Today is the iPad’s third birthday. It’s also the mobile (cellular) phone’s 40th birthday.
Whereas the launch of the mobile phone was probably an obscure event, the launch of the iPad was greeted with derision.
It is perhaps with irony that we should greet this auspicious confluence of anniversaries.
During the last 12 months 31 million American phone users abandoned the use of feature phones. During the last 24 months over 60 million switched. Over 550k users are switching every week and this rate of switching has not changed much since late 2009.
Apple’s renaissance began with the iPod. This was not evident right away however. The product was unveiled on October 23, 2001 at a time when Apple’s share price had just fallen 70% from year-earlier levels. It was perhaps a good point from which one could expect a recovery to begin.
It was not to be. One year after the iPod’s launch the stock price had fallen another 20%. Indeed during 2001 the company was in the throes of a “bear market” in its shares. If we measure a time of persistent share price reduction as a bear market, then the one in 2001 was significant. For 154 days, between April 27 and September 28, 2001 the shares fell 38%. This represents the first bar in the following graph showing all the Apple bear markets since then.
I also illustrated these bear markets in terms of their duration and the average %drop/day.
Chronicling these periods:
Days after Nokia announced the end of life for the Symbian platform I wrote a post titled Who will buy the next 150 million Symbian smartphones? The reference was to claim by management that before there would be a complete transition to Windows Phone, 150 million legacy Symbian phones would be sold, keeping the company financially stable before the new ecosystem took root.
I reproduce the original forecast I made below with the addition of what actually happened.
Marc Andreessen famously coined the phrase “software is eating the world.” It’s an apt observation. If you look back on the history of computing you’re likely to measure computers sold or devices sold or users harvested or productivity gained. These things are measured because they can be measured. But the greatest cause of value created and captured has been the development of software. An ephemeral product whose value is often ignored in analytical discourse.
Software is not easily measured and it’s not easily valued due to its intractable nature. Firstly, because businesses that make software tend to have weird cost structures–absurdly high fixed costs and operating margins: They operate without income for years and then suddenly are massively profitable with a minimal set of resources. They have a non-linear, “big bang” trajectory.
Secondly, software companies tend to capture revenues from something other than the direct sale of the good. Software is rarely sold. Services sometimes are sold on the basis of software but more likely audiences for services are sold to a set of bidders, or revenue is obtained in even more circuitous ways.
Thirdly, because there are curious multi-sided markets for software platforms. Charlie Kindel hints strongly at how difficult it is to understand the dynamics of software platforms. There is the prospect of lock-in of users and data. There are relationships to nurture with developers and there’s the principle of an ecosystem that creates network effects. The virtuous/vicious cycles are non-linear and unpredictable even for the experts who have been at it for decades (e.g. Microsoft).