Apple plays its game close to its vest, revealing nothing until a product or plan is ready for the scrutiny of the world's eyeballs. Research firm Piper Jaffray, in a May 25 research note, offered 10 insights into this top-secret company that, by all accounts except Apples own, has several winning products queued up for a 2012 launch.
These key points, the analysts noted, inform their opinion that Apple shares will appreciate to $1,000 in the next couple of years.
1. Apple's 2012 Roadmap Will Demonstrate Its Ability to Innovate
This year, Piper Jaffray analysts are looking forward to several "meaningful updates" to core products, including the iPhone and Mac, as well as the introduction of a TV for shipment in 2013. In the next six weeks it expects updates to Macs that include Retina Displays and Intel Ivy Bridge processors and in early 2013 the launch of a 7.8-inch iPad.
2. Apple's "Heart Transplant" Strategy Enables It to Benefit From Scale
This strategy, explains the report, is one in which a company tries to eliminate old products as quickly as possible. "We believe this is a key factor in the company benefiting from [the] scale of producing a streamlined product line, which in part could enable the company to secure the best component prices possible, which translate to higher margins."
3. China Won't Follow U.S. User Trends
While sales in the U.S. dropped 34 percent following the last iPhone's launch quarter, Piper Jaffray analysts say this won't be the case in China. "We believe China iPhone sales will not fall off as fast as they did in the U.S. and remain comfortable. ... Overall, we believe iPhone and iPad sales will remain strong in China, driven by the growing middle class."
4. By 2020, Tablet Sales Could Overtake PCs
In 2015, the firm expects iPads to account for 176 million of the 301 million tablets likely to be sold. With IDC estimating PC sales of 484 million units for 2015, before 2020, they wrote, "We believe tablets could overtake PCs."
5. The Enterprise Will Continue to Be a Long Road for Apple
"If Apple's intent was to dominate the enterprise markets, we believe the company would employ a meaningfully different sales and marketing strategy," states the report. "However, we believe the company is focused on delivering the best consumer electronic products possible and therefore will rely on consumer adoption to drive enterprise adoption."
6. No End to Carrier Subsidies Soon
Piper Jaffray expects carrier subsidies for the iPhone to continue for at least the next two to three years because, one, the iPhone has the lowest churn rate of any device, two, consumers want it and, three, were any carrier to try and do away with it, "there will always exist a second- or third-place carrier ... willing to use subsidies."
7. Apple Can Maintain 40-Plus Percent Gross Margin Levels for at Least the Next Three Years
Piper analysts estimate that the iPhone has a 60 percent gross margin compared to the iPad's 40 percent and Mac's 25 percent. While they expect iPhone and iPad use to continue growing in the enterprise, the same isn't true of the Mac; enterprises, they say, tend to run versions of Windows that are two generations old, but Apple "provides little support for past OS versions," making long-term Mac maintenance a thing tricky for large businesses.
8. Apple's Services Will Continue to Act as an Ecosystem Enhancement, Rather Than a Profit Generator
Apple has said it runs iTunes at just above break-even, and the Piper analysts believe the same applies to the Apple Store and will ultimately apply to "whatever larger content initiative Apple undertakes to support the Apple Television."
9. Apple Television Will Ship in 2013
"Freezing the market" for customers considering a new TV purchase, Apple is expected to announce a TV as early as December but not begin shipping until 2013. It's likely to cost between $1,500 and $2,000 and come in various screen sizes between 42 inches and 55 inches. Within one to three years, Apple "could ultimately capture 10 percent of the market."
10. The iPhone 5 Update Will Entail ...
As they've shared in the past, Piper Jaffray analysts expect the iPhone 5 to be nothing short of the biggest upgrade cycle in smartphone history. What to expect? A "completely redesigned body style," a larger, 4-plus-inch display, 4G LTE connectivity, an upgraded processor and memory, and a higher-megapixel camera, the analyst firm opined. And, oh yes, Piper Jaffray estimates likely sales of 49 million units during the December quarter.
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