Well, talk about a FTW moment. First Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello lavishes praise on Apple and paints iPad their fastest-growing platform as gaming on traditional consoles is on a decline and today the super publisher’s founder Trip Hawkins tells IndustryGamers that Apple is heading towards decline:

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. 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.

He then launches into the obsolete Flash argument:

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.

Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin was recently told that Steve Jobs, on a medical leave since January, “calls in regularly” but is no longer micro-managing the company. Hawkins may have read too much into that report or he thought his company’s CEO had been out of line boasting about iPad. After all, Electronic Arts still depends on sales of entertainment titles distributed traditionally, on physical media. Either way, Riccitiello is up for a reality check because it is no secret that Steve Jobs has been gradually phasing himself out of the view. Plus, there’s just one slight problem with the “Apple to decline” thing…

Ever since he first announced a surgery to remove cancerous tumor from his pancreas in mid-2004, Jobs has been gradually removing himself from public view and allowing other executives to step into the limelight. Jonathan Ive, Scott Forstall, Bob Mansfield, Phil Schiller, Tim Cook, Craig Federighi and other top dogs have all been making regular on-stage appearances alongside Jobs and are regularly featured in Apple’s product videos. Of course Steve Jobs is irreplaceable – he’s the best CEO on planet – and yes, he will not be at Apple’s helm forever. That being said, Apple will do just fine without him even with shares taking a temporary hit. Why? Because Apple’s boss has surrounded himself with capable individuals and he’s been grooming them over the years to take control of Apple when the time comes. And about that decline thing: Apple has plenty of room to grow, especially with the Mac’s single-digit market share which only recently passed the ten percent mark in America. That’s an ample growth opportunity in my book. Mobile devices? Currently 220 million of them sold and growing, with iPad being a phenomenon in and of itself. And don’t get me started on iTunes and App Store numbers. Apple TV? Still a hobby, but doing better than the other guys and increasingly looking to crack open the mass market TV market as the company is reportedly prepping a networked television set and building super data centers around the world to essentially become the 21st century broadcaster. None of this is taking into account Apple’s next big thing and other unreleased products in the pipeline as Apple completes its transition from a niche computer player into a global consumer electronics powerhouse akin to Sony in its golden days. So yes, Hawkins needs some straightening up. That’s not to say Apple won’t be on a decline some day – corporations can only grow that much – but that day is not on the horizon yet. And yes, what’s with the Roman Empire analogy, anyway?

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