The consumer hardware market has proven to be a difficult one for once-revered start-ups. Fitbit struggled to the point where it was finally bought out by Alphabet subsidiary Google, which is making its own play into hardware.
GoPro (GPRO 4.58%) has also struggled since shortly after it went public, making product strategy and launch missteps and reporting losses that have forced the company into a precarious financial position. There's excitement over new products like the HERO8 Black and Max 360 camera for this holiday season, but GoPro is still a long way from generating a consistent profit. Before it meets a disastrous end, it's time to find a buyer -- and there's one company that makes all the sense in the world: Apple (AAPL 1.41%).
GoPro's precarious position
You can see below that GoPro's revenue has stagnated over the last few years and is down from highs hit in 2015:
More recently, GoPro's financial picture has shown signs of worsening. The company lost $74.8 million in the third quarter of 2019, which was considerably wider than its losses from the year-earlier period.
The holidays are always a key time of the year for GoPro, and that will be no different in 2019. But the HERO8 Black and Max cameras experienced production delays that meant they didn't hit any store shelves until October, and delays in the past have led to disappointing holiday sales.
GoPro is relying on the holiday season to turn the business around, but we've heard that story before. The company has executed poorly and failed to expand its business beyond the flagship HERO line of cameras, and that shouldn't instill any confidence that this time GoPro will be the growth stock investors thought it was.
Why Apple is the perfect buyer
Though GoPro has struggled on its own, its product lineup could fit nicely into Apple's growing product lineup, and the company could offer some nice strategic additions.
First, Apple is moving away from an iPhone-centric model to more wearables that don't incorporate a built-in camera. For instance, the Apple Watch can be used without being near its paired iPhone, AirPods aren't exclusive to Apple products, and the company's services lineup is now expanding for use with non-Apple products. In the future, Apple may have customers with an Apple Watch, AirPods, and an Android phone. It could offer a GoPro camera to that customer, just like it does with Beats headphones today.
Apple could bring a number of new capabilities to GoPro's cameras as well. Apple has proven to be very good at making tiny cameras, so it could potentially improve the GoPro form factor. But it also designs its own chips -- something GoPro started to do recently. Leveraging Apple's chip and wireless technology expertise could be a big win for the cameras' functionality.
Apple is also one of the largest cloud providers in the world and GoPro is increasingly counting on its GoPro Plus cloud subscription to generate revenue from customers. This could be folded into iCloud offerings and benefit both companies.
Finally, editing and sharing images is important for content taken on GoPro cameras, but it hasn't been the best at building or distributing photo-editing software. Apple could change that in a heartbeat. The Photos app already creates automatic slideshows and galleries that GoPro could use, and sharing comes naturally on the iOS platform.
Apple buying GoPro today would be a little like buying Beats in 2014. The company's products would be great featured in the Apple Store, Apple could make GoPro's hardware better, and maybe most importantly GoPro's growing services business fits nicely with Apple's strategic vision.
A cheap bet for Apple
GoPro's current market cap is $725 million, so Apple could probably acquire the company for somewhere around $1 billion. That's a small sum for Apple, but the introduction of a non-iPhone camera to its lineup would be a nice addition as the company invests more in wearables. And for GoPro, a buyout would be a very welcome bailout for a struggling business.