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back to article Apple's profits fetish could spell its DOOM

The other shoe is about to drop in the mobile market. For years Apple has dominated mobile, both in terms of market share and in terms of profits. It was an enviable position, and a unique one, borne of Apple's commitment to out-innovating the industry, allowing it to consistently charge a premium for its products. But as the …

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Anonymous Coward

just speculations. the author doesn't know what research they're doing at the moment. think in the lines of "enterprise unveiled" in 5 years.

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Facepalm

Huh? To see what Apple are innovating right now, just look at any Android handset. NFC, multi user accounts, widgets, proper notifications, proper multitasking, a framework for apps which actually do scale properly to different form factors rather than fobbing off with letterboxing and err, oh yes, maps. Followed a year later by them suing everyone who dared innovate their innovation first, natch.

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Anonymous Coward

yes, technically sounds nice, but is it also sound? The way you mention all those features makes me think of this episode http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oh_Brother,_Where_Art_Thou%3F . German engineering is about incrementally adding well-aged and internally proven features and I have a feeling Apple is applying the same philosophy.

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WTF?

Speculum

The article contains no speculation about what Apple might produce in 5 years, so we should dismiss it as speculation.

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Apple don't have 5 years - @loan 09:52 GMT

They barely have 5 months to release something truly innovative and not a rehash of their existing product line.

icon? For apples failed strategy since the 3GS

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Re: Apple don't have 5 years - @loan 09:52 GMT

Because that money sitting in the bank will explode?

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same philosophy..

.. as in the desktop market.

start by innovating, then fuck it all up by giving all their money to the lawyers in a vain attempt to sue the opposition out of existence.

thats certanly part of jobses DNA. He seemed to innovate just fine in an empty market, but then got all pissy as soon as anyone else showed up whether they had their own ideas or not (or even if they had both nicked the same ideas from parc)

persnly id rather eat worms than buy any of the cupertino idiot tax collectors outpourings. i can see they're pretty. and will take your word for it that they 'just work'. i have always been anti-hip, and that seals the deal for me, dosent matter what it does, i'd be 'one of them' if i had one! and i wont be part of that gang. you are clearly a fanboi (not really a criticism) and im sure the drawer full of old apple phones you have at home have all given you imesurable pleasure.

but what the article is pointing out is that, they have already lost the tech edge, are losing unit sales, reducing profits per unit sale, all they have is cache - but that will pass, and pass quickly.

and back to oblivion they will go.

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Mushroom

Re: Apple don't have 5 years - @loan 09:52 GMT

"Because that money sitting in the bank will explode?"

Actually, it will. Investors allow Apple to sit on the cash whilst the share price rockets, or when investors believe you are using or will use that cash in a good way. At the moment Apple pay for R&D out of revenues and still add to the cash pile, so they don't really need it. Corporate investors aren't fanbois, and they'll be pushing the board to hand the money back before long, particularly now the share price has topped out.

As one of, or the world's most valuable company by market capitalisation, they can't continue the meteoric rise in share price. So investors will let them bide their time for a while. But Cook is no Jobs, and unless Apple start to show a use for the cash, then the investors will want it back. My guess is that Apple's management will eventually start splashing out buying companies because they've no better idea of what to do with the money (and they'll be in no hurry to give money to the shareholders, even if they do own the company). And ARM are currently the obvious number one target. The only reason that ARM haven't been hoovered up by a cash rich US firm yet is because of the fear that the first mover will trigger a nuclear bidding war, with Google, Apple and Microsoft slugging it out, possibly with some incoming from the likes of Samsung or Qualcomm. Intel would probably be barred by market share reasons, although if Apple owned ARM then suddenly Intel have the custom of every other phone and tablet maker.

Doesn't really bear thinking about, with Apple's twatty management, and their childish approach to patents and litigation.

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Stop

Re: Apple don't have 5 years - @loan 09:52 GMT

You realise that Apple's share price isn't a bubble, that it's actually in line with earnings (unlike Amazon or Facebook for example)? Investors can't FORCE Apple to do anything with its cash pile, partly because lots of it are outside of the US and would be subjected to a large lump of tax if they tried to repatriate it, and partly because its a board decision and they'd first need to stack the board with their own nominees. Unless there's a dramatic drop in profits then that just isn't going to happen.

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Re: Apple don't have 5 years - @loan 09:52 GMT

Sure they can force apple to do something with it. All they have to do is start selling the shares off....

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Re: Apple don't have 5 years - @loan 09:52 GMT

"ou realise that Apple's share price isn't a bubble, that it's actually in line with earnings"

So Apple's earnings have dropped 25%? That's what the share price has done recently...

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Stop

Re: Apple don't have 5 years - @loan 09:52 GMT

Go away and learn about P/E ratios, and try not to be such a prat. Shares in blue chip companies trade at a price that is normally between 10 and 20 times their earnings. Below 10 the stock is considered undervalued, above 20 and its over valued. When the market as a whole is doing badly the average multiple goes down, and vice versa when the market goes up. Apple's current ratio is 12.7, slightly on the low side but kind of where you'd expect it to be. Amazon is currently trading at a P/E of 3341 (madness, I'd be looking nervous if I owned any), Intel at 8.5, Microsoft at 26.7.

Companies can sustain a high PE only if the market thinks they are going to grow well. Low PEs are an indication that the market thinks they have little chance of growth. As long as a company keeps growing and increasing profits then shareholders are generally happy. When profits start to shrink they become more fractious and if the company loses money then there can be all sorts of boardroom fights. The important point here is that the board has to have made a lot of shareholders unhappy (normally by losing them money) before sitting members can be seriously challenged, and the bigger the company the harder that is.

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Boom!

Lots of people are going to be very upset with if the story becomes true, perhaps there will be a vigil or something.

Iin the future as a consumer I'd rather see lots of competition using multiple platforms based around open standards.

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Like PCs?

I'm by no means an Apple fanboy, but I'm not sure this comparison is particularly meanintful - after all, Apple has been making overpriced PCs for ages, and they seem to sell extremely well indeed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Like PCs?

They have generally offered low hassle computer ownership. The iPhone's usability is good too.

But as marketshare dies so does software support.

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Stop

Re: Like PCs?

You're confusing market share with market numbers. Provided the NUMBERS are high enough to support a developer community then they will continue to develop for the platform. iOS numbers have been increasing continually, there is a huge market for software on it, and plenty of people willing to purchase (which is the most important factor).

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Re: Like PCs?

@ Steve Todd, I think you have made a good point here.

It is no good having a large android market which is at the cheap end and will contain a demographic of low disposable income and therefore app purchases will be low. So do the developers rely on advertising to get revenue (weak model) or do they stick with Apple with a smaller market share of those willing to spend more on buying the app (strong model).

I know which one I would prefer. I think it ties in with the turnover is vanity and profit is sanity idea.

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Re: android market which is at the cheap end

Why do people always claim android is cheap, Android is at both ends, not just the cheap end. Some of the high end ones are better specs and higher prices to go with them than apple devices.

it is true however that many people don't buy apps for android, simply because a lot of people don't care as long as it does what they want out of the box or even realise they can do it.

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Terminator

Re: android market which is at the cheap end

Plus the other thing people seem to forget is that today's spotty nosed kid with a "cheap" android phone is likely to be a "premium" android user in the future and not an Apple user.

This is the thing that Apple have under estimated and will see an ever exponential decrease in Apple share over the next few years - 2 years from now will be very interesting to see!

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Re: android market which is at the cheap end

Because it's the cheap end where the numbers are.

Even at the high-end 30 million selling S3 end. That's still less than 1/2 what Apple sells.

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Re: Like PCs? - Help me out here

This is a request for the 5 people who downvoted this to help me out by explaining why. Steve has raised an excellent and entirely relevant point here. Market share does not equal market numbers. This is not opinion it is a simple statement of fact. So why did you downvote it ? You don't like facts or their implications so you shoot the messenger ?

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Re: Like PCs? - Help me out here

Market share covers more than just the number of people presently in the market, it also indicates how stable the market is and whether it is growing or shrinking.

If the market is showing strong signs of growth, then it is probably worthwhile investing in the market, because you know that you have a good chance to recover that investment (be it time, money, reputation, whatever), or even make it big. If the market share is falling, the time period for recovering the investment is shorter and the chance of making it big is reduced (if not gone already, when considering the platform argument). If the market share is crashing, sure you may make a bit of money out of the (shrinking) existing user base, but you'll never make it big and you may not even recover your investment.

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Re: 30 million selling S3 end.

And there are more android phone manufacturers than Samsung and other android phones with better specs than the latest iphones (ignoring screen resolution) than the galaxy 3, so if one high end phone has half the market share what about the rest. What about the ones better than the more recent older iphones?

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Re: Like PCs?

I think the comparison is with the advantage they had with the original Mackintosh over the original IBM PC.

They had an obviously superior product but the desire for high-margins allowed MS Windows to eat the marketplace to the point where they almost disappeared completely.

They have done ok with the emac/imac/mac laptops, but that's a relatively small part of the company now.

OSX is still a better UI than W7, but W7 is cheaper (or pirated) and as other companies fail in the ultrabook market, they'll bring ultrabook "pretty" to standard laptops which is going to hurt Apple's laptop division. Likewise, android is eating IOS share with both "pretty" and features. Android is also significant enough that doing IOS-only apps is not an option.

High-margin Samsung phones and tariff-subsidies have hidden the phone margins which protected iphone market-share but Nexus 4 and its descendents are going to spoil that party.

If Valve can get their linux stuff off the ground, I could easily see that area squeezing things with casual gamers. Not to mention that valve already have a voip solution.

Ha, for irony, I run debian on Apple's abandoned G5 platform. Mythtv is the killer app, but I get universal network boot if I want it, http caching as well as file-server services.

Plus I'm really annoyed with withdrawn support. I used to have ebook applications on a 2nd gen ipod touch, but now the app store only supports later IOS versions, so after a reset, I've lost capabilities. Not good enough.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Like PCs? - Help me out here

That's irrelevant to Steve's point. If I have 300 million customers it doesn't matter if someone else has a billion. I still have a market worth investing in. Similarly a reduced share of a market doesn't mean anything if the market is growing. If I grow from 300 million to 400 million it doesn't matter if the other guy goes from a billion to 2 billion. I'm still growing even though my market share is falling. You're making the classic mistake of assuming that marketshare is everything. It isn't. Profit is everything. Marketshare is only a good proxy for profit in a mature and stable industry.

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FAIL

I'll take this with a bag of salt

The author has extolled the virtues of all of his apple products, and the profound impact that they have made on his life... Biting the hand that feeds, or just hedging his bets? Who cares?

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Re: I'll take this with a bag of salt

> Who cares?

Indeed.

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Anonymous Coward

It's painful, yet funny..

Apple is doing a Microsoft by trying to (ab)use locking rather that continue innovation (just how much R&D and innovation would have been possible to fund by the money wasted on the Samsung fight?).

At the same time, Microsoft is trying to become Apple, and ending up being neither Microsoft nor Apple (especially by ejecting the one person who could have helped change the company for the better insofar that is still possible).

Apple should go back to being ahead in usability and design, because that is what got them back in play - NOT the lock-ins and DRM games, NOR fighting patent battles over, well, total trivia BS which only serves to antagonise everyone, including their own customers. It's like doing a Bush to the reputation of the US abroad after Clinton built it up..

Microsoft should.. Um.. Dunno. It'll take a while, but that ship is IMHO sinking, with Ballmer at the helm busy ramming icebergs again and again. If I was a majority shareholder I'd ditch Ballmer and get Sinofsky back (whose name reads like a game to start with: sin of sky..).

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Flame

Apple is more than just a tech company...

It is a strongly entrenched content company too.

Android is strong, and rising fast, but mobile makers don't earn any money from content sold on Android. They may get profits on the hardware, but all profits from the platform go to Google (at least at first).

Apple has profits from hardware, software, content and saves on bulk purchases.

Many people comment on how Apple's share of the tablet market has slid heavily, especially in favor of Android. Yes, it has; but all it's earnings are it's to keep. The tablet markets content earnings do not benefit the manufacturer. So you have Android tablet manufacturers cutting each others profit margins to sell their devices, and try to manage with thin margins.

This is why the biggest threat to Apple is not Google, or Android, or Samsung, or any other; currently, it's hardest competition is probably Amazon.

Amazon has understood profits from content and scale, in a way that no other company has. It's customized Android based platform allows it to retain content profits.

And for those who believe Apple kit is expensive; yes, it is, but it is value for money. There is nothing midrange about anything they do or make.

They point that they are NOT reducing profits shows their confidence. I believe it will take a good hard hit on it's content business earnings before they decide to "mainstream" their prices.

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Re: Apple is more than just a tech company...

"but it is value for money"

You are kidding, right?

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Re: Apple is more than just a tech company...

It's not good value for money if you can get something better for less. And you can.

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Re: Apple is more than just a tech company...

" but mobile makers don't earn any money from content sold on Android"

I suspect that eventually they'll all hammer on Google for a share of that revenue too. Google will take 30% of the app price, take 10% for themselves, 10% for the carrier (if it IS a phone or tablet with wireless), 10% for the device maker it was bought on. It's certainly something I'd negotiate for when Google came knocking on the door wanting cheap but quality devices.

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Re: Apple is more than just a tech company...

You're certainly right - but since "value" is an entirely subjective measure, your "And you can" should be "And *I* can" - since you have no idea what other peoples' values are.

I want a phone that is:

- no hassles OUT OF THE BOX. I don't want to have to mess with brightness settings, turn off wifi/GPS or even the cell radio whenever I"m not using it, just to make the battery last through a day of moderate use. I don't want to have have to install apps to replace the crappy ones that come built-in (e.g. crappy keyboards). I don't want to have to live with crap-ware that not only takes up room, but also resources!. I don't want to have to wait 8 months for an operating system upgrade to be made available by my carrier.

- smartly designed and of high-quality materials. I don't want a phone made of cheap plastic when I'm paying $650 of my hard-earned money for it.

- consistent in its user interface. Everything important should be easy to find and easy to reach with my thumb. One-handed operation should be easy. IMHO Apple screwed up a little with the iPhone 5 - it's getting to be impossible for women to reach the "Back" button in the top-left corner of most apps. But it's still one-handed nirvana when compared to, say, a 4.8" Samsung Galaxy S3!

Now, these are some of *my* values. Can you suggest a phone, other than the iPhone 5, that fulfills these values? For what it's worth, I did try. I had a iPhone 3GS and upgraded to the then top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S2. I used it for 10 months before selling it and buying an iPhone 5. The S2, superior in all its hardware specs, could not hold a charge for an entire day (and I don't do video with it! it seemed to be entirely due to the fact that I tend to hang out in low-coverage cell areas) without me setting screen brightness to a very low setting (totally nullifying its beautiful, high-contrast screen), turning off wifi/GPS/data whenever I wasn't using it (and turning it on when I needed them :-( I anxiously awaited Android 4.0 in the hope that it would let me de-install some of the AT&T crap-ware that seemed to be also contributing to the battery drain. I waited 7 months after ICS was released before I could finally get it on my phone....and it still would not let me de-install these apps, it only let me disable them....and battery drain was alleviated a little.

I'm no fan of Apple's "walled garden". I'm a Java developer and hate that I can't write apps for it in the language of my choice. I hate iTunes. But if you can live within the Apple eco-system - and most consumers don't know or care about all these nuances - Apple's iPhone experience is still, by far, the better no-hassle experience.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Apple is more than just a tech company...

"but it is value for money"

You are kidding, right?

Depends what your needs are. I have found an OSX machine SUBSTANTIALLY cheaper than the equivalent PC, but that is because I

a - always bought high end laptops, so the Macbooks are not that much more

b - also incorporate the sum of software I need to make it work, and that involves kitting out laptop as well as desktop. When you hit software you soon discover just how much you can save by using OSX. By far the most expensive software is MS Office - everything else isn't just cheaper, most of it you can also legally use "as a book", i.e. install on more systems that you use.

c - add the cost of OS upgrades. I've had 2 now (I switched from Windows to OSX 2 years ago), and they were painless, dirt cheap and re-usable on all machines.

d - need a Unix command line for various reasons. Normally I only get that on Linux (or a VM under Windows), but I need the ability to use commercial software.

So, in summary, for me OSX doesn't just help we work faster by putting less in the way (the usability in Mac software keeps surprising me) but it is also cheaper in simple, hard cash terms - for me. Naturally, YMMV, but I found my needs to be rather compatible with a lot of people (except for point d :). Especially an OS upgrade that costs as much as the machine they use seems to seriously annoy people.

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Surprise us all

Come on Apple, come up with something pervasive - like a small headset that can be a voice-op phone, or activate voice control on a nearby computer, or pick up timetables from intelligent bus stops, or buzz gently when someone we know is nearby.

How about family photo sharing - all pictures taken by all family members available to all with location and timestamps?

What about a many-sim iphone? or paired iphones, where one number rings more than one phone, like a 1930s plan 1 extension system?

Parked bluetooth (or better wireless method) headsets that charge from the ipad while parked inside it?

Remember 'beaming' your business card from one palm pilot to another. What about tap-to-share-contact-details?

An Identifcation system other than passwords? something like PKI cards, but as a tiny rfid thing in jewellry or watches or phones or badges or spectacles? I would buy a terminal/programming adaptor/app for home, and blank rfid dust. I would then programme/refresh the individual rfid items to identify me for a day, week, month - after which they would die and need replacing. And the terminal could cancel them on request, perhaps by telephoning it. Maybe I would have to be carrying at least 4 to complete succesful ID, so that any one lost/stolen item could not impersonate me. The vendor could sell the terminal; charge a subscription for identifying me; and sell the rfid dust too. Up-front and continuing revenue. Perfect.

Health monitoring and telemetry.

Child tracking.

Panic communities: phones with a panic button, and volunteer responders as well as national ones. (see our community defibrilators in vilages in Lincolnshire for how people are keen to help each other)

How about a version of an LCD photo frame with a sim in it? So that I can take pictures of the kids and send them by MMS to their grandma without her having to to do anything?

How about a 'family status' mirror, for the hallway? Nice big mirror, little individual cells showing where we are, the last message we sent, lat photo we took, happy/busy/bored/need a hug icons? Touch two of them and the mirror duplicates each other's status to each other - "Mum said you need to talk to me" sort of thing.

A bigger, better Siri that can be your friend, learn about you, start to suggest things spontaneously?

Things for the disabled? Pick up the state of pedestrian controlled lights for blind people - "West street, crossing outside No. 8, from North to South pavement, Stop. Go in 15 seconds. 14, 13...". "Cooker turned on but not lit". "Saucepan has been boiling for 8 minutes"

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Happy

Re: Surprise us all

Thumbs up from me - nice post!

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Re: Surprise us all

Well that's just great: you've now destroyed about twenty patents with one prior art post!

Actually, that is just great.

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Pirate

Re: destroyed about twenty patents with one prior art post!

Think of all the future profits Apple was destined for and you've basically wiped out billions of dollars of revenue...

What we really need is some new laws allowing retroactive patents, so that companies like Apple don't face this kind of loss from feckless commentards stealing ideas by thinking of them first!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Surprise us all

Yeah right and the OP will be submitting the patent applications tomorrow. I think not.

It takes a lot of effort just to draft an application. Having an idea is just that, an idea. Putting stuff down in a patent application means that you are a long way down the road to actually making the thing in question.

It costs a lot of time and money to turn an idea into something worth putting in a patent application.

I wish people on forums like this started to understand this fairly basic concept.

I had two patents in my name. These were granted in 1981 & 83. Just working on them took a good 4 months of my life each time. I never made any money from royalties on then, I did it for the respect it would give me in the company where I worked at the time(long since defunct).

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Joke

Re: Surprise us all

@AC 12:32

You needn't worry, I don't think a sense of humour is patented, so you're perfectly at liberty to develop one as soon as you can.

It costs a lot of time and money to turn an idea into something worth putting in a patent application.

Indeed, but is it actually fair to let someone patent it if it had already been thought of? I mean, it'd cost time and money for me to file a patent on a motorised vehicle with 4 (sometimes 3) wheels, does that automatically mean I should be allowed to patent it?

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Re: Surprise us all

I'm sure Apple would do all those things if they weren't so busy patenting a page-turn.

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I'd buy most of those.

I like the mirror idea a lot.

But the rfid dust idea, with time-to-die, is genius. We have been hearing a lot lately about how useless passwords are. The idea to just be your identity just by being there is terrific.

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WTF?

Re: Surprise us all

I like a lot of your ideas. I think I'd buy most of them if they existed.

That said, apple is all about persvasive stuff. There is little more pervasie than ipod/phone devices, they're EVERYWHERE. Apple knows how to do that in ways that nobody else does, but because there are arguably more capable devices in the same space, they're somehow stagnant and unoriginal. Doesn't really make a lot of sense.

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Anonymous Coward

Marketshare != sales

Apple's marketshare is going down because the number of people buying tablets and smartphones is going up, but these extra customers aren't all buying Apple. Apple's sales figures are still in rude health. Until we see evidence of Apple selling fewer devices they're not going to be in any kind of trouble. Frankly I'm at a loss as to why that simple bit of logic has been omitted from the article (other than for trolling purposes).

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Re: Marketshare != sales

Because market share is what the peripheral companies look at to choose which horse to back, and without the ecosystem the horse gets put out to pasture, to strain metaphors to breaking point. That was the point of the article.

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Re: Marketshare != sales

The work done by Brad Gale and Sydney Schoeffler at GE showed pretty conclusively that long term market share and long term relative market share are the key determinants of long term ROI. Gale and Schoeffler were the guys who did the brainy stuff that kept Jack Welch as the darling of the business pages for so long.

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Good Article - at last!

Well done Matt Assay, at last an article which I agree with. For those of us old enough to remember Apple computers from the late 80's through the 90's, they made by far the most innovative, well designed computers available, but these had much bigger profit margins and prices than other PCs. As the PC market expoded Apple remained content to sell into their niche markets of printing and design and therefore became less and less relevant to the average Joe. They spent the remainder of the 90's struggling against the tide, until Jobs came back and gave them new focus. The only thing which will stop the same thing from happening in the mobile market is if they can come up with another game changing product.

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Headmaster

Re:"As the PC market expoded Apple remained content to sell into their niche markets"

Indeed that is what happened. The practical reality was that during that period the only os that could have competed with MS was the Mac OS. Apple however (after a short-lived and unsuccessful attempt) refused to license to OEMs and stuck to the business model that you refer to. This more than anything else, whatever those who like to howl "convicted monopolist"* at Redmond on every possible occasion might believe, ensured that Windows would win. It is in fact one of the biggest and nastiest ironies of the industry during the nineties that Redmond's arsehole behaviour back then was almost certainly unnecessary as far as ensuring the dominance of Windows was concerned. They ended up convicted of anti-trust violations and suffered a decade and a half or more of serious reputational damage as a result of their conduct - conduct that in fact had little practical utility in terms of their aims. MS did it to themselves without deriving any significant benefit from their behaviour - that is richly ironic, although it does not in any way shape or form excuse their conduct for which they were rightly punished.

*The charge of being a monopolist does not exist under US or British law. In fact a monopoly is not in and of itself illegal. It's what you do with market dominance that is the issue - hence MS being convicted of anti-trust offences.

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Headmaster

Re: "MS did it to themselves without deriving any significant benefit from their behaviour "

Just to add a further thought with regard to the irony of the situation. It is in a certain gruesome sense highly entertaining that had MS administered their market dominant position in a way that was in compliance with the law then it is likely that they would be in an even more dominating position today than they in fact are. It was their own (IMHO) stupidly unnecessary illegal behaviour that led to DOJ oversight for a decade and the fact that they are watched like hawks by all competition authorities throughout "known space". Had they shown some restraint their position today might have been in practice "bullet proof" - now that would have given the haters something to howl about! There is perhaps a certain Darwinian irony in the situation they are in today as the most watched company (as far as the compliance authorities are concerned) in the entire industry - bar none, even Cupertino. Therein lies perhaps a lesson for all versions of "BigCorp" - what goes around, comes around. Or perhaps, "being a bastard is not the only way to succeed."

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more speculation....

OK let's get one thing clear here.....Tim Cook is NOT Steve Jobs.

Keeping that in mind, is there any reason Apple will slavishly follow the SJ mantra about vertical integration and closed ecosystem?

The article also forgets to mention that iOS dominates web search and web traffic, so even though market share is low, actual 'value' outside the ecosystem is high.

So I just don't get how Android can have such an overwhelming market share but have such a poor showing in search and traffic.

For example, my builder has an Android phone, I asked him what did he do with it....answer? Oh, emails on the job, SMS and the odd photos. Web search? Nope. Favourite apps? Games.

I don't have a favourite mobile OS, I just don't need a smartphone. But there are questions that the article doesn't seem to answer, maybe someone here can enlighten us.

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