Trillion Dollar Apple

Posted: August 30th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: apple | No Comments »

Not So Peak Apple

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, Michael Dell, CEO of Dell, was asked what he’d do if he were in Jobs’ shoes, Dell said:

“What would I do? I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”

In 2006, when the Apple smartphone rumors started building steam, Ed Colligan, CEO of Palm had this to say

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

In 2007, when Apple was on the verge of releasing the iPhone, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft had this to say

“Now we’ll get a chance to go through this again in phones and music players. There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I’d prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.”

Beyond those infamous quotes, there has been an onslaught of “Peak Apple” predictions and articles from every corner. Below you can see the Peak Apple articles themselves hit a peak in October 2011, when Steve Jobs passed away.

Google Trends graph for “peak apple”


Fast forward to 2018 and a lot happened. Dell shrunk and had to go private. Palm was acquired and is out of the smartphone game. Microsoft is out of the smartphone game and Ballmer retired. But one thing has remained the same, Apple continues to grow.

How it Got to a Trillion

Apple’s march to a trillion starts off with Steve Jobs’ integrated approach to creating products. Unlike Dell, who focused on the hardware, or Microsoft who focused on the software, Apple focused on both. During the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, this integrated approach to building PCs was great but not as great as a business as Dell’s and Microsoft’s specialziation strategy. Dell and Microsoft made more revenue during this era but Apple was building an expertise – building hardware and software that worked in harmony.

In 1997, Steve Jobs returned to a down-and-out Apple as CEO. Apple had lost its way and Jobs immediately cut down the product lines to establish focus. This focus enabled Apple to be ready for the next big opportunity, the iPod in 2001. The iPod was the first modern device Apple made that leveraged its competitive advantage of building integrated products to take advantage of a macro trend, in this case the rise of MP3s.

The focus, the integrated product approach and specifically the iPod set Apple up to take advantage of perhaps the biggest product opportunity ever – the smartphone. As wireless broadband, ARM processors, lithium batteries and touchscreen technology reached a point of maturity, Apple was ready to pounce and exploit its expertise to fill an enormous demand for smartphones. And pounce they did, creating the iPhone that has been the main revenue driver that allowed Apple to become the first publicly traded $1 trillion company in the US.

What’s Next For Apple?

Is this it for Apple? Is this the peak? I sure as hell won’t make the mistake of attempting that prediction.

The iPhone will continue to be a money maker for Apple for some time. Despite experiencing a plateau with total iPhones shipped, the iPhone continues to grow in revenue by moving more high-end and adding more tiers. Furthermore, Apple has opportunities to ship more units as India and China’s middle class grows, time will tell if we’ve reached peak iPhone shipments. The services revenue and peripherals (Watch, AirPods) will continue to grow revenue for Apple.

But keeping the status quo is not the company Steve Jobs wanted to build and it’s not the company he left behind. Like Walt Disney before him, Jobs established a company of values and conviction that can survive and thrive well after his death. Perhaps the best part about speculating Apple’s future is how tight-lipped they are with future plans. Will Apple ride the VR wave? Will Apple be a player with autonomous cars? We don’t know the answers to that yet but you can bet Apple won’t rest on its laurels. Apple will, for the most part, avoid increasing revenue through acquisitions and will instead invest heavily in creating products that allow Apple’s integrated approach to shine.