Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

Is Apple the new Nokia?

April 25th, 2011 Comments off

Given the rapid pace of change in the mobile phone industry, we have data from a couple decades that incorporates the rise and fall of several companies.  It seems that the top-dog never remains so for very long because they lose focus, intensity, etc. and rival firms knock them off their perch (only to be knocked off themselves in a matter of years).  Therefore, it is worth pondering if Apple will be the next firm to get knocked down.

Not so long ago, Nokia was the disrupter. In 1994, the dominant global provider of mobile handsets was Motorola: its shares were trading at an all-time high and it was seen as an outstanding innovator and even described by a senior consultant at A. T. Kearney as “the best-managed company in the world” — not so different from Apple today.

Read more: Why Nokia’s Collapse Should Scare Apple – Patrick Barwise and Seán Meehan – The Conversation – Harvard Business Review.

Categories: Harvard Business Review Tags: ,

Outsmarted by Apple: Nokia Looks to Recover the ‘Magic Dust’

December 23rd, 2010 Comments off

It seems like certain industries like airlines, automakers, and mobile phone companies get a lot of attention in strategic management accounting.  This is with good reason as they each tend to highlight several things we discuss.  In terms of the mobile phone companies, the timelines have become so compressed between product introduction to obsolescense that we get to see things happen in months that in the past would have taken decades.  Think about the most recent mobile phone you have purchased…is there any chance that the same model will be on the shelf a year from now?  Doubtful.  Fortunes change quickly and none have been impacted more than Nokia.  Faced with game-changing competition from Apple and Google, this Finnish company is attempting to stay relevant and the next year or two are going to be critical in terms of whether the company will once again dominate the marketplace. 

German magazine, Der Spiegel, does a nice job outlining the challenges faces and the path Nokia has taken to arrive at this point.  You may read more at this link: Outsmarted by Apple: Nokia Looks to Recover the ‘Magic Dust’ – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International.

BlackBerry Torch & CVP/Breakeven Analysis

August 23rd, 2010 Comments off

There is a group of educators that closely watches Wall Street Journal articles related to different disciplines (accounting, international business, technology, economics, etc.) and that put together discussion questions based on a few articles each week.  I receive these emails and from time to time there is one that pretty much sums up what I like to do with this blog and I post it verbatim here.  This is one of those times.  The BlackBerry Torch was recently released and many are calling it Research In Motion’s answer to the Apple iPhone.  See the material below that relates the Torch to some concepts we cover in class including the value chain and cost-volume-profit (breakeven) analysis.

Piece by Piece: The Suppliers Behind the New BlackBerry Torch Smartphone
by: Jennifer Velentino-Devries and Phred Dvorak
Aug 17, 2010
Click here to view the full article on
Click here to view the video on

TOPICS: Cost Accounting, Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis, Managerial Accounting

SUMMARY: The article was written based on analysis and component price estimates by research firm iSuppli after dismantling Blackberry’s new Torch smartphone. The product was assembled in Mexico from parts made by at least 7 companies headquartered in the U.S., South Korea, the U.K., Germany, Japan, and Switzerland. Questions ask students to identify manufacturing cost components, determine gross profit, and consider what manufacturing costs are not separately identified when a company buys completed components for assembly.

1. (Introductory) What are the three components of cost for any manufactured product?

2. (Introductory) What is the total cost of the components of the new BlackBerry Torch as estimated by iSuppli?

3. (Advanced) Assuming that the cost shown in the article comprises all of the cost identified in your answer above, what is the gross profit earned on each sale of the Torch? What is the gross profit rate on this product? In your answer, define the difference between each of these amounts.

4. (Advanced) What other costs might be included in the cost of selling this product beyond the component costs shown in this article? What other costs will Research in Motion (RIM) incur in selling this product that are never included in product cost? In your answer, define the terms period cost and product cost.

5. (Introductory) View the video that is affiliated with this article. How many Torch smartphones were sold on the opening weekend for this product? What is the possible result of this sales level?

6. (Introductory) According to the related video, what is the lowest price at which this new phone is offered? Recalculate the answers you gave to question 4 above based on this selling price.

Reviewed By: Judy Beckman, University of Rhode Island

E-Readers Go Mainstream As Pricing Model Changes

July 30th, 2010 Comments off

One of the most interesting pricing events we have playing out before our eyes right now is in the market of e-readers.  Several weeks ago, Barnes and Noble kicked of a mini-price war by dropping the price of their 3G Nook from $259 to $199 while pricing their wifi-only version at $149.  Within hours, Amazon had responded by undercutting the 3G Nook by selling their 3G Kindle for $189:

Barnes & Noble, the national bookseller, announced Monday that it was dropping the price of its six-month-old Nook e-reader to $199 from $259 and introducing a new version of the device, which connects to the Internet only over Wi-Fi networks, for $149.

Responding rapidly, then cut the price of its popular Kindle e-reader below the Nook, to $189 from $259.

In Price War, E-Readers Go Below $200. By Brad Stone. New York Times. June 21, 2010

As mentioned in the article above, some analysts chalked the price cuts up to the increased threat of the Apple iPad gaining a foothold as an e-book reader while Amazon, in particular, has downplayed that idea.

This week, though, things escalated a bit more.  Amazon announced the next generation of their hardware to be released August 27th.  They are keeping the 3G model at $189 but announced a new wifi-only model for $139; $10 less than the comparable Nook.

Amazon offers $139 wireless Kindle for mass appeal. By Alexandria Sage. July 29, 2010 7:07pm EDT

Kindle to Go ‘Mass Market’ — Amazon Digs in Heels by Introducing New, Cheaper Version of E-Book Reader. Geoffrey A. Fowler. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jul 29, 2010. pg. B.6

While all of this has played out, an important shift has happened.  According to the NY Times article linked above, until recently Amazon and Barnes and Noble have sold e-books at a loss while making minimal profits on the hardware.  That has changed now, to where a WSJ piece speculates that the hardware is now selling at a loss with the idea being to make up the shortfall in volume by selling the e-books.  This is more like how printer and cellphones are sold with the “consumables” (ink or minutes, as the case may be) being the profitable item.

Amazon’s price-cutting won’t be cheap. The company said last year that its Kindle manufacturing costs were “significantly higher” than an estimate from iSuppli of $185.49. Costs likely have come down since then, and not offering cell-network access reduces costs as well. Still, it is a good bet the company is losing money at $139 a unit.

The High Cost of a Cheap Kindle. Martin Peers. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jul 30, 2010. pg. C.12

I’m guessing things will continue to evolve as we head to into the holiday season and some articles I’ve read predict a sub $100 e-reader by then.

I’ve finally made the plunge myself and opted for the $189 Kindle coming out on August 27th but I’m hopeful that even while I have it preordered the price may drop.  Looking at what has happened in the past 5 weeks makes it seem reasonable to expect some price cuts in the next 4, doesn’t it?  Stay tuned…

Apple Knew of iPhone Antenna Glitch –

July 15th, 2010 1 comment

Apple Knew of iPhone Antenna Glitch –

See the link above for more detail about an interesting real-world example of how quality can impact the image of not just a product but of a company.  The timing here is great since we just discussed in class the idea that money spent on prevention/assessment can save a company from embarrassment that comes from having external failures.

It also seems that some of the secrecy that these days surrounds product-launches such as the one for every revised iPhone may have contributed to the antenna issue not being caught.

The iPhones Apple sends to its carrier partners for testing are “stealth” phones that disguise a new device’s shape and some of its functions, people familiar with the matter said. Those test phones are specifically designed so the phone can’t be touched, which made it hard to catch the iPhone 4’s antenna problem.

Apple has a news conference planned for Friday to address the antenna problem and perhaps that will take care of this issue.  If not, Microsoft is already jumping on the bandwagon to ridicule their competitor by calling the iPhone 4 “Apple’s Vista.”

And as if Microsoft bashing them isn’t enough, even Congress wants to get involved in the Apple debacle.

The mounting iPhone 4 controversy has hit a receptive ear in Washington, as Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.) Thursday wrote to Mr. Jobs urging Apple to come up with a “permanent fix” to the problem at no cost to customers. Mr. Schumer asked Apple to provide customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the iPhone 4’s reception problem and “make a public commitment to remedy it free of charge.”

Really? Is this the best thing they have to do over  in the Senate?  Aren’t there wars to handle? Isn’t the economy still fragile?  Chuck Schurmer wants to make sure all the people that can afford iPhones get their problems fixed?!!

Barnes & Noble Plots Strategy to Survive

May 21st, 2010 Comments off

A very timely, front-page article in today’s Wall Street Journal looks at one of the biggest challenges facing an American retailer today: the threat of e-books on the largest brick-and-mortar bookseller in the country, Barnes & Noble.  Having spent years building large stores filled with thousands of titles, Barnes & Noble must now act quickly to turn those assets into a competitive advantage that is not shared by their new competitors.

For 40 years, Barnes & Noble has dominated bookstore retailing. In the 1970s it revolutionized publishing by championing discount hardcover best sellers. In the 1990s, it helped pioneer book superstores with selections so vast that they put many independent bookstores out of business.

Today it boasts 1,362 stores, including 719 superstores with 18.8 million square feet of retail space—the equivalent of 13 Yankee Stadiums.

In the post I made earlier this week about Nintendo, the threat was advancement by competitors in the same market-space.  In the case of Barnes & Noble the forces seem to be more revolutionary as e-books are projected to grab a chunk of market share accelerated by Amazon’s Kindle and, most recently, the Apple iPad.

“By the end of 2012, digital books will be 20% to 25% of unit sales, and that’s on the conservative side,” predicts Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of the Idea Logical Co., publishing consultants. “Add in another 25% of units sold online, and roughly half of all unit sales will be on the Internet.”

Nowhere is the e-book tidal wave hitting harder than at bricks-and-mortar book retailers. The competitive advantage Barnes & Noble spent decades amassing—offering an enormous selection of more than 150,000 books under one roof—was already under pressure from online booksellers.

It evaporated with the recent advent of e-bookstores, where readers can access millions of titles for e-reader devices.

Sometimes in these cases just getting management to acknowledge the threat is half the battle.  It seems Barnes & Noble has at least done that so it will be interesting to see how they position themselves to compete in this new environment.  Like Circuit City (failed) and Blockbuster (on life-support) before them, the very survival of the company hangs in the balance.

E-Books Rewrite Bookselling. Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: May 21, 2010. pg. A.1