It's easy to kick Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) when it's down, but everybody else may be suffering a similar fate.
There's no denying that Apple has lost a few steps. Sales are slowing, and when the consumer tech giant reports quarterly results later this month, it may be the bellwether's first year-over-year decline in ages. The walk down to the bottom line is even more cruel. Margins have been contracting as customers flock to cheaper iPad Mini, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S devices that don't carry the same kind of markups that Apple packs for its newer gadgetry.
However, it seems as if fears that Apple's iPhone is falling out of favor to rival platforms may be premature. They're all smarting these days. Let's go over some of the grim reports that have come out in recent days from the leading handset makers.
Q2 revenue and profit that missed analysts' expectations, following weeks of speculation of slower-than-expected sales of the company's flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone.
- Shares of Android leader Samsung slipped in South Korea on Friday after preliminary quarterly results fell short of expectations. Samsung's new estimates are 3% below analyst estimates for revenue and 5% below the market's profit target.
- HTC doesn't get a lot of attention, but it, too, is coming up short. The Taiwanese smartphone maker posted quarterly revenue on Friday that fell 1% shy of analyst forecasts.
- A week earlier, BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY ) shares were crushed after posting a surprising loss. The real stinker in the report was that BlackBerry cleared just 2.7 million Z10 and Q10 smartphones. These were supposed to be the handsets running BlackBerry's updated mobile operating system that was supposed to herald the pioneer's return to relevance. It didn't.
- Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) has moved higher on buyout speculation and a shrewd acquisition, but its smartphone business remains a hot mess. Analysts see Nokia posting another deficit for the quarter that ended last week on a double-digit percentage dip in revenue.
Suddenly Apple doesn't look so ugly.
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) has poured billions into Nokia to get it to back its Windows Phone platform, yet Nokia's losing money and sales are sliding? Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG ) Android is the market leader, but in the span of a few hours between Thursday night and Friday morning we saw two of the biggest Android backers -- Samsung and HTC -- fall short of growth expectations.
The only constant in all this has been disappointment. Investors have been scrambling to find the platform that has been cashing in on Apple's slide, and it's easy to see why. The stock has shed 41% of its value since peaking the morning that the iPhone 5 hit the market late last year. However, as Samsung's Galaxy S4 has bumped into resistance as the top anti-iPhone choice, it doesn't seem as if anyone is truly cashing in here.
Forget the market-share slices, even though they naturally matter. The market itself appears to have badly overestimated the size of the pie itself.
The vast majority of the planet doesn't own a smartphone, but the vast majority of the planet also can't afford a smartphone and the costly data plan that's necessary to stay connected. There's a cry for cheaper hardware -- and even the mighty Apple has complied by keeping older models around at lower price points -- but that apparently isn't enough to make it a sound value proposition for the masses.
This will be problematic for all players. Microsoft and BlackBerry feel as if they still have a shot here, since there are so many people who have never owned a smartphone. Unfortunately for them, that isn't about to change.
This will also come as rude awakening for Mozilla, which earlier this week thought it was making a splash by announcing partners for its regional launches of smartphones running a Firefox operating system. Mozilla is hoping to turn the apps-driven world on its ear with its Web-centric operating system, but will that be enough? There's apparently resistance here in the adoption cycle, and that's something that will require the handset makers and carriers to get even cheaper.
This isn't good news for Apple. It's bad news. However, the news is bad for all of the companies riding the smartphone revolution and the investors who believe that we're still in the revolution's infancy.
Everybody's smart, but everybody's smarting.
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