Apple's Many Market Challenges Around the Globe
Apple's Many Market Challenges Around the Globe
By Don Reisinger
Google Is Competing in the Car Space
Apple is making a significant play for the car business. Apple has an in-car infotainment system, called CarPlay, that's designed to integrate the company's many services, including Messages, iTunes and Maps, among others, into the car. However, Apple is competing with Google, which has Android Auto. Both platforms have similar features, which means it'll all come down to which company can do a better job of attracting carmakers. So far, Apple has several carmakers signed up, but Google is coming on strong in that space.
Google's Android: A Worry Now or Later?
Debate rages over whether Apple should really worry about Google's Android platform. Around the world, Android is by far the dominant platform, but Apple is still setting record profits. A recent study from Strategy Analytics found that Apple's iOS is now securing 89 percent of all smartphone profits. That number, the research firm says, has lit a fire under Google and caused it to work with Android vendors to help them boost profits. Absent such a move, Strategy Analytics argues, some Android vendors could go to other platforms, like Windows Phone. So, the very fact that Google is so far behind in smartphone profits might actually prove to be an issue for Apple in 2015.
China's Xiaomi Is Captivating Chinese Consumers
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said time and again that China is an extremely important market for his company. However, China is a special situation because Apple is competing against strong domestic mobile device manufacturers. Chinese consumers are particularly enthralled with one of Apple's top competitors in that space: Xiaomi. At last count, Xiaomi's mobile device market share was soaring and its unit shipments skyrocketing. If Apple wants to compete more effectively in China, it'll need to handle the Xiaomi issue and start to steal market share.
The Same China Allure Holds True for Huawei
Huawei, a manufacturer of everything from smartphones and tablets to networking equipment, is also a major concern for Apple. Like Xiaomi, Huawei is building domestic market share in China by offering high-end products, such as the Ascend smartphone line, at low-end prices. Apple can't match that right now, which is prompting Chinese consumers to go elsewhere. Until Apple solves that problem, Huawei, which saw unit shipments soar in 2014, will continue to be a problem.
Samsung Is a Thorn in the Side
Samsung might be the biggest thorn in Apple's side. The Korea-based company battles with Apple around the world for smartphone shipment dominance. Then there's the issue of the worldwide patent infringement cases, the battle over wearables, competition in the tablet market and now a new war over mobile payments. Samsung is arguably Apple's top competitor.
Pebble Time Is a Credible Competitor
Apple is slated to hold a special event on March 9, where it's expected to announce full pricing and availability information on the Apple Watch. When Apple joins that market, the company will likely make a splash. However, after everything settles down, Apple may find that its top competitor is not Samsung or Motorola, but rather a small startup called Pebble. Pebble recently unveiled a new smartwatch, called the Pebble Time, that has already captivated consumers. Plus, it'll be launching around the same time as Apple Watch.
Lenovo Is a Leading Enterprise Company
Over the last few years, Apple has made one thing abundantly clear: It cares about the enterprise. A key component in its appeal to the enterprise is its Mac line, which has become increasingly popular in the corporate world. The trouble for Apple is that Lenovo still has the best pedigree for companies seeking enterprise-focused computers. Apple has hired more corporate salespeople to make its pitch to large organizations, but battling Lenovo in that space will be no easy task.
Pandora, Spotify Are Major Concerns
Apple has been offering its iTunes Radio service in the hopes that it can jump into the popular music-streaming market. However, Apple's platform has yet to make a dent, and Pandora and Spotify are still tops. Rumors suggest Apple will launch a new platform this year with help from Beats Music, but the company has not confirmed anything just yet.
Suppliers Are an Ongoing Concern
Whether it's Foxconn or any other company Apple uses to build its products, the company has been spending a considerable amount of time over the last several years ensuring that its suppliers are engaging in fair labor practices around the world. Apple has in the past been criticized for using companies that have been charged with unfair labor activities, but for the most part, Apple has done a solid job of keeping its supply chain ethical. Now it'll need to keep that up and continue monitoring its suppliers in 2015 and beyond.
Apple's Biggest Challenge: Keeping All Its Initiatives on Track
Apple's biggest battle is with itself. The company is in some ways a victim of its own success. Apple sells millions of smartphones, tablets and computers each quarter, and its investors expect it to keep up. During the fourth quarter, Apple's iPad sales were down year-over-year, becoming the single black mark on an otherwise strong quarter. But investors weren't happy. Now there is worry over whether Apple Watch can attract the kind of sales required to make it worthwhile. Rumors suggest Apple could be getting into the car-making business, causing all kinds of worry among those who think the company could go too far afield of its core competencies.