NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- On the Facebook (FB) earnings call this week, Mark Zuckerberg talked about his three-year, five-year and 10-year strategy for Facebook. He mentioned how his recent acquisition of Oculus Rift is a long-term bet on a shift in the computing model, which he believes changes every 15 years or so.
He's correct about the shift in computing models. Think of the move from desktop to mobile. Mobile of course came in several waves, starting with BlackBerry (BBRY) , which brought us email on the go around 2000. Then we had feature phones like the popular Motorola RAZR. And then, starting in 2007, we had the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, which revolutionized the mobile world. Almost overnight, Google's (GOOG) Android phones all morphed from being BlackBerry copycats to iPhone copycats.
So where do we go when we shift from iPhones to the next technology? Well, Apple doesn't do things without having a long multi-year plan, and Apple Watch is not some afterthought product for them. It's probably the future for the company.
The iPhone has obviously been a juggernaut for Apple financially. In the last quarter reported, iPhones accounted for almost $24 billion of $42 billion in quarterly revenue -- 56% of Apple's business, and probably a much higher percentage of profits.
Watch the video below for a look at how Apple changed the way we work, communicate and consume entertainment:
Any company needs to protect its cash cow business. And with iPhone, what a cash cow it is. The average selling price, or ASP, of the iPhone ticked back up in the last quarter, which is amazing considering how most consumer products -- including the iPad -- see their ASPs steadily decline from the moment they are released. Most companies would try to keep iPhone going for as long as possible.
However, Apple isn't like most companies. It has turned its back on successful products before -- say, with the iPod -- and that may happen again with the iPhone.
The other day at the WSJ Tech Conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., Ben Evans of Andreessen Horowitz said that if you could go back in time 10 years and tell someone that you just downloaded an app on your Android phone, they'd look at you like you're insane. He's right.
So what will we be doing in another 10 years? Will we still be using our iPhones? Probably not.
In 10 years, the iPhone will be 17 years old. Zuckerberg says that computing cycles tend to be 15 years. So the iPhone is going into the second half of its life and may not even exist in seven years. Think of the iPod, which just hit the anniversary of its introduction back in 2001. Thirteen years later, it's basically gone.
That's probably why lots of Apple investors get nervous about the company being a hits-based business in which the iPhone is so critical. Imagine steering the ship at Apple today -- a company with an over-$600 billion market cap and Carl Icahn breathing down your neck for you to double your stock price already -- and knowing that it's very possible 56% of your business will just disappear in seven years.
The Apple Watch is a key part of Apple's answer to this problem.
Everyone likes to focus on the first iteration of any new Apple product and discuss how far short it comes. Think about what people said about the first version of Siri or the first version of Apple Maps. If you were Tim Cook and you only made decisions based on what people said on Twitter (TWTR) (a scary thought), you would have shut both products down.
Yet both Apple Maps and Siri have continued to get better and better. At this point, Apple Maps is about as good as Google Maps. And Siri? It's not perfect, but many people love it, and it's certainly much better than version one.
When Apple introduced the fingerprint scanner, many complained that it was nice but it isn't that much better than entering a 4 digit code to unlock your phone. Now, after Apple Pay launched, we can see that's the real reason for including the scanner.
Apple thinks ahead. It plans. It uses early versions to learn and get a lot better. That's what it's doing now with Apple Watch.
Why did Apple announce it five months before it's for sale? To give application developers time to know about it and start creating unique apps to exist at launch -- which no other smartwatch maker will have.
But more than that, Apple Watch is Apple's best guess at what form factor might one day replace the iPhone. It will require a new way of interacting than we have with today's phones, just like interacting with the first iPhone required learning about apps and typing on glass.
Guess what? Like it or not, we're going to have to get used to using Siri for data input. We'll have the same complaints we heard about the loss of the physical keyboard.
As Steve Jobs would say, "get over it." At that point, we'll all say: "Oh, now I get why Apple pushed Siri on us all those years ago."
Specific watch apps will evolve. Battery life will improve. New hardware will be developed. One day a few years from now, we'll cross the rubicon where we don't need to grab our phone to go with us when we go out. It's like the moment when we stopped taking a laptop with us to meetings or on business trips.
The Apple Watch is Apple's future.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
TheStreet Ratings team rates APPLE INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate APPLE INC (AAPL) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its solid stock price performance, growth in earnings per share, revenue growth, notable return on equity and expanding profit margins. Although the company may harbor some minor weaknesses, we feel they are unlikely to have a significant impact on results."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: AAPL Ratings Report