Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s Valuable Ecosystem: The Key To Its Stickiness

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s ecosystem survives because of customer loyalty, according to one analyst, and the company needs to find new ways to build on that loyalty if it’s going to survive.

In a report issued to investors, Barclays analysts not only said that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s ecosystem is solid and can grow, but also explained what they see as the key to the company’s stickiness.

Apple Inc. (AAPL)'s Valuable Ecosystem: The Key To Its Stickiness

The report stated that although Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) executives continue to be secretive, as they always are, in their recent meeting with them, they have a sense that most of the company’s future efforts will revolve around the importance of the Apple ecosystem.

In fact, Barclays analysts see Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) as a platform company rather than simply a hardware company.

They believe that the company’s “next great innovations” must come in the form of software and web or data services rather than hardware. Of course that’s not to say they discount hardware completely, but they believe that in order to capitalize on the inherent “stickiness” in Apple products, the company must, “prove that its platform is what makes it much different from challenged companies” and more like successful companies.

For example, the analysts said Research In Motion Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY) (TSE:BB)’s big problem is that it’s known for its “email prowess only,” and Nokia Corporation (NYSE:NOK) (BIT:NOK1V) (HEL:NOK1V) is known for its manufacturing and scale. On the success side, they said Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) must draw comparisons between itself and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB),, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG).

They point out that right now Apple is losing some of its stickiness. Many Android users are able to create a service similar to iTunes using apps like Double Twist. The analysts also said  that email is very easy to migrate between devices because most consumers use Gmail.

Barclays analysts believe that in order for Apple to secure the business of younger users, it must move into a subscription content model because they believe that’s what younger users would prefer.

They would also like to see the tech giant expand its Photostream service by adding videos and additional pictures “since keeping these memories with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) fosters a user stickiness that is tough for competitors to match.”

According to Barclays analysts, one of Apple’s biggest problems was the Apple Maps debacle, which happened right around the time the company’s stock price hit a record high and then took a nosedive. They said that Apple Maps was a new service from the company, and when that service failed, it highlighted the value of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s mapping technology and how difficult it is for competitors to replicate.

They hope to see signs that Apple is upping its game when the tech giant previews iOS7, possibly this month during an iPad launch event. One area they believe the company can really use to increase the stickiness of its platform is in the payments area. They also believe an integrated TV service and more improvements to iCloud, like the addition of subscription-based services, will increase the stickiness of the iOS ecosystem.

They believe Apple’s move into payments could be supported with the technology from Authentec, which Apple acquired last year.  They said Apple could even add apps which link directly to banks and possibly coupon programs from marketers. In addition, they see iOS becoming a television remote, and they said they don’t believe iPhone users would switch to competing platforms like Android if they used their iPhone as both a credit card and a television remote.

According to Barclays analysts, if Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) can show investors that it’s a platform company rather than a hardware company and that its user base is expanding and being retained more quickly, then the company’s multiple may be able to recover by two points “rather quickly,” which would be about a $100 per share move.

They also believe Apple’s loyalty rate is about 90 percent and that the company’s 2-year upgrade rate “translates into a significant amount of recurring revenue.”

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