A look at Apple (AAPL) one year after Steve Jobs’ death
by SUSANNA KIM | ABC News@yahoo.com. Posted on October 5, 2012, Friday
US: A year after founder Steve Jobs’ death, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is continuing on the trajectory that the late founder had in place for years, with its highly-coveted consumer products that are getting into more hands around the country, while the company makes subtle shifts and the occasional misstep, ABC@yahoo.com Reported News.
Over the past year, Apple’s stock is up almost 80 percent to over $671 after introducing the iPhone 5. Though the new phone sold over 5 million three days after its launch, some analysts were disappointed with the volume of orders.
Here Are Four Ways Apple Has Changed Since Steve Jobs’ Death:
1) Apple has become more shareholder-friendly.
Bill Kreher, senior technology analyst with Edward Jones, based in St. Louis, said Apple’s issuance of a dividend to shareholders is a change in philosophy from that of Steve Jobs.
“His philosophy was to hoard the cash,” Kreher said.
Part of Jobs’ reluctance to dip into cash might have been his “long memory” when he re-joined the company in 1997. Back then, the struggling company was burning through cash faster than it was earning it.
“When it comes to capital deployment, Tim Cook has proven to be more shareholder-friendly,” he said of Apple’s CEO.
The company announced in March that it would start issuing a quarterly dividend of $2.65 a share for the fourth quarter, which began July 1, from its pile of cash. And what a pile they have: about $117 billion.
The amount that the company is letting go as part of its dividend distribution and share repurchase program, about $45 billion in three years, is a small amount relative to what the company is holding however.
What the company will do next with the money — make small acquisitions, for example — is up for debate.
2) Apple stops focusing on “the next big thing.”
“Along the lines of innovation and execution, I think that Apple has to focus more on expanding the distribution of its current products as opposed to creating the next big thing, which from our perspective suits Tim Cook very well,” said Kreher.
He said Cook’s focus on operations will continue to help expand the company’s products around the globe. The company now has 350 stores worldwide, including its newest country, Sweden, which opened its doors last month.
“While we recognize the difficult task of replacing Steve Jobs we do have confidence in Tim Cook as he successfully navigated company when Jobs was away,” Kreher said.
Kreher said Cook is known for his operational expertise and management of the supply chain, which is “critical” as the company moves forward, more so than coming up with the next great product.
“The company has to manage its growth effectively,” he said.
3) Apple’s financial results have become more mixed.
In the last years of Steve Jobs’ reign over Apple, the company had a tendency to beat its previous quarterly earnings.
“That has changed over 2012,” Kreher said. “The revenue streams are getting more uneven and highly reliant on product launches.”
For example, its third-quarter earnings announced in July were softer than expected in part due to iPhone users waiting for the iPhone 5.
The company said profit rose to $8.8 billion from $7.3 billion a year ago on $35 billion in revenue. Analysts had expected third-quarter revenue of over $37 billion.
That was in contrast with their second-quarter earnings in April, when they had a “huge beat” that was “massive,” according to analysts.
The company is still able to beat overall expectations, Kreher said, but it’s getting more difficult for analysts to predict the demand of high-profile products as more consumers pause before launches.
“We believe the company will beat expectations but there will be more hiccups along the way,” he said.
4) Macro issues.
Not an isolated concern for Apple, macroeconomic issues have raised concerns among manufacturers and service providers around the world.
“Europe has weakened and China has slowed,” Kreher said.
Pressure on workers’ wages and conditions have required Apple and other companies to closely monitor their expansion plans. Apple in particular has been scrutinized over its contractors in China who produce its products and their working conditions.
What Hasn’t Changed at Apple Since Steve Jobs’ Death
1) Apple stays aggressive with its control over products.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, said the company has not yet had a major strategy shift since its founder died last year.
The most “noteworthy” change in its operating system on its iPhone 5 was the elimination of the built-in Google maps app and its replacement of its own location-services app. After receiving some poor reviews of its precision in directions, Cook even apologized to users last week for the glitches and pointed users to third-party offerings.
“The dissatisfaction with the initial effort may be atypical but this is a very ambitious effort to build a mapping program,” Rubin said. “That was a change that it had wanted to implement for some time.”
“The notion of being very tightly integrated – owning as much of the proposition and control in the experience as much as possible – that is the classic hallmark of Steve Jobs,” Rubin said.
When asked if Cook’s apology was a change that wouldn’t have taken place under Jobs’ leadership, Rubin said, “Tim Cook has a different presentation style than Steve Jobs did but he seems to be very effective in introducing their products along with the rest of the team.”
In 2010, users complained about problems with the newly issued iPhone 4, which the tech media dubbed “antenna gate.”
Jobs also gave users bumpers that effectively alleviated that situation.
“Apple has always been open to improving the consumer experience,” Kreher said.
He did acknowledge that it was “out of character” for Apple to provide a disappointing feature.
“The company prides itself on its premium offerings, whether products or solutions,” Kreher said.
Though he said he hasn’t noticed a trend just yet.
“But it’s certainly worth monitoring going forward,” he said.
The incident underscores the relationship with Google, as Apple wants to get away from Google’s services “as fast as they can.”
“They might have gotten ahead of themselves on this initiative,” he said.
2) Apple “continues to make its own luck.”
Through new products, such as the iPhone 5, new markets, including China and business users, “Simply put, Apple continues to be the primary beneficiary of the mobility wave currently sweeping through technology,” Kreher said.
Kreher said Apple “continues to make its own luck” as the trend of the “pro-sumer,” a professional using a “consumer” device, grows.
“It’s B.Y.O.D.” Kreher said. “Bring your own device to work. More and more companies are allowing you to bring the device you prefer as opposed to issuing you a Blackberry like every other rank and file employee.”
Today’s “pro-sumer” is always on the go, needs more choices, like connectivity to enterprise activities, but wants to enjoy a onsumer experience.
“We’re walking away from our desktops and spending more and more times using tablets and smartphones,” Kreher said. “We think that trend is very strong and will continue for the next several years.”