Browett, the retail chief who annoyed staff in Apple stores by cutting their working hours.

Murad Ahmed writes that the new top team 'must now prove skeptics wrong by releasing an entirely new product that shows that Apple retains the capacity to create ground-breaking devices'. That product is expected to be the iTV, which the company hopes will transform the way that millions of people watch television.

In the September 2012 issue of Industry Week, Jill Jusko argues that the best companies do not simply live for the present but also plan for the future. They look for business opportunities up to 10 years ahead and apply the same long-term thinking to people management.

She quotes a report by the Boston Consulting Group and the World Federation of People Management Associations, which claims that high-performing firms are twice as likely as low-performing companies to make leadership planning an integral part of people planning. They also do more to attract and develop talented people, and are more likely to maintain programs for emerging as well as high-potential employees.

Construction-equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is a case in point. In the September/October 2012 issue of Information Age, Lauren Gibbons Paul reports the efforts of the firm's global security director, Tim Williams, to achieve a cohesive team for maintaining appropriate levels of security at the company.

The author presents the top five things Tim Williams did to revitalize the team: rethink everything; formalize underserved functions; demand proven business skills; create a communications czar for security; and nurture dissent.

When you come to think about it, that's not unlike Tim Cook's changes aimed at keeping Apple in tip-top condition.

They must be doing something right!