iPhone at five
Apple financial reports make big numbers and some people just can't help trying to put them in context for you...
Blogs | 29 Jun 2012 :
There's an interesting article over at BusinessInsider.com
about the iPhone on its five year anniversary. It states some of the figures around the phenomenon of the iPhone and Apple's wider success, which are undeniably staggering.
Five years ago the iPhone did not exist, says BI, and now, alone, it is worth almost €25 billion in revenue per quarter. In terms of profitability, the figure quoted is about €30 billion per year. The iPad is given at about €10 billion in revenue per quarter. All other earnings, including PC sales, peripherals and software and services, comprise just €11 billion or so. These figures are based on the first two quarters of 2012.
Now, the article goes on to put these figures on context. €30 billion in profit, the article asserts, is bigger than Microsoft or Google and is rivalling the likes of Exxon-Mobil. It delights in pointing out that compared with five years ago, the iPhone has changed the market place, arguing that it has led to the slides of Palm, RIM and Nokia, not to mention denting the likes of HP, Dell and Microsoft.
While these numbers are truly awe inspiring, especially given that the iPhone and the iPad did not exist five years ago, I would argue that some of the comparisons are a little unfair and other obvious ones are not made at all.
For example, with PC sales now representing less than a quarter of Apple's revenue, it could be argued that the transfer to the Intel platform, allowing easier like for like comparisons, has led many a consumer to realise that what they were paying for was an Apple premium, not extra performance or capability. It could also be argued that Apple's focus must inevitably now lie with its mobile devices and so begs further questions about what resources will be available to develop the PC line.
But perhaps most interesting are the comparisons with Microsoft and Google. While no one would argue that Microsoft in particular has missed the boat on certain things, such as the tablet PC market and the business that Google has carved out (which I am reluctant to call search), when it comes to sustainability, I would argue that both companies have a better base than Apple.
Look for instance at the hegemony that Microsoft still has in the desktop market, both consumer and business. While you could say that Apple has established itself in the same way in the consumer market with the iPad and iPhone, the rules are not really the same. Apple's dominance is based very much on consumer appeal and ‘brand cool', and the same cannot be said of Microsoft. This is a good thing. As we have seen innumerable times over recent generations, what's cool today is often crap tomorrow.
I am not saying that the iPad or iPhone is a passing fad, but rather that I'd imagine more than one conversation in the Apple boardroom revolves around diversification and perhaps trying to get a bit more of a spread of income from different products and services, just like Microsoft, HP, Dell, Google and IBM.
Apple's turnaround from where it found itself some 15 years ago is remarkable and praiseworthy. However, the types of comparison being made in the Business Insider article are simplistic at best and at worst even unhelpful as they do not reflect like for like.
While there are valid criticisms for every company named in comparison with Apple in the article, would you really bet the farm against the continued, diversified profitability of Microsoft, Google, Dell and HP? Not me.