The shape of Apple after Steve Jobs has been a source of much scribbling, and the launch on Friday of the newest version of its golden goose, the iPhone 5 has given us a peek.
The razzamatazz has been huge, Apple all over, but they delivered what the pundits view as a pretty limp offering. Nothing new, apart from a different case, and behind current offerings from Samsung and HTC on a number of parameters.
However, what Apple does deliver that nobody can get close to is profits. On $150 billion forecast revenues this year, Apple is delivering an astounding 28% EBIT, double a year ago, and considerably more on phones according to Creative Strategies Tim Bajarin. All this as their sales in a market growing at 42% are increasing at only 27%.
Apple has its own ecosystem, so to some extent is protected from commodity type comparisons that erode price, but how much of a premium can they sustain, and for how long? Googles Android operating system now has around four times the share of Apple, from “even-stevens” just a year ago, and Google spends 14% of revenue on R&D, to Apples 2%. In dollar terms, they are about the same, and Apple has less of a product portfolio to manage, but the tide of initiative is now with Google, and the momentum is really hard to break.
It seems to me that Apple is mortgaging their future, putting the dough in the bank, much as Microsoft did in its halcyon days, and not continuing the drive that got them where they are today. In a sharp reminder of priorities, Apple is spending big on protecting its current position by suing everyone standing in the tech space, which must be a huge distraction from the disruptive innovations created almost yesterday that put them where they are now.