In many ways, Apple is on top of the business world because of the iPhone. Technology and foresight allowed Apple to become one of the top three global companies by market cap thanks to the iPhone. Fourth quarter 2018 numbers showed $62.9 billion in revenues and the shipment of Apple’s 2 billionth iOS device, “with the strongest revenue and earnings in Apple’s history”.
So far, so very very good.
But, iPhone sales are slowing for the first time ever – and Apple is not waiting until the cash cow stops giving milk.
As we reported in December, Apple hired John Giannandrea from Google in the summer of 2018 as their new SVP of Machine Learning and AI, and a few months later promoted him to the executive team in a sign of things to come.
“Machine learning and AI are important to Apple’s future as they are fundamentally changing the way people interact with technology, and already helping our customers live better lives. We’re fortunate to have John, a leader in the AI industry, driving our efforts in this critical area”, said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, at the time.
The WSJ today talked more about the leadership shakeup surrounding John’s promotion, as the company focuses its future strategy on services and AI: HR, retail and Siri executives have left the company recently, with engineering staff being redirected to AI and services, to compete with Google, Amazon, Netflix and others. The journal reports $14.25 billion on R&D by Apple, almost a quarter higher than a year before.
Tim Cook decided to stop reporting iPhone sales numbers and to point towards the growth of the App Store, music, video, and digital payments instead.
And indeed, yesterday Apple announced a series of new services, including the AppleCard (in silent partnership with Goldman Sachs and others), taking a direct swing at banks in its video teaser. Apple highlights NO FEES anywhere, cash back for ApplePay purchases, complete privacy and security, and, importantly, AI that checks what a user spends money on – and where. In case you don’t remember a certain charge, maps shows you the date, time and location of the charge in detail and you can dispute it directly. Also, there is an option to directly text the support team, another slight against banks and the long wait times on the phone.
The gloves are off, and it is certain that other (investment) products will follow soon (a la Acorns).
If Apple at record revenue and profit numbers decides to make a complete pivot towards AI and ML, asset managers should pay close attention, as financial services will be next – either the next leaders and innovators or the next BlackBerry or MySpace.