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Why has Forrester's CEO become an Apple doomsayer?

According to the CEO of market research firm Forrester, Apple only has a few more good years left in it if Tim Cook's at the helm.

Apple's Tim Cook at a company event in 2010.
Apple's Tim Cook at a company event in 2010.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Apple's having a pretty good week. After reporting what can only be described as blowout earnings yesterday, its stock price made a huge recovery today. The company also set another record, selling out its annual developers conference in less than two hours.

But it won't be this good forever warns Forrester Research chairman and CEO George Colony in a blog post today.

"Apple's momentum will carry it for 24 to 48 months," Colony said. "But without the arrival of a new charismatic leader it will move from being a great company to being a good company, with a commensurate step down in revenue growth and product innovation."

The example company Colony props up is Sony following the tenure of its CEO Akio Morita in 1994, as well as Apple right after Jobs was ousted, and Disney post-Walt.

Who would such a leader be for Apple then? Dismissing CEO Tim Cook, as "a proven and competent executive to succeed Jobs," but with a "legal/bureaucratic approach" that's a "mismatch for an organization that feeds off the gift of grace," Colony points to two people who are already inside Apple.

"Without knowing them personally, I would look to Apple executives Jon Ive or Scott Forstall to be CEO," Colony wrote. "From on far they appear to have some of the charisma and outspoken design sense to legitimately lead the company."

Colony, of course, is not the first person to suggest that either of those two execs as potential successors would be a good fit at Apple's top spot. The big question of course is where this idea that Cook is seemingly not fit for duty came from, and why that's the question to ask now?

Forrester is a large, and well-respected market research company, and its reports hold sway in technology and beyond. Yet, in many respects, these are exactly the kind of claims that came out immediately after Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO, and shortly after his death last year.

Colony, to a great extent, is following the classic formula of the provocateur:

  • Find a hook: Apple just had one heck of a quarter: the company blew past estimates on both earnings and how many iPhones it sold, while breaking other quarterly records in iPad and Mac sales.
  • Find something contrarian to say: Sure, things look good, but the fun times won't last. He even puts a time frame on it.
  • Add a touch of obviousness: Everyone knows it's a risk that Jobs no longer runs Apple. That's hardly something people don't know. The obviousness gives it credibility. Can you say that concern hasn't crossed your mind?
  • Add some context: Hey folks, bad things happen when the founder leaves a tech company. Look at Apple when Jobs left the first time around. Microsoft hasn't been the same since Bill Gates stepped down. Hewlett and Packard. The list goes on. Other than Intel, it takes some time to think of a big tech company that continued to thrive after the founder or founders left.
  • In this case, Colony points to the centralized Apple organizational chart inside Adam Lashinsky's book "Inside Apple," which was published earlier this year. That title, which followed Walter Isaacson's authorized Jobs bio -- but did not include Apple's participation -- made the case that Jobs was the ultimate decision maker in all matters, but that he also planned for the company's future with its university program, set up to create internal case studies and teach other skills. Colony dismisses that notion, pointing instead to the words of sociologist Max Weber.

    "Charisma can only be awakened and tested, it cannot be learned or taught."