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True, both Siri and Maps fall at Forstall’s feet, but the idea of people calling for his head is remarkable. Contrast that with the MobileMe mess, where the manager was fired in front of the group and the press dutifully reported on it. None of them called for his termination. Now you’ve got CNN/Fortune and a few others quoted in the story calling for the resignation or firing of the most likely next CEO of the company?

It shows the reality distortion field is gone, and with it, the hypnotic effect it seemed to have on the press. Either that or they just don’t fear Apple any more.

And there is likely less fear on the inside. Jobs was a notorious tyrant and brooked no leaks. But look at the iPhone 5 vs. every other product launch. Prior product launches had all kinds of wild rumors (guesses, I’d venture to say). But in the case of the iPhone 5, there were no surprises when Tim Cook showed it off on stage. Every last detail had leaked and he had no opportunities for a “One more thing” moment that wowed the audience. It’s safe to say Apple and its overseas supply chain are leakier than they ever have been.

While some may point to the $1 billion verdict against Samsung as a sign of victory, others have noted on message boards that what Apple is basically doing is suing every significant competitor for using a basic interface it came up with in 2007 and has yet to offer any major innovation.

Think about it. The iPhone 5, with iOS 6, is cosmetically the same as the original iPhone. It has one more row of icons but still has four columns and the screen is a little sharper. This is Apple’s innovation over the past five years.

I used to call Apple “The Great Validator,” because it took ideas that had previously bombed in the marketplace and proved they could be done. The iPad was the greatest example. As of now, I’m waiting for something else.

This was unique to Jobs, who reportedly made suggestions to hospital staff on how to improve the equipment that was keeping him alive. The man was fighting for his life and yet he still looked at a heart monitor and found a way to improve on it. You can’t clone that, and it doesn’t seem to me that Cook, Forstall or even Johnny Ive have that nature.

I’m not at all predicting a Research in Motion-like implosion for Apple. Merely that finally, the Reality Distortion Field has dropped, and the tech press has blinked its eyes a few times and rubbed them to clear its vision. Apple is on its way down from Olympus to just being another Silicon Valley company.

More than likely, Apple has at least a few years of innovation and product plans up its sleeve that were initiated by Steve Jobs during his tenure. After that time, the company will definitely need “some visionary/charismatic individual to take the helm.”

This is the view of one NotebookReview forum member who shared his perspective on the passing of Steve Jobs and the impact on the company he co-founded. “Though Steve Jobs is not there, his personality is part of Apple now, so some of it will always remain,” notes forum member aredkid. Steve Jobs handpicked new CEO Tim Cook for a reason, he added, and he knew very well what that selection would mean for Apple down the road. “I believe it is for Apple to certainly change, but grow nonetheless, with a flavor of Steve Jobs.”

“I don’t think there is going to be much change at Apple,” posts NBR forum member kornchild2002. “It has been turned into a well -oiled machine that will take a mighty force to push off of its current track. Apple has done a lot this year with the iPad 2 (which was an even bigger success than the first one), OS X Lion, spec bumps in their various Mac lines with newer Intel hardware, iOS 5, development and implementation of iCloud, and so on.”

A Question of Loyalty

Others in the forums were not so positive about Apple’s future innovation track record sans Jobs. “It seems as though there have been no standout ‘innovations’ in the last 12 months or so,” writes writes wally33, a consultant on the NotebookReview discussion forums. “Apple is now arguably only just keeping up, if not behind in the smartphone market after the release of the iPhone 4s. With everyone expecting an iPhone 5, the people will only wait so long for Apple to begin releasing more of the products we are so used to before changing their loyalty to other manufacturers … Perhaps soon their only selling point will be OSX and an aesthetic design.”

“I haven’t noticed any major changes to Apple over the last year,” points out masterchef341, another NBR forum member. “They weren’t ever being constantly massively innovative. They had the iPhone in ’07 and the iPad in ’10. They released some interesting software in the meantime. It’s ’11 now. We’ve got an iOS style app store on Mac OS X. We’ve got some cloud computing going on. I’m not sure how much innovation you expect.”

This forum member goes on to pan the recently-released iPhone 4S, noting that it took a lot of time to debut and when it did was a very modest revision. He does admit, however, that the iPhone 4S does have “the fastest processor you can cram into a phone” and had remarkable screen resolution. In the end, though “I think their next big thing will be to convince everyone to buy an Apple TV.”

Tuning into Apple Future

This observation may not be too far from the mark. Buried within a Steve Jobs biography published after his death is the revelation that soon after iCloud as developed and announced, Jobs had set his sights on an Apple television. “I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud,” he is quoted as saying.

For business users, highly mobile device are all about the email. “There were never more than a few dozen hundred BB (Blackberry) apps even in the heyday,” says rOk, a Brighthand forum member. “At my office, more and more BB users are trading them in for Androids. The company still won’t buy an iPhone, but they will buy either a BB or an Android. If you bring your own phone, they’ll allow you to mess up your iPhone with their Exchange crap.”

In the end, though, it may be Steve Jobs legacy as well as the passion a lot of people have for Apple that will keep the company on the path of innovation over the next two to five years, which is a lifetime in the mobile industry.

“How Apple copes and morphs with these changes will determine Tim Cook’s performance and Apple’s adherence to Steve Jobs’ legacy of taking the self-assured lead and not the back seat,” adds NBR forum member aredkid. “We’ll just wait and see. That’s the exciting part!”

A number of websites are popping up with the news that OS X users have been hit with their first targeted wave of malware applications. Titled “Mac Defender”, it also goes by the alias Mac Security. According to some anonymous Apple Care reps, Apple doesn’t care.

ZDNet spoke with the Apple Care rep, who suggested that call centers are experiencing 400 or 500% call volumes, and that the influx seems to be largely a result of this malware attack. The support staff member went on to say that word had come down the chain that Apple Care would not help users with the problem, despite the seemingly simple solution.

“We have a team of people who go though all case notes and find new issues that are popping up a lot and send notices to all of AppleCare. Our notice for Mac Defender is that we’re not supposed to help customers remove malware from their computer.“

The reason? Apple doesn’t want to have to deal with malware as its threat grows, leaving that up to the end user and third party solutions. It’s important to keep in mind that although it sounds serious, it’s likely that only a limited number of users have been affected, and there’s no need to panic.

Although OS X is widely considered to be a secure operating system, and more secure than competitor Microsoft’s offering, it’s a popular belief that a certain degree of that security is through obscurity – that is, through its reduced marketshare compared to the alternative. If that marketshare widens, more attacks like the one described above are sure to follow.

The same rules for avoiding malware on Microsoft Windows apply to avoiding it on Apple’s OS X. Don’t download anything if you aren’t certain what it is, never open email attachments from someone you don’t know – or unexpected ones from someone you do, and don’t trust software that asks for a credit card just to remove a problem.

Last week, the news broke that Apple would be ceasing sales of its last high-end workstation, the Mac Pro desktop. Rumors of the product’s demise have been floating for the past several years, lent credence by the fact that Apple has gone several years without any sort of design upgrade to the product line; the current case was first employed back in 2003, when it still contained an IBM PowerPC G5 CPU.

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