Apple Inc's WWDC Results: Throwing Down the Gauntlet

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Apple's  (NASDAQ: AAPL  )  2014 Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, is complete, and analysts are picking over the results with an eye on the future.

The day after the conference, Apple stock -- after dipping slightly during WWDC -- rose by nearly $9 and continued on to a 52-week high, reaching above $640. As investors wait for the effects of the upcoming seven-to-one stock split, WWDC provides a glimpse into Appe's long-term game. Firms including Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Wells Fargo Securities have recently raised price targets (Goldman Sachs, notably, raised it to $720), but what Apple does in the coming months will be crucial to defining its relationship with expanding competitors. Several gauntlets were thrown down at WWDC, notably at Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  )   (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) , Facebook  (NASDAQ: FB  ) , and a few IPO-ready tech companies.

Arms against Android
A significant section of WWDC 2014 was spent pointing fingers at Android. CEO Tim Cook took the stage and illustrated that iOS users prove quicker to download the latest software updates and enjoy more protection against mobile malware (Apple claimed that Android took up 99% of all mobile malware attacks). The company also noted that half of the sales it has made in China were to Android users switching to iOS.

This data culminated in a fairly direct attack on the Google operating system, but other confrontations were more subtle, like the focus on web-wide searches for Mac OS Yosemite, which could render Google searches less necessary for Mac users. Google stock fell by nearly $9 the day after WWDC, but this could be due to general doubt on tech growth, and Google's share price quickly recovered.

Numbers alone still support Google as a preeminent growth stock. Google is trading at 30 times reported profit and 20 times forecasted earnings for the next year (69% and 23% higher than respective S&P 500 numbers), while Apple is still trading at multiples below the S&P 500's. But Apple, with its upcoming stock split, dividends, and brand recognition, remains popular among investors. This direct confrontation with Google looks like a confident play instead of bravado, but wait to see how much use the company's new services get before expecting Google to suffer.

New steps in mobile offerings
Apple's iOS 8 will also include new mobile features, particularly iMessage capabilities, which allows users send brief video or audio messages to friends. iMessage also includes the ability to have messages self-destruct after several seconds. The updated options borrow elements from services like Snapchat and WhatsApp. Facebook acquired the latter in February for $16 billion and is probably not pleased to see how many features Apple has emulated.

Facebook has seen quarterly revenue rise by more than 70% year over year , so the company's stock position remains strong. However, Apple's aggressive position on messaging could take the wind from Facebook's sails regarding long-term plans for WhatsApp. SnapChat, on the other hand, may be wishing that it had taken the opportunity to go public earlier, as it now stands to potentially lose customers to Apple before its expected IPO.

A move in the cloud game
Google and Facebook are not the only companies Apple challenged at WWDC. The company also announced iCloud Drive, which syncs iCloud services across all devices, including some Windows systems. These improvements reinvent iCloud as a more flexible service, a file-sharer that feels a bit like Dropbox or Google Drive. Like Google, Apple is also taking a low-priced approach to cloud services, with 5GB of data free and 20GB for $1 per month.

iCloud may have a ways to go to catch up to Google Drive and its document-creation tools, but this is an important step that brings it closer to Microsoft's OneDrive, which currently has slightly cheaper pricing for higher tiers of service. The move may be even more important to Dropbox, which is preparing for an IPO and could do without the comparison to Apple's newest service, as the company charges much more than Apple ($4 vs. $20) for its small-business-friendly 200GB tier.

The future of other innovations
Apple also unveiled a few other long-term plans at WWDC. HomeKit, the expected home automation platform, was revealed and connected to Siri capabilities, demonstrating that you will be able to issue voice commands to your house. A semi-related HealthKit will let apps share health and activity info, and forward said info to appropriate medical professionals (with an eye on fitness and wearables). Also, the biometric option of Touch ID was made available to all developers, and third-party keyboards can now be developed for iOS.

These moves give developers greater opportunities, but they also show a clear move into new markets. Apple doesn't want to be left behind, and the company is willing to modify its services to prove it. Perhaps this will ease concerns about the tech giant growing stale.

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  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2014, at 5:00 PM, WineHouse wrote:

    iCloud has been re-named "iCloud Drive." There is no functional difference between the iCloud I've been using for over a year now and the "iCloud Drive" described at the developers' conference and touted as "new" in this article. It's important to note that iCloud has been actively evolving over the past year, particularly in terms of the Pages, Numbers and Keynote functionality. It was with the Mavericks rollout that the new Pages, etc. software was announced, and the intention was clearly to make these productivity apps more closely compatible and synchronous between the OSX and the iOS, i.e. between Macs and the iPad/iPhone environment. Indeed, the now-free inclusion of iWorks for new purchases of Macs, iPads, and iPhones was an obvious push toward encouraging folks to use that new capability (I had to pay $20 each for my Pages and Numbers on my MacBook, and I would have to pay an additional $9 each to get the apps on my iPhone or iPodTouch). That Mavericks rollout was almost a year ago! The "new" features described at the conference are merely small additional improvements to iCloud (and the synchrony between Macs and iOS devices) that are well in keeping with the functional evolution over the past year.

    Of course, if you're not already using both a Mac and an iOS device, and not exploiting the capabilities of iCloud, you wouldn't know about this, and you might reasonably assume that all of this is brand-new. Improved, yes (as in gradual continuous improvement), but new? No.

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