Is Nokia the New Apple?

LONDON -- Two companies in very different situations. Earlier this week, both Apple  and Nokia released their latest figures, and the market reacted in very different ways. This time it was Apple's shares that took the battering.

Four months ago, the California-based Goliath of the tech world saw its shares peak at $700, while the Finnish firm's stock traded a world away at just $2.40. The future looked rosy for Apple, and increasingly bleak for Nokia.

Today, though, Nokia's shares are more than 75% higher at $4.25, while Apple's have collapsed more than 35% to $450 today.

Apple is a multiplatform company, which has credited its success to being innovative in portable music players (iPods), smartphones (iPhones), desktops (iMacs), laptops (Macbooks), and tablet computers (iPads). But is it a victim of its own success? Many commentators are declaring the "death of the personal computer," citing the rise of tablets and pointing to the similar trend of consumers storing their music on their smartphones to avoid using two devices.

However, chief executive Tim Cook has said:

We know iPhone has cannibalized the iPod business. We know that iPad has cannibalized the Mac. Our strategy is to never fear cannibalization. If we do, somebody else [will cannibalize]. I see cannibalization as a huge opportunity.

So Apple's manager believes they know what they are doing. Indeed, despite serious smartphone competition from Samsung's Galaxy S III, the latest results showed that the 48 million iPhones sold in the last quarter still outpaced sales of the S III, which sold 40 million units. The question investors are asking is whether Apple can continue to innovate to stave off competition?

Nokia once knew the feeling of market domination, as it used to be the handset market leader when the mobile-phone boom began. In recent years, though -- and Apple played no small part in this -- Nokia has suffered at the hands of its competitors. As rivals released phones with more capabilities and selling points, Nokia's market share fell sharply. Many commentators predicted that Nokia would no longer be with us by the end of 2013.

However, although Nokia's smartphone sales dived 55% during 2012, they did rally 26% in the last quarter. In fact, credit ought to go to Nokia's Windows-powered Lumia smartphone range, with 4.4 million units sold. The impact of the flagship Lumia range was seen by many as Nokia's last-chance saloon -- fail, and the doors may have swung behind the company for the final time.

Is Nokia the new Apple?
So is this the start of a revolution for Nokia? Are Apple's shares a buying opportunity at their current price? Or has Apple had its time in the sun? It's too early to answer all these questions, but let me finish with a telling statistic.

Back in 2003, Nokia's shares changed hands for around $15. At the same time, Apple's were selling for a low of $3.28! Compare that to today's prices, and you see just how much can change during ten years in the technology sector.

With Nokia coming back from the brink, many investors are eyeing up its shares as more and more people start to ask questions of Apple. Who's to say that Nokia's shares can't replicate Apple's success of the last decade? This, after all, is the technology sector we're talking about, and tech history dictates that anything can happen.

Let me finish by adding Apple's shares have surged an incredible 213-fold in the last decade -- and many private investors can only dream of percentages like that. But if you read this special free report compiled by analysts here at The Motley Fool, you can find out how investing in unloved shares -- such as Apple in 2003, and possibly Nokia now -- can produce fantastic gains if they recover strongly. 

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Sam Robson owns no shares of companies mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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