Apple Gains Market Share; MacBook, Leopard Poised for Growth

| About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)
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Shareholders of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) are in for a treat. Apple’s market share for personal computers is surging at an all time high. Computer industry analysts forecast that AAPL would move into third place in the United States behind Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) and Dell (DELL) after it reports product shipments in the fiscal fourth quarter (part of its earnings announcement).

On October 26, 2007, Friday, Apple Inc. will debut its Leopard operating system, which integrates a range of features that have both analysts and users going ga-ga over it. Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs believes that the Leopard will bring about a schedule of product upgrades, which could continue for as long as a decade. As you all know, AAPL has put out major releases of its OS on the average of one per year. Leopard, which offers more than 300 new features, is the sixth major upgrade that Apple Inc. has made to the Mac OS X since the operating system was launched in 2001. Such product pacing has allowed it to outshine Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), which took five to seven years to debut Windows Vista after launching Windows XP. Despite the long wait, Vista still failed to excite customers both on the enterprise and personal computing levels. Even MSFT’s plans to release an update for its Vista in the first quarter of 2008 and to offer a service pack for Windows XP in the first half of the year didn’t help boost Vista’s popularity. And by 2010, the year that Microsoft is set to release its next OS, i.e., Windows 7, Apple would have already debut two novel versions of its OS. Thus, translating to more market share for the Mac against the dangerously declining share of the PC. It doesn’t take a genius to determine what this means in the long run.

Apple Inc.’s pricing strategy for the Leopard is also worth noting. Amidst the multiple editions of Vista (different features at different prices), Apple has set a single price for its Leopard, i.e., $129. No home edition, no pro version, no ultimate set, whatsoever. And get this - the $129 price tag on the Leopard for single user and the $199 package for a family pack (up to 5 in a household) is way below that of the Ultimate edition of Vista, which sells for $250.

I remember reading the views of some analysts who said that the Leopard will only have an indirect effect on Macintosh sales and Apple Inc.’s financial performance. Also, Leopard will add $240 million to Apple’s next quarter, which is almost double the $125 million that the company realized from Tiger during its initial quarter (Piper Jaffray & Co.'s Gene Munster). AAPL is forecast (Gartner) to grow by more than 37% based on expected shipments of 1,338,000 computers (8.1% share of the US market, up by 2 percentage points from previous year figures). Now, contrast that with the 4.7% demand for new PCs (third quarter), and this is even below the projected 6.7%. Tsk.

Apple Inc. has significantly outpaced its rivals in the United States, particularly in the shift towards portable computers. Laptop technology has improved by a thousand percent in the last 10 years. Indeed, notebooks now are true desktop replacements. How much do I truly believe this? Well, all my computers at home are laptops.

Here’s an interesting thought. Is it a coincidence that 2007 is the first year that notebook computers have made up more than 50% of computer sales in the US and that two-thirds of Apple machines sold in the country were laptops? Top that off with AAPL’s share of home PC revenue, which increased in the last four quarters. This still doesn’t even include the huge surge in demand for Apple Inc.’s MacBook and MacBook Pro this holiday season. According to results of Solutions Research Group’s survey, Apple-branded technology products are in the top five overall with one-in-six considering purchase. Why the surge in popularity? In their respective categories, Apple Inc.’s MacBook and MacBook Pro are much better products than the others. Pound for pound. Plain and simple. An exciting feature that always comes to mind is "Boot Camp" that lets users install and utilize Microsoft's Windows on Macs. A Genius demonstrated this feature to me at the Power Mac Center, 2nd Level Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City, Philippines. I was totally wowed by it. Where in the world can you find such a computer? This and the 300 plus new features of Leopard have got me wishing for a 13-inch MacBook this Christmas, too.

All of these developments and more translate to a very happy holiday season for Steve Jobs, Apple Inc., and its shareholders.

Disclosure: none