Though I am not a technology expert, the intense scrutiny of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) makes it hard to resist talking about the company. The main concern about Apple, and the reason its stock price has dropped so dramatically, is that Apple is becoming “just another device manufacturer” and hardware manufacturing is a low margin, cut throat business. What this overlooks is that Apple is also a major software company. It is Apple’s software that has made their devices so wonderfully easy to use. And it is Apple’s softwares that opened a new vista for the company.
To begin, Windows 8 looks like a loser – adoption rates have been slow. Android has the issue of running on a host of different devices. Third, “smart TVs” have virtually no quality software whatsoever. What this means is that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has an extraordinary opportunity in software – to improve OSX and iOS, to introduce iTV, and to integrate all of them. Furthermore, there are opportunities to develop softwares like iHOUSE, a system for managing your home, and integrate that with all the above, using Apple hardware.
The foregoing just scratches the surface. The future is a host of integrated devices solving many of the day to day problems individuals and companies face. The key to successfully solving these problems is integration. Nothing is more frustrating than having a host of independent devices that fail to work together as an integrated unit. As devices and their functions proliferate, no one will be in a better position to solve the integration problem than AAPL. Hardware will be part of the answer, but software will be the key. And lest anyone forget it is the integration of hardware and software, not either one alone, that has driven Apple forward since the introduction of the Mac.
In short, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has a wonderful opportunity. The real question is whether the company has the skill to exploit it without the leadership of Steve Jobs.
By Brad Cornell, Professor of Finance at Caltech