Golden eggs

Apple as the goose that laid the golden eggs. Five of them.

November 25, 2013: 12:25 PM ET

Conventional wisdom says the chances of Apple laying a sixth are zero.

407089644059FORTUNE -- In the fable, the cottagers are too impatient to wait for the goose to lay its golden eggs one at a time. So they open it up, thinking that way they'll get all the gold at once.

Apple (AAPL) is a little like that goose, says Asymco's Horace Dediu.

"Here's the problem," he wrote last summer in The Innovator's Curse. "If a company produces a string of successes, the conventional wisdom is that the chances of another success are precisely zero. A company is valued based on its cash flows and foreseeable improvements to them. What it's not valued on is its innovation flows (and foreseeable improvements to them)."

The goose analogy came up again last week in an episode of the Cubed Podcast that brought together three of my favorite mobile industry analysts: Dediu, Benedict Evans and Ben Bajarin.

The problem with Apple's valuation, Bajarin said in Cubed Episode 010: The Process of Innovation, is that the Street thinks Steve Jobs was the goose that laid the Apple II, Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. And now he's dead.

Not so fast, said Evans. Like golden-egg laying, making innovative products is a process, one that Apple worked out three decades ago.

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 11.59.18 AM"In a sense," Evans says at the 15:45 minute mark, "Apple has been doing the same thing for 30 years. It's the market that's changed."

"Apple," he continues, "has always been about product fit and finish and the user experience and not going below a certain level of quality in order to hit price points where there's a market opportunity.

"In the days of the PC industry, the model didn't work because that wasn't how PCs were bought. They were predominantly bought by corporate buyers who wanted 500 with a certain number of features and at a certain price. The computers were going to go under the desk so the buyers didn't care what they looked like. They were never going to be reconfigured after they were bought, so the buyers didn't care what the user experience was.

"So Wintel had market share and Apple didn't.

"We've now come around to the smartphone and the tablet world. Products are bought in line with Apple's values, with the way that Apple tries to make products.

"So part of the reason Apple has been winning for the last 10 years say is that the market came around to where Apple was -- rather than Apple creating out of thin air some amazing product that nobody could have conceived of before."

That rang true to Dediu. Me too.

You can follow Dediu at Asymco.com and The Critical Path. Evans blogs at ben-evans.com. Bajarin is the director of consumer technologies at Creative Strategies and writes for Time.com. Their Twitter handles are @asymco, @benedictevans and @BenBajarin.

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