“Whether Apple’s share-price plunge is justified comes down to one question: Is the iPhone maker a hardware or a software company? Right now, it is more the latter. And that is why the 22% drop in the shares since their September peak creates an opportunity for investors,” Rolfe Winkler writes for The Wall Street Journal. “The collective market capitalization of these five companies [Sony, Dell, HP, Nokia, RIM] is just $75 billion today, according to FactSet. Apple’s is seven times larger.”

“And that is largely due to the secret sauce inside the iPhone, which isn’t really a handset so much as a computer with software that makes calls—and plays music, offers games, gives directions, takes photos, provides Web access and more,” Winkler writes. “Inside the iPhone is a mobile ‘walled garden’ for which developers tailor their apps… The next leg of growth for the iPhone may be a more affordable device for lower-value subscribers. Apple decided to offer cheaper versions of its first mobile blockbuster, the iPod. And it has launched an iPad Mini. Such moves make sense when you consider that the ultimate power of Apple’s business model is luring more users into its walled garden.”

“The handset business used to be hit-driven, with the sexiest device gobbling up the market only to disappear after a more popular handset appeared. The genius of the iPhone was to break this trend. Its proprietary software and revolutionary design has encouraged users to stick with newer versions of the device,” Winkler writes. “As long as Apple can keep its software leading edge—and avoid more mistakes like the maps fiasco that frustrated users—its recurring business should keep generating big returns for shareholders.”

Much more in the full article – recommended – here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]