Jul

2

 I've found in my 45 years of business experience, as a rule, starting with Tyco's toy racecars (by far the fastest) was that the company with the superior speed or design or popular fancy was always overtaken by a competitor who came up with a comparable or better product. As a complete layman, I wonder how long it will be before someone comes out with a better phone than Apple, and whether this makes the profits form the iPhone ephemeral. Please excuse my ignorance in this field.

George Zachar comments:

Technology acceptance is heavily influenced by network effects and compatibility issues that make the diffusion of digital products take a different trajectory from their non-digital predecessors. 

John Floyd adds:

"Leapfrogging" is a real danger. It is also evident in the way Japan evolved in car manufacturing in the 1960s and 1970s. I can remember driving in my uncle's "nouveau Datsun" as a five-year-old and hearing him tell me about the benefits in terms of cost, fuel efficiency, luxury, etc.

From a stock performance perspective I would imagine tests exist and can be done to look at stock performance post introduction of a new product for a variety of markets and products, Apple obviously included. What seems likely difficult to quantify is the "wow" factor: the market's potential to extrapolate huge multiples going forward based on various forms of growth, as happened in cases like the Internet stocks. 

Henrik Andersson writes:

It seems like Apple is holding on to their market share for portable music players even though it might not have a superior technology. I can envision the same happening for the phone, which I think would be very suitable for WiMax in the US rather than 3G. 

James Lackey writes:

There are so many elegant angles to the iPhone. When you look at the products vs. cycles, prices and innovation, many examples of car production vs. tech can be used. Examples include the furious competition, lower prices, and leaps of innovation.

The iPhone may be a leap of innovation. Of course others will adapt and prices will fall. What is uncertain is how much innovation and cost will trickle down to the sedan market of cell phones. Perhaps that equation, how the mass market accepts it and is willing to pay for the new bells and whistles, will set the pricing and production of future iPhones. Will the iPhone be a sporty two-seater high performance vehicle or just another used sedan at 50% off current retail in five years? 

Barry Gitarts writes: 

I think your questions apply to the smart phones which have been on the market for years from companies like RIMM or PALM and the iPhone is the answer.

To paraphrase Steve Jobs, people are used to thinking that something is wrong with them, when the real problem is the phone they are using. But Apple is not an iPod or iPhone story, it is a Steve Jobs story. Just look at how Apple did when Jobs was at the helm and then when he left and then when he came back. Is there any doubt he is the man responsible for the value creation reflected in Apple stock?

When I watch Jobs talk about his products, his passion and dedication reminds me of Howard Hughes and Airliners as portrayed in The Aviator. While there is no doubt that new technology will come out that will give the old technology a run for its money, how does one know the new technology will not be developed by those who developed the old one? 

J.P. Highland writes:

It won't be about someone producing a better phone, but someone being capable of delivering a cooler phone. The IPod might not be the best mp3 player in the market, but there's something irrational about it. People love it and will keep buying unless the meme fades. But so far people are in love with Apple and the success of the IPod has permeated to the iPhone and the PowerBooks are doing well. 


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