The question of low end disruption should be a concern to any manager. It’s one of the most important sources of growth and has led to a vast amount of wealth creation.
Apple was an early low end disruptor by selling personal computers at a fraction of mini-computer prices. Toyota also offered “cheap” cars as an entrant in the market. Pixar made blockbusters for a lot less than live action studios. Google offers good enough office software without a license. Finally Microsoft built its whole business on low-end business software at knock-down prices.
All these entrants made fortunes often at the expense of entrenched incumbents. Disruption grows the pie but also transfers a lot of value away from existing competitors.
So it should not be surprising that new products like the iPad should be scrutinized for their vulnerability to low end disruption. Brian Caufield asks the question if Apple has any future with the iPad given the potential for $99 tablets.
The question is indeed why not introduce an ultra-cheap tablet, for example from Amazon, which makes up for the low price with an innovative business model like selling content or user behavior data. After all, game consoles are sold this way. This is the classic razor/razor-blade business model.
The answer to why not is actually not simply that the economics don’t work. They might work some day even if they really don’t today.
The answer to why not is that the iPad is not good enough.
The survey data from comScore is in and it suggests that smartphone penetration increased by a significant 1.58%. It is now 35.1% with 82.2 million users.
The weekly new user rate was about 863k/wk during July or about 586k/wk average over the last three months. I plotted the weekly add rates for the last 18 surveys and overlaid the three month moving average.
The chart shows that there is an upward slope to the upper and lower bounds of the moving average. Extrapolating trend forward gives me confidence in projecting 50% penetration by July 2012.
Samsung has, over the years, shipped phones using almost every operating system it could get a hold of. That includes Symbian, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone, LiMo, Android, PalmOS and OPhone.
As far as I know, today its portfolio includes Android, Windows Phone and its own Bada OS. The relaxed attitude to platform exclusivity at Samsung is in stark contrast with almost all other competitors who either for the sake of encouraging their own platforms or minimizing development costs maintained either one or two smartphone platforms.
Samsung justified their polyplatform strategy a few years ago by saying that different platforms are popular in different regions and as they did not want to be excluded from any market, they felt that being agnostic is the best policy.
The idea that platforms are not universal, but the result of provincial preferences is interesting. It’s a concession that “politics” plays a large part in mobile markets. However, for all the volume growth the strategy has produced, the strategy has not paid off in terms of higher margins or pricing power as the following chart shows.
Every few months rumors emerge of another technology company attempting to create a new product centered around the TV. Apple’s name comes up, of course, but so does Google. And Microsoft has been experimenting with no lesser degrees of vigor than the others. They all seem to be trying to make TV smarter, somehow.
But I would argue that these efforts are misguided. Television is more than the TV set or a set-top box, or any box. It’s more than channels or broadcasters or producers or aggregators or distributors. It’s all of these things; plus more. It’s a value network of great breadth and complexity. It’s a highly modularized industry with well-defined business model boundaries and inter-dependencies. I would argue that its very breadth is what has kept it rigid and immune from disruptive change.
If you look at each technological experiment to move to a new business model, they can all be reduced to the offer of an additional or substitutive module. There is no assumption made that the content being served will change. To put it in the context of mobile computing, it’s like trying to introduce a smartphone in a world without data networks–where the only service to be served is person-to-person calling. Unlike the Smartphone which could only have emerged to leverage the Internet, TV has no “smart content” to leverage. The “smartness” has to be not in the box but in the programming.
Of course, I don’t mean there’s a lack of good programming. What I mean is that there is no innovation in what a program is–the job it’s hired to do. The way it and its distribution fits into a person’s life. TV programs have not changed for half a century. They feature the same genres, the same duration, the same business model, the same series, format and scheduling and the same value chains as when “I Love Lucy” premiered in 1951. They assume people watch TV during the same time each day (while doing nothing else.) They also assume people are equally influenced by brand advertising and that audiences are largely homogeneous.
Contrast that with other media. The song, the book, the game, the newspaper even the movie have gone through consumption changes which have been supported by disruptive innovations. The portable music player, the ebook reader, the console and the mobile phone and the internet in general have all allowed consumption to conform to new usage patterns. The jobs that music is hired to do has changed dramatically. These re-definitions of what media is used for caused dramatic changes in both the production and distribution and hence the way value is captured in media.
TV, it seems, stands alone and immune.
Apple’s valuation has been discussed several times on Asymco. Apple’s relative valuation in terms of P/E ratio has not improved since the recession despite an acceleration in financial performance. As Apple seems to be getting punished for growth, we have to also ask if it is the only one.
When looking at valuation from an institutional investor or financial analyst point of view, the most common methodologies are discounted cash flow (DCF) as well as comparable company multiples. Most often, a DCF valuation is performed and cross-checked with comparable multiples. The justification for using comparable companies is the exposure to the same market dynamics including, for instance, market growth and profitability. So to understand this perspective, let us focus on a peer group valuation by looking at the average P/E multiples for the calendar quarters 1/2005 to 1/2008.