… but they would have declined (or at least slowed in growth) anyway.
A lot of the value in Apple has come from the ineptitude of other companies and the passion and willingness of early adopters to spend huge money. There are inherent limits to growth fueled by those two factors. For example, the early adopters with the greatest willingness to pay for smartphones (and associated service) have already purchased smartphones. Now the big market is from people in emerging countries, such as China, and the average consumer in developed countries. The record companies were so poorly managed that they gave up 30 percent of their digital music revenue because they were too lazy to run their own Web site. What other industry is going to give Apple 30 percent of its revenue in exchange for Apple running a server?
So let’s not be too hard on the new Apple CEO (Tim Cook, who seems to be more experienced with logistics than product design). If revenue and profit growth flattens it might well have done the same under Steve Jobs. For Apple to justify a comparable market cap to Exxon’s (which owns oil wells, after all) would require a lot of things to go right over the next decade. The current P/E ratio of 15 doesn’t look that high, but since Apple is a tech company that issues a lot of stock options they may end up diluting current investors so much that a public holder of a share of Apple stock may never receive his or her full $383 worth in dividends and capital gains.