Apple investors looking for reasons to worry can pick hubris. Chief executive Steve Jobs stopped by the earnings call on Monday to celebrate the company’s first quarter with over $20bn of sales, and to goad his competitors.
Research in Motion got commiserations as Apple cruised past in mobile sales (19m iPhones to the 12m Blackberry’s sold in the quarter) and some helpful advice on how to try to catch up: copy Apple. Mr Jobs also had some choice words for Google, whose Android software provides the greatest competition in the smartphone market, comparing the fragmented confusion of devices and app stores consumers face to the integrated simplicity of Apple. Pity was reserved for foolish manufacturers who, lacking Apple’s expertise in touchscreen technology, intend to take on the iPad with seven inch screens and unsuitable software. No word though on why Apple itself needs to hold on to $51bn in cash.
Of course, Mr Jobs does have a few reasons to strut. If the iPad is counted as a PC, calculates Deutsche Bank, Apple has gone from fourth to first place in US computer sales in just six months. Sales for the iPhone were up 90 per cent on last year as the company continues to sell them as fast as it can make them.
The iPad appears to be attracting interest from business users, not historically a big market for Apple, and the halo effect is spreading to Mac computers, where units were up more than a quarter year-on-year.
Apple’s valuation did drop by about $15bn in after-hours trading. But then shares in the second-largest US company by market capitalisation had risen almost a third from the end of August. And the stock still only trades on 17 times prospective earnings. If Mr Jobs can keep walking on water, it will soon be the largest.
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