Can anyone catch Apple?
Posted on 2 Nov 2012 at 14:45
Apple is now the world’s most valuable company. Can anyone threaten its dominance? We rate the prospects of Apple and its leading tech rivals
When you think about the global superpowers of the technology world, several names spring immediately to mind: Apple, Microsoft, Google and perhaps even Facebook.
But as they all have their strengths in different areas, that power can ebb and flow as the world changes.
Five years ago, the first fancy touchscreen iPhone arrived to send the smartphone industry into the stratosphere, and that was long before the idea of a consumer tablet was even talked about. Back then, desktop PCs were still in the ascendent; now they’re being replaced by a new breed of portables.
The technology industry changes fast, and companies must adapt. In this feature, we examine the ten main players: what products do they have planned? What deals have they made for the future? How are they changing to keep up with the competition?
For each of these companies, we’ll look at their share price over the past five years, discuss their plans, and give an informal verdict on their prospects – we’ve gone for either buy, sell or hold, but please don’t base any real-world investments on it! Finally, we look at a selection of plucky young upstarts that may eventually join the top table.
Author: PC Pro staff
IBM / Microsoft?
Look what happened to them... Every company has it's moment - but it isn't forever.
By mrmmm on 2 Nov 2012
"Five years ago, the first fancy touchscreen iPhone arrived ... and that was long before the idea of a consumer tablet was even talked about."
"HP bought struggling Palm back in 2010, making a dramatic entry into the rapidly growing mobile market." Entry!
I had an HP iPaq4700 handheld touch drive in 2004 running Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003. OK it didn't make phone calls or send texts but those features are rarely used on my current "phone".
I realise you are looking at stock value in the last 5 years but these opening statements are not very accurate When looking to the future, please get the past right.
By stephen_d_morris on 2 Nov 2012
agreed, I had my first HP/Compaq iPaq back in the late 90s... And the later version had an add-on GSM module.
By big_D on 2 Nov 2012
Both seemed all conquering in their day.
Apple will probably retain their dominance for years to come but without Steve Jobs, they are just another tech company, as was proved by their decline in 1985-1997.
By Alfresco on 3 Nov 2012
Sony / Panasonic
Remember when Japanese technolgy companies dominated our world. Apple are a consumer company, they don't solve any fundamental problems other than connsumer preference.
Apple launched 2 new desktop systems but no-one is expecting them to fundamentally change the destop paradigm. Apple is the worlds largest "2 hit wonder".
By milliganp on 3 Nov 2012
IBM have a market cap 10x HP, why are they not on the list?
By milliganp on 3 Nov 2012
I think the cracks are already beginning to show in Apple, possibly as a result of Jobs departure:
* iOS resting on its laurels
* board room bust-ups
@ reacting to instead of leading the market, viz iPhone 5 and iPad mini
* looking foolish and petulant in response to UK court case
So, innovation has ground to a halt - iOS is stagnant and their latest products are mere range extensions in reaction to the market. Technical competence is also questionnable (iMaps). There is unrest in the boardroom, and they are woefully distracted by a sense of their own self-importance. All signs that the rot has set in, as it does with all empires eventually.
By martindaler on 5 Nov 2012
The bigger they are the harder they fall...
Apple is pretty much a two-hit wonder at present. They made their early cash flogging MP3 players when that was the fashion.
They have consolidated with iOS on 'phones and latterly Tablets.
For all the hype about 'disruptive' technology, and the 'post PC World' Apple is not that well-placed.
To use the 1980s\1990s analogy, Apple's looking rather more like IBM than Microsoft. It brought the smartphone \ consumer Tablet to market 1st, but is now in serious danger of being swamped by commoditised 'clones'. Attempts to prevent this, and create a 'walled garden' of proprietary technology failed for IBM, and are likely to fail for Apple too.
The Microsoft \ IBM analogy is instructive as well because it pitted software against hardware. Guess which proved ultimately more profitable & durable?
Obviously we need to expand the analogy to 'Software & Services' in today's world.
Apple is currently top dog here too (in the consumer world), but looking at crude numbers of systems and users, it's hard to see that continuing for any length of time.
In terms of margins, Apple's strongest suit at present, IBM could charge £5,000 for a PC, but only until the clones were plentiful at half that. Apple is attempting to stem that flood through litigation, but ultimately their survival will be down to engineers and designers, not lawyers. Apple's R&D spend is pathetically small for the biggest company in the world, less than 25% of MS's as I recall.
Apple's iStore & iTunes are currently dominant because of the iPod & early iPhone 'hangover': a baby-boomer like bulge which is working its way out of the system with every non-Apple device sold.
Apple are even struggling in the US market being outsold by Android 'phones around 4-1, and that gets worse every day....
It's the curse of the 'mature'(or at least maturing) market and it nearly always hits those who were initially most successful hardest.
Apple is still a major player. Irrespective of Android (or W8\WP8) sales it will flog multi-millions of gadgets over the next couple of years, but Amazon and Google will pretty certainly see the most benefit from the kinds of succulent 'ecosystem' that Apple was so anxious to tie-down with its I-tunes franchise. I haven't even started on 'integration' yet, but whereas the likes of Sky, Amazon, Netflix, and increasingly MS can offer a seamless transition between TV, Tablet, and 'phone Apple seem to be a rabbit stuck in the headlights of that on-rushing vehicle.
Of course with a bit of genuine flair and (dare I breathe it?) innovation, Apple might yet get out of Gaol, but the odds don't look good. They probably won't fade away - there'll always be a market for 'luxury' goods, but their current dominance (said 'innovation' aside) looks increasingly threatened. Apple, like IBM, will find a niche.....
By wittgenfrog on 5 Nov 2012
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