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Apple’s sensational growth over the past decade has actually been one of the biggest tales in all of tech. Even as the business released brand-new item after brand-new item, and enlarged and larger, its development rate remained to accelerate, far exceeding its competitors.
For the previous ten years, Apple has actually published year-over-year income development every quarter, often more than 25 % and regularly even more than 50 %. In that span, it’s gone from a business with less than $2 billion in quarterly sales to one with (when) even more than $50 billion. For 2 quarters in a row in 2011, as the iPad and iPhone both picked up steam, Apple uploaded development rates above 80% — each quarter representing even more than $10 billion in new sales from the year prior. That’s simply insane for a company that huge.
But now, that amazing growth rocket has come back to earth. Apple’s newest quarter, reported today, showed simply 1 % development over in 2012. And it’s not a fluke: Growth has actually sloped down for more than a year. After a fantastic winter in 2011-2012, when Apple’s sales expanded 73 %, then 59 %, it’s been 23 %, 27 %, 18 %, 11 %, and now 1 %. For its next quarter, Apple expects development varying from 3 % to a 5 % year-over-year decrease.
What happened? A few of it’s just comical timing: A product launch early one year then late the next. Inventory modifications as items mature and markets work out– this played a role in this previous quarter’s weakish iPad sales, for instance. This year, in particular, Apple has been peaceful on the new-gadget front, as design employer Jony Ive rehauls its iOS os, presumably for brand-new iPhones, iPods, and iPads in time for Christmas. This is where arbitrary quarterly marking periods can sometimes shadow the lens.
But there’s also been a bigger-picture trend that Apple cannot just reproduce: The substantial shift to smartphones and tablets– the ‘post-PC’ revolution. Apple has actually captured this movement remarkably, dominating the industry’s sales and revenues in spite of selling reasonably fewer, mainly high-end gadgets. And it might remain to doing this. But that novice adoption cycle is not visiting happen again. At least not in the markets where Apple is greatest– and where carrier subsidies enable such high earnings margins– like the United States.
So what can Apple do next, assuming it wishes to remain to grow? (A safe presumption.)
One apparent answer is to relocate downmarket in its existing product lines. This is constantly a difficult recommendation with Apple, because the company swears it would never launch a low-grade product that it is not proud of. (And it should not.) Up until now, this has implied selling old iPhones at reduced costs, which has been quite successful. However if the growth is occurring in even further-downmarket segments, Apple could need to even figure out something cheaper. Where’ll it draw the line, design- and quality-wise, to contend? We might learn this year if reported low-cost iPhones are genuine.
Another possibility, of course, is to blaze into brand-new markets. There’s been speculation for many years that Apple will begin to offer television. The current chatter has to do with wearable pcs– Apple gadgets for the wrist, à la Nike’s Fuelband.
The nice thing about wearables is that like smartphones– and unlike, state, desktop PCs– they are the kind of gadget where everybody in your house will need their own, indicating a bigger potential market, people-wise. However unlike smart phones, there is not an established precedent for subsidies, carrier distribution, and even pricing, really. Can Apple design the kind of thing you ‘d want to endure your body all day? We will see. Will that develop the same level of demand, beneficial prices, and high margins that the rise of smartphones did? Most likely not. Still, if it’s a hit, it can certainly sustain significant development for Apple.
So that’s the big concern going ahead: Can anything drive Apple’s growth the way the iPhone and iPad did over the past 6 years, and the iPod and Mac before them?
Longtime Apple analyst Gene Munster asked a variation of that question on today’s profits call: ‘Are there product classifications out there that are big enough to move the needle for Apple?’ Apple CEO Tim Cook’s response: ‘We will see, Gene. We are working up some stuff that we are truly proud of, and we will see how it does.’ And, in normal Apple style, ‘We will reveal things when we prepare.’
Dan Frommer is founder of SplatF, a tech news website, and City Notes, a mobile travel startup. He formerly assisted create Business Expert, where he led Apple protection. Follow Dan on Twitter at @ FromeDome.