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Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 11:45 pm PT (02:45 am ET)

Firm sees apps driving 50% sales growth for Apple through 2012

The founder of a prominent market research firm said Wednesday that he expects Apple to continue to post more than 50 percent sales growth over the next two years as burgeoning demand for mobile applications drives sales of Apple's mobile devices.

George Colony, founder and CEO of Forrester Research, made the predictions in an interview with Bloomberg.

Projecting Apple's current growth rates for the next few years, Colony sees the Cupertino, Calif., company's revenue surpassing that of other well-established tech giants. "They’ll be bigger than IBM next year, and they’ll be bigger than HP the year after that,” Colony said. Assuming that current growth rates continue, "they’re going to be a $200 billion revenue company,” he said.

When measured in terms of market capitalization, Apple became the world's largest technology company last year when it passed rival Microsoft. Shares of Apple have continued to climb since then, with the company's market cap topping $300 billion at the start of 2011.

Though Apple stock fell $2.01 to $339.19 on Wednesday, the company is up 5.2 percent since the beginning of the year.

Analyst consensus estimates also see Apple growing sales by over 50 percent to more than $100 billion in fiscal 2011, which ends in September, but some analysts see the company's growth slowing to around 18 percent in 2012.

Colony sees Apple's growth being driven by what he calls an "app Internet," where consumers and businesses rely on app for content and services, rather than the Web.

However, Colony's bullish outlook is tempered by concerns over Apple CEO Steve Jobs' health. Though he surmised that the company has a product pipeline set up for the next three to four years, an unexpected departure from the company by Jobs would affect Apple's product line and stock price.

“Remember, every two years they have to fill that store with new stuff,” Colony said, referring to Apple Retail Stores. “Without Steve Jobs as the CEO, I think it will be much harder for them to do that. That would be a massive, massive hit to the valuation.”

Jobs is currently on medical leave, though he remains involved in major strategic decisions.

During the interviw, Colony warned that Apple rival Google, which he claims relies too heavily on the Web, could struggle as consumers gravitate toward apps. “If you’re too Web-centric right now, you’re in trouble,” he said. “Google’s business model is completely based on you going to the Web and clicking on a link and seeing an ad impression. In the app Internet world, all of that goes away.”

The executive also cautioned that Google may face troubled times when co-founder Larry Page takes over for Eric Schmidt as CEO next month. “When it comes to Larry Page I have two words for you,” Colony said. “Jerry Yang."

Yang, who co-founded Yahoo, became CEO of his company in 2007, but was unable to turn the company around. He eventually stepped down in 2009 after critics blamed him for mishandling negotiations of a takeover by Microsoft.