Apple to remain No. 1 in the near term but will face challenges: analyst


TAIPEI–Apple Inc. will remain a popular star in the mobile market in the next few years despite the death of Steve Jobs, a Taipei-based research firm predicted recently, but risks may loom for the U.S. consumer electronics giant in the longer term.

Apple’s business model, combining stylish hardware, user-friendly software and a big online application store, is not likely to be challenged in the next two years given the immature development of Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows 8 platforms, said the Topology Research Institute (TRI). Apple can also keep costs low by sharing key components across different products, giving it a leg up on rivals in the hardware-manufacturing market, according to the TRI.

“It’s hard to copy such a unique business model and match (Apple’s) highly competitive hardware price,” Topology Vice President Simon Yang said. “But with the Steve Jobs era passing, it may have an impact on Apple in the long term.”

Yang said Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO who took over from Jobs in August, focused more on teamwork in his presentation to launch the iPhone 4S rather than opting for the charismatic style that Jobs had used to impress audiences in the past.

The death of Steve Jobs and his importance to Apple’s model have raised concerns that Apple’s products in the future will not be as innovative as in the past and that the company may face management changes, Yang said.

In terms of its product portfolio, Apple only recently became involved in the television business to further integrate mobile devices and home appliances, Yang said, and it will have a hard time generating a higher profit margin from the TV business than it has from iPhones and iPads, he added.

Meanwhile, the emergence of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. and China’s Lenovo Group Ltd. also pose a threat to Apple, Yang noted.

Samsung’s leading capabilities in some key components, such as panels, memory chips, CPUs and battery cells, will help it catch up with Apple in the post-Jobs era, while Lenovo’s share of the global PC market is expected to grow 12 percent year-on-year in 2011 based on surging demand in China and emerging markets.