D-day approaches fast, quarterly figures from Apple (AAPL:NDQ) after hours on 23 April might be its most important set of figures to date. Chief executive officer Tim Cook desperately needs to issue a shot of optimism after a six-month share price collapse that swiped more than $260 billion off the technology giant's market value. Staggering!
Apple may be selling more iPhones, iPads, iPods than ever before, but you wouldn't believe it from the share price chart.
In January, the group revealed revenues up 18% to a record $54.5 billion thanks to over 75 million sales of mobile devices running its iOS engine. Apple sold 47.8 million iPhones in the quarter, up from 37 million a year earlier, and 22.9 million iPads, compared with 15.4 million in the same period in 2011. Yet still the market wants more. Many analysts claimed to have expected iPhone sales to break the 50 million mark.
This seems to rather underscore Cook's real challenge; he needs analysts, investors and other market watchers to 'get real'. Up until this year, the company has had five years or more of being championed as the best thing since sliced bread. No, that's not true, Apple was way better than sliced bread. It was leading a disruptive revolution in the way we communicate, consume media and run our lives. How the landscape has changed.
In the months since, analysts have slashed price targets and many reporters in the mass and technology media are arguing that the game is up for big Apple. This is patent nonsense.
Yes, the competition is stiffer. Apple may have led, or in the iPad's case, created the market for ages, but sooner or later the best of the chasing pack will catch up.
Samsung (005930:KS), in particular, is no mug. This means that Apple's leadership in the smartphone and tablet market can no longer be taken for granted.
In the past couple of weeks we've seen embattled Blackberry-maker Research In Motion (BB:TO) launch its do or die Z10 handset, Samsung's latest Galaxy S4, and HTC (2498:TW) (remember it?) come out with a very slick-looking HTC One.
There's also been a renewed push by Nokia (NOK1V:HE), with its Lumia range, to save its skin. All have gone down by-and-large well with reviewers (that I've read, anyway).
Apple will respond with its iPhone refresh, with those in the know expecting the iPhone 5S some time in the summer.
But let's not get carried too far away with the bells and whistles device wars. Apple has always beaten the rest by squeezing money from its products, something at which many rivals fail.
Illustrating the point is interesting new data from technology analysts at market researcher Canalys (via TechCrunch). It shows Google (GOOG:NDQ) Play (the Android app store) accounting for 51% of the market against Apple’s 40%, yet Apple taking a massive 74% of the revenue pie, compared to Google Play's 20%-odd. That sort of profitability leadership should not be forgotten in the deluge of sales statistics later this month. Nor should Apple's $137 billion cash pile, from which analyst at Canaccord Genuity reckon investors will get a heftier share paid out in future, perhaps via a steep hike to regular dividends, maybe from, a one-off special payout. Apple's future is far from rotten.