The laws of nature say Apple is "making too much damn money, that this has to be unsustainable," said David J. Eiswert, who runs T. Rowe Price's $312 million Global Technology Fund. "But who is going to stop them?"
Plenty of companies fancy themselves contenders, including Microsoft, Nokia Oyj, Research In Motion Ltd., and Google Inc.
All have certain competitive advantages. RIM continues to be the choice of the e-mail-addicted, while Google's search profits allow it to fund free Android software, and possibly free mobile hardware in the future.
Yet Apple's head start in apps may be too great to overcome. More than 185,000 apps are available in the Apps Store, compared with 38,000 in Google's online store for its Android mobile software platform. Thirty-five thousand new iPhone apps have been produced since February, even as many developers have been working on offerings for the iPad.
"That's a lot of developer attention that's not going to Android," notes Bart Decrem, chief executive officer of Tapulous, which makes music-themed iPhone games that are played by 8 million iPhone owners every month.
That means Apple's future growth is as much a matter of managing its collaborators as beating its competitors. At a public interview in 2007, in which he shared the stage with Bill Gates, Jobs noted that in its early days, Microsoft was much better at forging partnerships than Apple.
"I think if Apple could have had a little more of that in its DNA, it would have served it extremely well," said Jobs. "I don't think Apple learned that until, you know, a few decades later."
How well Apple has learned the lesson is evident in the ways it has encouraged app development. Developers keep 70 percent of the retail price of each app sold by Apple. This summer, Apple will roll out iAd, a mobile-advertising platform that lets marketers make inventive messages appear inside apps. Developers will keep 60 percent of the revenue.
Eoin Treacy's view Technology
remains a Fullermoney theme and the sector has been an important leader over
the last decade. The USA retains a dominant position in most areas of technological
innovation and the Nasdaq is home to some
of the world's more recognisable technology companies. The Index trended gradually
higher against the wider S&P500
from 2002 to 2009 and picked up pace
from early last year; helped at least in part by new products lines, global
restocking, leverage to growing global consumer demand and access to relatively
low cost US funding. The outperformance of technology is common to a number
of markets, further boosting the credentials of this theme.
In Japan, the Topix-17 Electronic Appliances and Precision Instruments sector broke its 9-year relative downtrend last year and continues to trend consistently higher. In absolute terms, the Index remains in a relatively consistent uptrend and while somewhat overextended in the short-term, relative to the 200-day moving average, a sustained move below 100 would be required to question medium-term upside potential.
In Taiwan, the TAIEX Electronic Applications and Wire sector has been in a downtrend against the wider market since at least 1996 but has rallied impressively over the last year and is now testing the long-term progression of lower highs. A sustained move above .00075 would suggest a return to a leadership role for the sector. In absolute terms, the Index found support in the region of the 200-day moving average in February and broke upwards to new recovery highs last week. While somewhat overextended in the short-term, a sustained move below 42 would be required to question the consistency of the medium-term uptrend.
In Korea, the Kospi Electrical and Electronic Appliance Index bottomed against the wider market in 2007 and continues to outperform. In absolute terms, the Index has been consolidating in the region of the 2008 highs since September and successfully broke upwards to new highs four weeks ago. A break of the progression of rising lows, currently near 7000 would be required to question medium-term upside potential.
In China, the S&P/Citic300 Information Technology sector continues to outperform its parent index and in absolute terms remains in a consistent uptrend. A sustained move below 1800 would be required to begin to question the consistency of the medium-term advance.
The Euro Stoxx Technology (SX8E) sector continues to post a 10-year progression of lower major rally highs relative to the DJ Euro Stoxx Index and would need to sustain a move above 0.95 to indicate a return to a position of leadership. The broader DJ Stoxx 600 Technology (SX8P) sector relative to the DJ Stoxx 600 has a similar pattern. In absolute terms, the SX8E posted a large weekly key reversal this week, on Nokia's disappointing results, capping the 10-week advance. It now needs to find support above or in the region of the 200-day MA to retain the medium-term bullish outlook. The SX8P has a relatively similar pattern, but Nokia's influence is diluted somewhat by the inclusion of UK, Swedish and Swiss companies.
From the above charts, the European technology sector appears to be losing out to US and Asian competitors. However, I believe the underperformance of Nokia at 29.6% of the Eurozone sector and 20.8 of the Europe sector is skewing the results. There is little doubt that Apple's new found dominance in handsets is having an impact on some its direct competitors such as Nokia and perhaps to a lesser extent Research in Motion. Its 17.9% weighting of the Nasdaq-100 is also helping to improve the performance of that Index. Apple remains one of the sector's leading shares but is beginning to accelerate at a rate unsustainable beyond the short term. A mean reversion is inevitable at some stage but a sustained move below the 200-day moving average would be required to question the medium-term uptrend.
A large number of individual European technology shares are performing in line with their global peers and some have quite attractive chart patterns. For example, Ericsson broke upwards from a two-year base this week and Logica may be in the process of doing something similar.
SAP broke upwards from a six-month range earlier this month and improved on that performance this week. A sustained move back below €35 would be needed question scope for further upside.
ASML remains in a consistent step sequence uptrend and appears to be on the verge of completing another similar sized ranging consolidation. A sustained move back below €23 would be required to trigger a Mid-Point Danger Line stop (MDL) as taught at The Chart Seminar.
Philips has also been an impressive performer in the consumer electronics sector and while overextended, continues to trend consistently high. A break of the progression of rising reaction lows, currently near €23.75, would be required to question scope for further upside.
In the USA, Microsoft is testing its January highs near $31 which also mark the upper side of the 10-year base. A break of the progression of higher reaction lows, currently in the region of $27.50 would be required to question potential for some additional upside.
Adobe Systems found support in the region of the 200-day MA again this week and would need to sustain a move below $33 to offset scope for further higher to lateral ranging.
Google formed a large weekly key reversal in January as news of its pullout from China broke and it posted another large weekly key reversal last week. This adds weight to the argument that the share has moved into a medium-term corrective phase.