LONDON -- On the cover of Douglas Adams' book, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," are the words DON'T PANIC, written in large, friendly letters. That's advice Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shareholders would do well to follow as the tech world enthuses over Samsung's new phone, the Galaxy S4.
Samsung has stolen a march on its rival, with a jazzy product packed with new gizmos such as automatic scrolling when you read to the end of a page, no-touch gesture control, and video that pauses when you look away.
Apple shareholders should brace themselves for a lot of Apple bashing that will likely become worse when the first sales figures for the new Galaxy are reported.
So it's worth taking a deep breath and reviewing the long-term investment case for Apple.
1. Apple has a big market share in a growing industry
Apple and Samsung don't just cannibalize each other's sales. The potential for growth in emerging markets is massive, and developed market growth hasn't yet run out of steam. Gartner, a respected technology research firm, has predicted that the smartphone market will double between 2011 and 2014.
Nor is having the top spot what really matters. I believe having a big market share counts more.
2. Apple innovates
Apple isn't a one-product firm, and past growth has come from its ability to innovate and market effectively. Having a tough competitor doesn't strip the company of that ability, and it might even sharpen it.
Losing its effective monopoly does mean that we won't see a repeat of Apple's historic growth rates. But then the shares no longer price in such growth. On a P/E of 10, they're trading at barely more than half the S&P 500 average.
3. Apple's products are "sticky"
Brand loyalty is fickle in this business. Some people stay with formats they're familiar with while others chase the "coolest" product. But there's some stickiness in services such as iTunes and iCloud. Apple's big customer base won't evaporate overnight.
4. Apple is flush with cash
The debate over Apple's $140 billion cash mountain has gone quiet. But so much cash gives the company a lot of room to maneuver, and dividend prospects look brighter. The cash hoard makes the valuation look even more attractive, too.
Adapt and survive
If you're convinced of Apple's ability to adapt, then I suggest you also have a look at this company. Its industry has been revolutionized by the Internet, but it has adapted so well that its earnings per share has charged 44% higher since 2009 and it has maintained its record of increasing or holding its dividend every year since at least 1988.