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Are Apple's halcyon growth days over?

A man lighting candles to pay tribute to Steve Jobs outside an Apple store in Beijing. 

Apple is expected to report mostly flat revenues from a year ago, when it releases earnings after the bell Wednesday. It wasn’t so long ago, of course, that Apple’s stock was a rocket ship, seeing the kind of exponential growth you find in tiny startups. Another tech company used to be like that: Microsoft. 

Until around 2000, it was a growth story. Then, it got big and slow and its stock stagnated and people just stuck with it for the dividends. The question on investors’ minds is whether Apple will have a similar fate. 

“There are very different circumstances that faced Microsoft in the 1990s and Apple of today,” says Pai-Ling Yin, a Social Science Research Scholar at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. She says Apple is no Microsoft.  

First of all, it can’t afford to sit still. Unlike Microsoft’s monopoly position, Apple faces stiff competition from the likes of Google and Amazon.

And, Apple has a different culture.

“It has demonstrated a unique ability to reinvent itself every few years,” says Ross Rubin of Reticle Research. 

Now, investors are used to the company reinventing itself with new products that cannibalize its old ones.

“Apple is in a transition but I don’t think we’re ever going to find a point where Apple isn’t in some kind of transition,” says Robert Paul Leitao, founder of the Braeburn Group, a network of Apple analysts.

Soon, we may find out if the company can pull off another winner. 

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has been promising to enter “new product categories” soon.

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