Apple and the curse of high expectations

Andy Castonguay/Informa Telecoms and Media
26 Jul 2012

Being a public company would be so great if it weren’t for those pesky financial analysts. To break with the traditional love fest that typically follows an Apple quarterly financial report, the stock market threw a conniption fit that Apple ONLY improved profits by 21%, year-on-year, and managed to grow revenues a “paltry” 22% over last year at this time.

Never mind that this performance was achieved in the middle of a global financial slow down and that Apple has managed to basically upend the mobile devices market in the last five years and force all OEMS but Samsung to run for cover. Financial analysts had clearly wanted more from the magicians in Cupertino and when the analyst’s expectations were missed, Apple stock dropped nearly 6% in after-hours trading.

But let’s be clear, there is no immediate weakness in Apple’s business outlook. The iPad continues to outsell every other tablet on the planet while the iPhone 5, or whatever it will be called, is on top of consumer and mobile operator wish lists around the globe.

Does this mean Apple will be on top forever? Global corporate history suggests otherwise, but for the foreseeable future the company will need to rethink its strategy on how to brief financial analysts to generate more realistic forecasts. Perhaps a vigorous return to the Jobs-era practice of under-promising and over-delivering will do the trick. But in a market when few companies can inspire analysts to wax poetic, can you blame Wall Street from channeling the American soul hit, “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right”?

None of this is to say that Apple is immune to market pressures or innovation from competitors. In fact, it will be crucial for Apple to make significant strides in industrial design, its OS and user interface to stay on top of a very competitive field of players. But unless the next version of the iPhone is a significant flop, the current stock market kerfuffle will be remembered as a bump on an otherwise fine road.

Andy Castonguay is a principal analyst for handsets and devices at Informa Telecoms and Media. For more information, visit

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