Below is a graph showing the longer term trend of Apple market share in the smart phone space. It illustrates the explosive growth Apple has had through its iPhone series, and it also shows some seasonality (ex. lull before hardware upgrade season, etc.). As you can see, the growth trend, viewed either directly or as a moving average, shows marked downward momentum. Of course, it is highly unreasonable to expect a company to continue to grow at the pace that Apple has, but that is exactly what many Apple valuation models that I have come across have - literally hard-coded in. This is folly, in my opinion - particularly considering the effect of the Android competition that is already showing up. If you look closely, Apple's smart phone market share is already showing NEGATIVE growth!
Since I know that the chart may be a little difficult to read at the tail end encompassing several years of data, I have taken the liberty to drill down to the past year to get a closer look. Remember, Android sales didn't really get started until 8 months ago, and the big surge didn't occur until the Evo/Droid X/Samsung Galaxy series were launched in June, July and August - most of which is not captured here. The same is to be said for Apple and the iPhone 4.
Click to enlarge to printer size!
Despite increases in both the overall mobile market and more importantly, the smart phone contingent's penetration of said market:
- Apple's smart phone shipments are showing a negative growth trend
- and more importantly, Apple's smart phone market share is experiencing a very sharp downward trend as shown by both direct observation and that of the 2 period moving average.
By trailing the actual growth of the smart phone market, it is far from a foregone conclusion that Apple, nor any other company for that matter, can necessarily tread water by relying on the expansion of the smart phone market. It is quite possible for the winner in this space to capture enough market share to put a material hurting (in terms of valuation multiples) on the loser, primarily if that winner becomes a de facto standard (ex. Android OS, MSFT OS, iOS or even Nokia's Symbian OS) that can lock out the users of the competing devices for much of the smart phone functionality.
I will be exploring this concept in illustrative detail with the release of the Research in Motion forensic analysis and valuation within roughly 48 hours.
More on the Creatively Destructive Pace of Technology Innovation and the Paradigm Shift known as the Mobile Computing Wars!
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- How Google is Looking to Cut Apple’s Margin and How the Sell Side of Wall Street Will Enable This Without Sheeple Investor’s Having a Clue