iPhone labeled as the real spark for Apple’s flame in 2007

Wealth management experts have banked on the iPhone as the driving force behind Apple’s near-future growth — but cautioned that the fourth major platform in the company’s lineup could also eat away at the very iPod share that has helped build its recent success.

Joining comments on Apple from his fellow investment bank analyst, UBS specialist Tony Andersson on Wednesday ventured beyond the Mac, addressing the more difficult subject of the iPhone while offering high net worth financial consulting to the firm’s top clients.

In a note directed only towards those private investors, the researcher remained confident that developments in Apple’s cornerstone iPod and Mac sales would carry the California-based company upward, growing the former to 24 percent of the world’s media player share and its share of computers by half a percentage point. Mac OS X Leopard in particular would help the Mac, he said.

However, Andersson labeled the iPhone as the real spark for Apple’s flame in 2007. It would help jumpstart Apple’s revenues both during the June launch of the handset in the US as well as towards the end of the year, when the device should make its first appearance in Europe.

He added that there was no reason to doubt that Apple would meet its target share for the end of next year, alluding to the company’s tendency to rarely leave its product line unaltered.
“We think the iPhone can gain 1% of the worldwide market share by 2008,” Andersson pointed out, “particularly since we expect more than
one model in the next two years.”

This optimistic forecast, however, presented a mixed blessing from the analyst’s point of view. To him, the self-same explosion of iPhone sales could potentially tear people away from the iPod, creating a squeeze as shoppers are increasingly forced to choose between one or the other. Other music-savvy cellphones were also a possible threat to the iconic music jukebox and the 47 percent of profits it should generate for Apple this year, he said.

Similarly, the periods immediately before and after the iPhone’s debut were also seen as treacherous paths where Apple could scarcely afford to stumble if it hoped to continue its excellent track record. “Negative news, delays in the iPhone launch, quality or usability
issues” could easily damage Apple’s reputation and its stock, Andersson cautioned.

The UBS specialist used this reasoning to justify issuing a “hold” rating on the stock, as the promise of the future gadget was offset by its potentially volatile side-effects.

“The recent rally of the stock reflects much of the iPhone expectations and leave little room for any negative news flow,” Andersson wrote.