Barclays Capital continues to believe Google Inc.'s (NASDAQ: GOOG) moves could actually be a good thing for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). The brokerage reiterated its overweight rating on shares of Apple with a price target of $465.
Google held its Google I/O conference this week in San Francisco where the company announced plans to enable renting movies and listening to music over the Internet using its Android Market as the company moves further toward direct competition with Apple.
Movies are available for rent starting at $1.99 -- pricing is comparable to competitors like Apple and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). Like Amazon’s recent Digital Locker strategy, Google is also offering Music beta for Google which gives customers the ability to upload up to 20,000 songs to access from computers and mobile devices, Barclays Capital said in note to clients.
Barclays Capital said the service is currently available in beta version in the U.S. for free but it is unclear whether Google will charge in future, and users do not have to purchase new songs from Google -- no agreement with record labels is currently in place for purchasing.
Google indicated that 100 million devices use Android with 400,000 new devices activated worldwide each day (up from 350,000 only last month). Android is said to be on 310 different handsets in 112 countries. Google also said Android Market now offers 200,000 apps versus Apple’s over 350,000 apps currently available.
We continue to believe Google’s moves could actually be a good thing for Apple -- given it deflects all anti-trust arguments -- particularly around content -- and encourages continuous innovation. We continue to believe Apple’s ecosystem is the standard and that the company with its continuous innovations and agreements with music labels will stay ahead of the pack for years to come, said Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays Capital.
Reitzes was, however, keen to hear about Apple’s latest innovations next at Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 6 where he expects the focus of the show to be on software (iOS and Mac OS X Lion) and he also wouldn't be surprised if the company’s iCloud initiative was on display as well.
Reitzes looks for Apple to use its cloud based iTunes/MobileMe service to further lock in customers to its ecosystem by making content available seamlessly on all of its devices -- including iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches and Macs.
Reitzes noted that NFC capability on future products could also dovetail with cloud-based services by providing users access to log in virtually into Macs and other devices remotely.
Reitzes believes that Apple could charge a recurring fee for this service and will likely offer much more available storage space than Amazon does since its users have much larger libraries.
Reitzes said theoretically a cloud-based content service could allow Apple to offer cheaper versions of its devices with less on-board memory -- which would help the company get more gadgets into the hands of consumers. He believes Apple realizes this offering could help it sell more Macs, iPhones, iPods and iPads -- and the acceleration of its capital expenditure growth could be an indication of its potential.
We believe Apple’s new cloud initiative, combined with new software -- could add major new features to the iOS platform across iPhone, iPad and the iPod Touch. We continue to believe Apple's valuation is attractive as shares can benefit from iPad and iPhone demand, Mac share gains, international expansion and a pipeline of innovations. We look for the focus on WWDC to heighten over the next few weeks given recent competitive moves by Amazon and Google, said Reitzes.
Apple's stock closed Thursday's regular trading down 0.19 percent at $346.57 in the NASDAQ Stock Market, while in the after-hours the stock gained 0.12 percent to touch $347.