Is the Cloud Killing Apple?

As a recent Financial Times article points out, cloud computing is helping Apple's rivals, but Apple itself may be missing out. While Apple's mobile devices have driven the growth of clouds, the company stands to gain much less from that surge, given how it is positioned within the market.

Of course, I'm writing this blog on a MacBook Pro, will later run outside with my iPhone, and perhaps check my email when I return with my iPad, so this is a bit confusing. However, those who would consider themselves Apple's direct competitors, such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Intel, seem to be catching more bank from the cloud than Apple if recent reports are an indicator.

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Apple leads the field in portable devices that fuel cloud computing by driving waves of data center upgrades that, in turn, push sales to HP, Dell, and Intel. In essence, Apple has created the razor and has chosen to let others sell the razor blades.

For example, Dell attributed a strong jump in its gross profit margin, topping 23 percent, to a shift in its business mix toward storage and services, which seem to be driven somewhat by requirements around building private and public clouds. HP and Intel are seeing similar increases.

The reality is that Apple does not provide the commodity storage and computing products that will become the raw materials to build clouds. Dell, HP, Intel, and I suspect Oracle and IBM will have the most to gain with the rapid movement to the cloud, to the exclusion of Apple.

Thus, while we all have iPhone and iPads, the servers leveraged by those devices for remote back-end processing are not coming from Apple, which may find that the cloud has put the company at a relative disadvantage. Who saw that one coming?

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