L’acerrima competizione per guadagnare fette di mercato ha reso il settore degli smartphone un luogo davvero difficile per fare affari. È estremamente faticoso farsi ascoltare dai consumatori/utenti, ormai sommersi da offerte – sempre più complesse e sofisticate – di nuove applicazioni e nuovi servizi mobile. Come accade quando non si sa più che strada prendere, ci si volta e si guarda al passato. La nuova Terra Promessa del business allora è quella dei “dumbphone”, i vecchi e “ottusi” telefoni cellulari, ormai ai margini del mercato che nelle nostre società di consumo. Mai prodotto era caduto così rapidamente in basso. Modelli superapprezzati solo qualche anno fa (pensiamo a certi Motorola) ora sono trattati peggio dei paria: li guardiamo con un misto di fastidioso disprezzo e vergogna, quasi volessimo dimenticare che anche noi ne avevamo uno in tasca. Telefoni dalle funzionalità basic (se paragonati ai moderni smartphone) che nei mercati di Paesi emergenti non sono caduti in disgrazia.

Quelli di Facebook hanno alzato lo sguardo e oltre al modello di telefono, si sono concentrati, invece, sui milioni e milioni di utenti che li usano (tra cui tantissimi africani che non hanno possibilità di entrare nel social network più famoso). Con un nome che assomiglia a una campagna promossa dalla FAO o da qualche agenzia internazionale per la cooperazione e lo sviluppo, meno di un anno fa la società di Palo Alto ha lanciato Facebook for Every Phone. Ora ne raccoglie in frutti con 100milioni di nuovi utenti possessori di dumbphone iscritti al social network.

Così ci spiega l’articolo di Christopher Mims per Quarts

 

The biggest opportunity in mobile right now isn’t on smartphones

Facebook has noticed something that other companies would do well to heed: The biggest opportunity right now isn’t in smartphones, where users are bombarded by the fruits of anever-more-competitive market for apps and mobile services. Rather, the big play for some companies, especially any that wish to expand into emerging markets, is on the “dumbphones” — aka non-smartphones or, in industry parlance, feature phones — that most people in rich countries have now left behind.

We’ve known for some time that Facebook’s strategy for grabbing its “next billion” users is to convince them that Facebook and the web are one and the same by making access to Facebook free on every model of phone. But now Javi Olivan, head of “growth and analytics” at Facebook has dribbled out a handful of other interesting details about Facebook’s strategy.

The first is that, since Quartz reported on it a year ago, Facebook’s push to get onto feature phones, which still comprise half of all phone sales worldwide, has accelerated. The service Facebook is working on is called Facebook for Every Phone, and it allows people with data plans on their feature phones to have smartphone-like experiences while using Facebook, meaning they get images, updates, chat and more. The secret is that most of the processing for Facebook For Every Phone is done on Facebook’s servers, in the cloud, and a minimal stream of data is trickled out to feature phones, which tend to be on slower networks in emerging markets.

Facebook for Every Phone is now on 100 million feature phones, which means almost a tenth of Facebook’s billion-plus users are accessing Facebook through devices on which Facebook isn’t normally accessible.

The second thing about Facebook’s push onto feature phones is that more and more of these devices can access the web. As Ran Makavy, head of Facebook’s feature phone initiative, told The New York Times, it wasn’t long ago that only about 2% of all feature phones could access the web. Now that figure is more like 25%, and he thinks “there is a pretty long runway still.”

In other words, billions of people the world over are going to start accessing the web through their feature phones, and in the rush to equip people with the latest and greatest, web experiences on these devices are likely to be an under-served market. Facebook is happy to occupy this space, but other companies should be, too, such as Jana, which is arguably the largest payment platform on earth, and can reach 2 billion people in emerging markets.

One issue, as always, with emerging markets, is that consumers here do not have as much disposable income as people in rich countries. Facebook just rolled out a platform to advertise to people in emerging markets via — among other services — Facebook for Every Phone, but it’s not clear yet how lucrative this effort will be. Even if Facebook can’t make money on these nascent web users right away, convincing them that Facebook is integral to the web is the sort of trick that will help the company continue to grow as these consumers graduate to smartphones, tablets and other more sophisticated means to connect.

Dati Q3, 2013. Pur con qualche difficoltà, nel confronto con due colossi della consumer technology come Microsoft e Google, Apple rimane ampiamente prima per risultati come ci spiega Aaron Souppouris nel suo articolo per The Verge.

 

How Apple’s profits stack up against Google and Microsoft

With Apple’s earnings posting today, and Microsoft’s and Google’s last week, we now have the financial results for three of the largest consumer technology companies in the world. It’s safe to say that the second quarter of 2013 has been a tough one for all involved.

All three companies disappointed in some areas, but nonetheless remain extremely profitable. Google’s wealth grew significantly this quarter, but even with revenue and profit growth pegged at around 15.5 percent year-over-year, Wall Street were left cold; revenues and profits fell short of expectations.

Microsoft, on the other hand, was always unlikely to see profits drop year-over-year: last year’s calendar Q2 saw a huge $6.19 billion “goodwill impairment charge” related to its disastrous acquisition of aQuantive. That said, relatively static Windows revenue, despite the launch and continued push of its Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems, and a $900 million write-off on its Surface RT tablet, gave investors cause for concern.

Apple also had a troubling quarter, with flat revenues and significantly lower profits than this time last year. The company is making far less revenue per device than it has done in the past, and that’s impacting it’s bottom line significantly.

Q2 may have been a difficult quarter, but It’s fair to say that none of the three are really struggling. Net profit margins — a tricky figure to use comparatively — are healthy, revenues are high, and profits remain astronomical.

Sono stati pubblicati i dati relativi all’andamento di Apple nel Q3 (1 aprile – 30 giugno) del cosiddetto fiscal year, il periodo indicato per calcolare i rendiconti finanziari annuali. Si registra una contrazione rispetto allo stesso periodo dell’anno precedente, specie nelle vendite nei mercati asiatici (Cina in testa) e in Europa. D’altra parte aumentano in maniera decisa le vendite in mercati quali Russia e Giappone (+66%).
Alcuni dati del terzo trimestre. Se iPhone guadagna rispetto all’anno passato, passando da 26 a 31.2 milioni di pezzi venduti nel Q3 2013, iPad per la prima volta vede diminuite le vendite, passando da 17 del Q3 2012 a 14,6 milioni dell’ultimo trimestre. Analogo discorso per i Mac, passati da 4 milioni a 3,75 milioni di unità vendute nel mondo.
Le ragioni sono senz’altro molteplici: 1) concorrenti sempre più agguerriti (specie nel settore del mobile), 2) una crisi economica che contrae la possibilità di spesa dei consumatori in mercati di punta (Europa in testa), 3) un prezzo dei prodotti mediamente alto (specie per i consumatori di quei mercati emergenti come Russia o Brasile) e 4) l’assenza di prodotti nuovi (e innovativi) che aprono nuove prospettive.
Crescita e contrazione: la storia di Apple di questi ultimi dieci anni è incredibilmente interessante. L’articolo di Dan Frommer apparso su TechCrunch ne fa un’efficace sintesi.

 

Apple’s Growth Rocket Has Hit A Wall. What Will Get It Started Again? 

Apple’s stunning growth over the past decade has been one of the biggest stories in all of tech. Even as the company released new product after new product, and grew larger and larger, its growth rate continued to accelerate, far surpassing its competitors.

For the past ten years, Apple has posted year-over-year revenue growth every quarter, almost always more than 25% and frequently more than 50%. In that span, it’s gone from a company with less than $2 billion in quarterly sales to one with (once) more than $50 billion. For two quarters in a row in 2011, as the iPad and iPhone both picked up steam, Apple posted growth rates above 80% — each quarter representing more than $10 billion in new sales from the year prior. That’s just crazy for a company that big.

But now, that unbelievable growth rocket has come back to earth. Apple’s most recent quarter,reported today, showed just 1% growth over last year. And it’s not a fluke: Growth has sloped down for more than a year. After a great winter in 2011-2012, when Apple’s sales grew 73%, then 59%, it’s been 23%, 27%, 18%, 11%, and now 1%. For its next quarter, Apple expects growth ranging from 3% to a 5% year-over-year decline.

What happened? Some of it’s just funny timing: A product launch early one year then late the next. Inventory adjustments as products mature and markets settle — this played a role in this past quarter’s weakish iPad sales, for example. This year, in particular, Apple has been quiet on the new-gadget front, as design boss Jony Ive rehauls its iOS operating system, presumably for new iPhones, iPods, and iPads in time for Christmas. This is where arbitrary quarterly marking periods can sometimes cloud the lens.

But there’s also been a bigger-picture trend that Apple can’t just replicate: The vast shift towards smartphones and tablets — the “post-PC” revolution. Apple has captured this movement brilliantly, dominating the industry’s sales and profits despite selling relatively fewer, mostly high-end devices. And it may continue to do so. But that first-time adoption cycle isn’t going to happen again. At least not in the markets where Apple is strongest — and where carrier subsidies allow for such high profit margins — like the United States.

So what can Apple do next, assuming it wants to continue to grow? (A safe assumption.)

Cloud_in_touch_apple-growth-decade-chart

One obvious answer is to move downmarket in its existing product lines. This is always a tricky proposition with Apple, because the company swears it would never release a low-quality product that it isn’t proud of. (And it shouldn’t.) So far, this has meant selling old iPhones at reduced prices, which has been pretty successful. But if the growth is happening in even further-downmarket segments, Apple might have to even figure out something cheaper. Where will it draw the line, design- and quality-wise, to compete? We may find out this year if rumored low-cost iPhones are real.

Another possibility, of course, is to blaze into new markets. There’s been speculation for years that Apple will start to sell television sets. The latest chatter is about wearable computers — Apple gadgets for the wrist, à la Nike’s Fuelband.

The nice thing about wearables is that like smartphones — and unlike, say, desktop PCs — they’re the kind of device where everyone in the house will need their own, meaning a larger potential market, people-wise. But unlike mobile phones, there isn’t an established precedent for subsidies, carrier distribution, or even pricing, really. Can Apple design the kind of thing you’d want to wear on your body all day? We’ll see. Will that create the same level of demand, favorable pricing, and high margins that the rise of smartphones did? Probably not. Still, if it’s a hit, it could certainly fuel significant growth for Apple.

So that’s the big question going forward: Can anything propel Apple’s growth the way the iPhone and iPad did over the past 6 years, and the iPod and Mac before them?

Longtime Apple analyst Gene Munster asked a version of that question on today’s earnings call: “Are there product categories out there that are big enough to move the needle for Apple?” Apple CEO Tim Cook’s response: “We’ll see, Gene. We’re working up some stuff that we’re really proud of, and we’ll see how it does.” And, in typical Apple fashion, “We’ll announce things when we’re ready.”

 

PER MAGGIORI INFORMAZIONI SUI DATI Q3, 2013