The Title does sound a bit doom and gloom for Apple! But that does not mean that Apple's iOs (IPad, IPhone) product line has immediate bleak of a future. It just means that there is a ceiling with respect to how high iOs can fly without having direct access to search data.
This article is slated to be released on September 7th when IPhone7 is set to be announced.
It used to be that only a few companies had enough scale to create an OS and the App Eco-System to go with it and that's why Linux really never overtook windows in the DesktopWars. Operating Systems are still difficult to build and difficult to gain a critical mass for as WidowsPhone and BlackBerry's challenges in the market have demonstrated.
Apple's iOs is quite popular in developed markets such as the U.S and some European countries. It is also certainly a status symbol among the Nouveau riche in countries like Russia, Qatar, Saudi, UAE, Turkey, India, China, Brazil and ... But it is dishonest to say it is just a status symbol; It is a pretty good phone, camera, entertainment device, and a computer. Apple as a curator has done a good job making sure the proper features get implemented in the right way. Perhaps IPhone has not been the absolute best in all categories such as camera or Battery life, but it has always come close to the top dog of that particular feature in the Android world. This is how Apple has managed to have a much smaller global market share of the Phone Market but still have that 10-15% critical mass to ensure that killer apps and games get developed for it's iOs platforms. Apple's influence in markets such as the U.S, Canada, U.S is still quite strong, if not the dominant one. That's what made Microsoft release Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Word first on iOS and then on Android. But one can not help but notice that IPhone 6 and IPhone 6s were quite similar. It is also rumored that Apple's IPhone 7 will come out with dual-lens camera configuration similar to that Huawei P9. The Point I am trying to communicate is that IPhone's hardware differentiation has waned and not just against Samsung. There are increasingly fewer and fewer hardware related reasons to upgrade an IPhone or even get one when even brands that are not associated with Luxary such as HTC and Huawei put out products that are compelling. This does not mean that millions of people will dump their IPhone over-night, it just means that the superior hardware narrative for the IPhone as growth vehicle is slowly diminishing.
Apple has always been selling the customer the ideal that we have the best fusion of Software and Hardware. This Software and hardware fusion was not just a hype, in many cases Apple's IPhone and IPad were superior as hardware and software solution when compared to Android and Samsung or LG combo. Android, Chromebook, Chromecast and many other Google offerings have experienced a big comeback in the past three years; so much so that best Smart Phone on the market that has the best battery life and best screen quality, Processing Power, GPU, RAM is no longer the IPhone.
The real trouble for Apple is that the next frontier is Machine learning, AI. This means the phone or other computing devicess should be answer engines not just a search engine portal. If we set the barometer as a match between Siri, Apple maps and their Google Rivals Google Now and Apple maps, the picture might become much more clear. Even in the U.S, iOs users in surveys have expressed they prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps. Siri is entirely another story though, quite often all Siri does is provide "Here are the search results I found on the web". That's while Google Now quite often provides real answers to real questions. but what's interesting about Google Now is that it can understand numerable number of languages. Not only Google Now understands those languages in terms of speech recognition and conversion to natural query language, but It can also discern whether a user speaking one language vs the other. I ran a test on Google Now where I set English as Primary language and set Persian and Turkish as my secondary and tertiary preferences. Depending on my pronunciation and cadence of speech delivery in many situations Google Now could find out what language I was speaking and provide me answer or search results based on just one or two words. For instance I could say "Donald Trump" or "Hillary Clinton" in an English esq pronunciation and it would pull up English results. That's while if I had a much slower cadence of delivery and I pronounced certain O or A sounds in a different way the search results would appear in my second or third preference language. Google Now was even able to discern between the same exact word in two different languages. For instance I would pronounce the equivalent word of Republic in Persian and Turkish which are exactly the same. Google Now depending on my pronunciation would in many cases correctly decide which language I intended to use. There are more real life examples as well. I could say "Istanbul Hava" which just means "Istanbul Weather", and Google provides me the weather data in Istanbul in Turkish. But If I simply said "Hava Estanbul" it would recognize that I want my answers in Persian.
So why does it matter that Google provides such better NQL answers in all these developed or non-developed countries? Well it is all about scale, and critical mass. Let's look at Russia's 3rd largest city Novosibirsk, it has a number free apps on Google Play but it has only two on Apple App Store. These kinds of situations create a network effect, People who create the Apps will through-out the less prosperous areas of the world prefer to invest their energy in building Apps and solutions that fit the Android echo-system.
If I am right that People will want their intelligent personal assistants to do more for them, then the outlook for Apple even gets murkier. consider this, Google virtually has the monopoly on world-wide search data. Google has as a slew of popular online services such as Gmail, Youtube, Google Maps, Google Wallet, Google Photos, Google Voice, Google Docs, Google Books, Google Music, Google Finance and many others which provide it with an inordinate amount of data about people, places and just knowledge. Google has all that and it's search engine market share keeps on pushing further ahead of everyone else at a faster rate. if you think about it if Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Amazon, Yahoo, AOL and many others combined their data in real-time they would probably not be able to match the quality or quantity of data that google captures about the world and its people every day.
Google Now could likely be give you the best answer on price of a KG of or a pound of Chuck in New York City. That's because it has access to real time data from search (twitter maybe), news clips uploaded to YouTube or streamed live on youTube, Google Wallet, Google Finance via some kind of Future Contract traded in an Exchange. What can Apple's Siri rely on to provide that answer? Apple may be able to capture some kind of data from Apple Pay, They may be able to buy data from Paypal, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter or others; As you can see the path that Apple has to travel just seems a lot more complicated.
Let's remember, this article is not arguing that Google will dominate the PC Market, Phone Market. It is simply suggesting that making money by having good Hardware and good software will no longer be as simple for people like Apple or even Microsoft. In world where Google is connecting all the historical and real-time data like a web of dots, it is important to recognize that the next frontier for differentiation of service is providing answers not just search results. Unfortunately for other companies nobody is in as good of a position as google to accomplish this.