A recent theme among the Apple faithful is the mind-boggling inconsistency between the company’s financial performance and its stock price. Although margins aren’t as high, and worldwide market share continues to slip, Apple is still a company that rakes in billions in profit every quarter, and continues to strengthen its position in important markets like the United States. Yet, despite this success, the company’s stock has been on a roller coaster ride for the past two years, while rivals like Amazon and Google have enjoyed relatively steady growth in share value.
Now, thanks to Fortune reader Merckel, Apple supporters and investors have some illuminating charts they can point to while venting their frustrations. As shared by Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt, the financial comparisons during the past four quarters for Apple, Amazon, and Google are illustrated in nine handy charts.
While there are of course more factors that play into an evaluation of a company’s stock price than these nine items, the charts point to areas that are traditionally at the top of an investor’s list when evaluating a company, and Apple cleans the respective clocks of both Google and Amazon in all of them except stock price.
But Mr. Elmer-DeWitt does point to the key issue: “Judging from Merckel’s bar charts, what the market seems to be saying is that it believes Google and Amazon will keep growing indefinitely.” And that’s clearly the most important factor in explaining Apple’s stock price adventures. Google’s business of ad revenue and Amazon’s virtual shopping mall could grow indefinitely, absent a major shift in the industry.
But Apple’s future, as successful as the company is today, is pegged to its existing products and services. The company can release only so many “S” products, in the mind of investors, before the market and consumers simply move on.
For Apple to regain investor confidence, at least to the levels it enjoyed in 2011 and the first part of 2012, it will have to show that it can redefine a new category, as it did in the past with desktops, laptops, music players, smartphones, and tablets. Whether this future development will be wearable computers, televisions, or something else entirely remains to be seen, but Apple fans are sure that it will happen.