Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

If Foxconn sneezes, does that mean Apple caught a cold?

May 28, 2013: 3:45 PM ET

The world's largest electronics manufacturer does have other clients.


Source: Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- If something sounded familiar about Lorraine Luk's headline in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal -- As Apple Feels Bite, Hon Hai Looks to Diversify -- it may be because we've heard that tune a lot lately.

Just in the past three weeks, journalists have attributed to Apple's (AAPL) loss of "steam" everything from Harvard's divestiture of a few hundred Apple shares to the structure of Sharp's survival plan. (See The business wires' new verbal tic.)

To be sure, one can legitimately write that Apple has had an unusually long stretch without a product launch. Or that its profit margins have pulled back quite a bit from their historic highs. Or that its earnings fell year over year last quarter for the first time since 2003, and are likely to do it again this quarter.

But Apple's all-important iOS shipments, as the chart above shows, are still growing nicely.

So to interpret this quote from an unnamed Hon Hai executive ...

"As our production capacity has grown to such a large scale and existing major-brand customers offer limited order growth, we need to actively expand our client base to help increase our manufacturing volume."

... as referring specifically to Apple -- as Luk did in Monday's Journal -- is to ignore the fact that Hon Hai, better known as Foxconn, has other major-brand clients, and that most of them are hurting.

Take Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL), two Window's PC vendors that subcontract their assembly work to Foxconn. How's that business doing? See chart below:

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 2.45.09 PM

Source: IDC

What about Nintendo, Sony (SNE) and Microsoft (MSFT)? Their game consoles are also assembled in Foxconn's factories:


Source: MRG Inc.

How about Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle readers? Foxconn builds those things too:

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 3.10.20 PM

Source: Chitika March Tablet Report

I suspect most of Foxconn's other clients would happy to switch places with a company whose sales  can produce a growth chart like the one at the top of this page.

So if Foxconn is feeling "pain" -- as Luk writes in her lead paragraph -- perhaps a little more reporting would turn up better reasons than the "competition ... biting into Apple's market share."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for

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