By all accounts, this has been a stellar year for the Cupertino giant. Apple signed an immensely lucrative deal with the Chinese telecom behemoth Unicom, allowing them to market their new iPhones in the worlds largest electronics market. The combined success of iPhone sales in China, as well as a series of well received product launches, including new Mac computers as well as new iPads, led to the last fiscal quarter generating $75bn (£48.9bn) of revenue and $18bn (£11.7bn) of profit. It’s not just the best quarter the company has ever seen. It’s the best quarter any company has ever seen.
Apple’s also riding the wave of digital payment. Yet to hit the United Kingdom’s shoreline is Apple pay, a remarkably simple integrated payment solution. It’s a quiet but potent revenue source for the company, and will inevitably come to be a primary payment option for many people in many countries. Apple’s shareholders, in spite of receiving close to no dividend from the company’s vast war chest, have been supportive. Tim Cook, a down to earth but powerful leader, inspires a lot of market confidence. Investors also see the potential for technologies like HealthKit, HomeKit, CarPlay and Sapphire glass, all technologies Apple is pioneering.
So what is next for the company? Are they deemed for further success and dominance this year or are they set to descend from their peak. I think the answer will very much depend on their competitors. Apple, in every field, faces fierce adversaries, desperately clawing for a bigger piece of the profitable pie. Samsung have had a particularly bad year, and as a fellow technology giant, Apple have gained from their losses. The same can be said of Microsoft. Uptake for Windows 8 has been disastrous, phone sales have essentially stagnated from close to nothing, to nothing. Even omnipotent Google have seen their new phone and tablet releases meet with mixed reviews, and Android Wear, the would be headline act for the company, has been wholly underwhelming.
Could the apple go bad?
That said, the technology market is in a state of constant flux. The fates of every company I just mentioned could dramatically reverse this year, and that will go a long way to determining Apple’s success. I suspect the Apple Watch will also be pivotal. It has already been repeatedly delayed, and a failed launch would seriously undermine confidence in the listed company. What is the worst case scenario for Apple’s 2015? A major technological failing (a la the iPhone 4 dropping calls), a flawed release of the Apple Watch and strong performance for other competing companies would spell disaster for the company. But ultimately, it’s position is secured to some extent by it’s stupendous cash reserves.
Contrastingly, the dream scenario is this. Continued weak performance for high-end Android devices, a successful iPhone 6S launch, and a momentous Apple Watch launch. The Apple Watch, this dark horse product that we still know relatively little about, is the most intriguing prospect. Like the iPhone in 2007, it holds the possibility to completely redefine the product category. This, I imagine, is the aim for the company.
2015 a crucial year
This will doubtless be a crucial year for Apple. As iOS-Android competition increases and the compatibility decreases, this will be a divisive choose-your-religion moment for the company. All remains to be seen.