EA founder: Apple heading towards inevitable decline

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Electronic Arts (EA) founder Trip Hawkins believes Apple is headed toward a decline. It's of course perfectly reasonable to assume that Apple, like every company before it, will not dominate the markets it's in forever, but Hawkins sees Apple's decline as beginning relatively soon.

"If you look at any institution in history – look at the Roman Empire – anything in history, and what it looks like when it's peaking," Hawkins told Edge. "Look at Apple, and how can you say it's not peaking? The CEO is still alive, let's start there. They invented this tablet thing that's going to be really big. They've done really well by reinventing the phone. They breathed new life into the Mac. They've got this super-high marketing. All these things are about as good as they ever can be – how much better can it really get? The thing is, it may take another year or two before it starts to decline, but it has to – everything does. Everything revolves so much around Steve, and no matter how good his lieutenants are, they're not Steve. None of us is going to live forever, though I hope he lives for a really long time."

Hawkins is no longer at EA: he is currently working at a video game development company called Digital Chocolate, which he also founded in late 2003. The firm focuses on developing games for handheld devices, so Hawkins' opinion comes from his work on Apple's iOS platform. He has no plans on ditching said platform, but he does wish Cupertino wasn't so insistent on having a closed system.

"Digital Chocolate's games will always be in the App Store," Hawkins said. "But I think it would be an incredibly positive thing for the industry if Apple decided to support all of the web standards, because then Apple could be the best about everything. Right now they make a conscious choice. They want you to be in the App Store rather than the browser, so they cripple the browser. They've created this outlet and they had to have an excuse to keep you there, so they're like, 'Oh it's nothing against Flash; we just prefer HTML5'. Well, Flash can actually make a really good game, and with HTML5 you can't do that. But give HTML5 another few years to mature, and that could solve the problem. Or Apple could be more generous about deciding to support more de facto standards like Flash, or at least let it run its course."

So we're back to the old Flash versus HTML5 debate. Apple believes that HTML5 is the future. It is probably right, but many don't like the way it is imposing these beliefs on developers that depend on the company's mobile ecosystem.

Of course, Apple's unwillingness to support Flash and its overall closed model has not stopped the company from selling millions of iOS devices. Some would argue the company would be doing even better if it were more open, while others insist that it's this closed system that is what keeps Cupertino at, or near, the top (depending on who you ask).

There's no question that Apple has been doing tremendously well in recent years. Hawkins, however, thinks the company has reached its peak, or will in the next couple of years. What do you think?

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