Two years' work and 200 interviews have led author Yukari Iwatani Kane to this conclusion: Apple's cooked.
In her new book released this week--"Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs"—she concludes that the company's best days (or at least its most daring and most innovative ones) are now behind it.
When she started her book, she tells ABC News, her belief--after many years of having covered Apple for the Wall Street Journal--was that if any company could survive the death of its founder and keep the momentum going, it would be Apple. But she changed her mind along the way. "I kept uncovering evidence," she says, "that that may not be the case."
Apple, she says, may revert to the company it was after Jobs left for the first time.
"I asked a guy who was there in '85 what it was like after Jobs left. He said it was very similar to what's going on today. The difference is, this time Jobs can't come back. And Apple was smaller then. It's more challenging for them now because they're so much bigger and more dominant a company. Steve would have faced some of the same challenges. But not having him, now, makes everything more difficult."
She questions whether Job's successor, CEO Tim Cook, has any more world-changing devices up his sleeve; whether Apple will be able to continue to surprise and delight consumers with premium-priced gizmos they never even knew they needed.
Apple CEO Tim Cook minced no words responding to Kane's book.
Though a statement he released this week stops short of calling "Haunted Empire" predictions on a par with "That's all folks," it said in part:
"This nonsense belongs with some of the other books I've read about Apple. It fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company." Apple's 85,000 employees, says the statement, come to work each day to create the world's best products and "to put their mark on the universe. This has been the heart of Apple since day one and will remain at the heart for decades to come. I am very confident about our future."
Kane, in an email to Re/code, responded:
"For Tim Cook to have strong feelings about the book, it must have touched a nerve. Even I was surprised by my conclusions."
Those conclusions, some reviewers have said, would be more convincing if supported by better facts. In the opinion of Fortune writer Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who has followed the tech sector for 30 years and Apple since 1982, "the book doesn't deliver."
Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs, he tells ABC, was original and powerful because Isaacson got unprecedented access to Jobs. Leander Kahney's book on Jony Ive, Apple's design wizard, was invaluable, says Elmer-DeWitt, because Kahney discovered the inner working of the company's design laboratory. And Kane? She delivers, he says, "Nicknames we didn't know people had."
Is Apple doomed—or does it have more tricks up its sleeve? "We don't really know, and neither does she." The reason, he says, is that despite her 200 interviews, she failed to penetrate deep enough into the famously secretive company to know the truth.