Apple: No Longer a ‘Product’ Company, But a ‘Platform’ Company


Credit: epicharmus/Flickr
Credit: epicharmus/Flickr

When’s the iPhone 5 arriving? How is the iPad selling? What about the iPod? These are all immaterial questions, one Wall Street expert argues Thursday. Forget about the products and keep your eye on the platform. “Products last maybe a year, ‘platforms’ last decades,” he tells investors.

“We believe the single biggest change in Apple over the past few years is that it has moved from being something of a ‘hit product’ movie studio dependent on each new release back to being a better-than-ever ‘platform’ company, where its iOS plus hardware plus apps ecosystem … are what truly matters and drive longevity,” writes Caris & Co. analyst Robert Cihra.

Forget about those grainy pictures from China of supposed new Apple products. “Want to know what the next iPhone or iPad’s going to look like?… just picture a thinner, lighter rectangle. It’s not the hardware that matters it’s the software — well actually, it’s the software+hardware+services in a fully-integrated vertical platform. As we’ve said repeatedly, iOS is the ‘what’s next?’ for Apple.

Cihra announced he’s sticking with a ‘Buy’ recommendation at a $460 price target despite his suspicion Apple will release an “even more conservative than usual” third-quarter financial forecast. Although there could be parts delays due to the Japan earthquake, “Apple’s the one product customers will uniquely ‘wait’ for rather than buying a commodity substitute,” he writes.

In a related bit of analysis, Morgan Keegan’s Tavis McCourt rebalanced his iPhone sales forecast amid speculation Apple will unveil the iPhone 5 in September, rather than the traditional June period. McCourt cut his June quarter forecast to 14 million units, down 3 million. However, he added that 3 million to his September prediction, now foreseeing 22 million iPhones sold during that three-month span.

As for the current March period, McCourt stands by 17.5 million sales and 69.7 million handsets for the full year.



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