The other day, I heard some cable news talking heads introducing a segment where they promised to explain what's wrong with Apple. Among the problems: The alleged falloff in demand for the iPhone 5, perhaps suggesting that maybe Apple's allure has diminished over time as the result of all that competition from Samsung and other companies. Yet another report, this one online, suggested that Apple's appeal on high school and college campuses had seriously declined.
The lawyers would call this "assuming facts without evidence."
You see, there hasn't been any proof that demand for the iPhone 5 has fallen off, other than normal seasonal trends. Basically, fewer tech gadgets are sold in the March quarter than the December quarter. The claim about falling demand was based on reports that Apple had reduced orders for iPhone 5 displays. But few members of the media bothered to quote Tim Cook's explanation at the last quarterly conference call with financial analysts, that you can't take a single supply chain metric and make assumptions about the actual supply and demand for a product. But this simple-minded meme about Apple continues to be repeated without apology or correction.
So, for example, what if component yields for the iPhone 5 were higher, meaning Apple needed fewer parts? What about normal seasonal trends? What if Apple was merely switching suppliers to get better quality parts, or the same parts for less money? I'm only scratching the surface, but the unconfirmed story is still out there.
Without providing a link, there was also a survey from some unknown organization, with no track record for doing accurate polls, about Apple losing its luster on school campuses. No proof, no second source for similar information. But if the media hoped to find filler for an article suggesting Apple was on the decline, even rumors or poorly researched claims might fill the bill.
There's yet another story out there, that iPad market share has dipped below 50%, perhaps meaning that, as competition heats up, Apple cannot depend on keeping a dominant position. Apple's response came from Tim Cook, who said at last week's Goldman Sachs presentation that Apple is the only company reporting actual tablet sales. I don't know about "only," but Amazon, for example, doesn't give sales figures for the Kindle eBook readers and tablets. Analysts are just guessing. Such tech firms as Samsung will report the number of units shipped, not sold to end users as Apple does. This could mean that many millions of unsold products are sitting in warehouses or on dealer shelves. What about returns of unsold product? Do dealers get credit? Are those figures even reported? How many people, for example, return their tablets or smartphones because they aren't satisfied?
While I'm not one to push for more government regulation, wouldn't it make sense for, say, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission or the SEC to standardize on how product sales should be reported? That way, assuming companies comply, you can actually compare the results of one company with another. Tim Cook has a point here.
The other benchmark of potential sales is online access. So, during the last holiday quarter, the iPad scored more Black Friday says than other mobile gear. Sure, tens of millions of iPads are in use, but easier online access has to count for something. It may well be that a lot of competing tablets are being sold, but how many are actually being used to make online purchases? I assume, in passing, that the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle tablets are primarily used to make purchases from the companies that sell them.
Now this doesn't mean Apple is perfect, or that the hardware and the software cannot be improved. I do not, for example, appreciate how difficult Apple has made it to do RAM upgrades on some of the most popular Macs. While you could buy a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro with Retina display with the maximum available RAM when you place your order, it's not uncommon for buyers to want to buy the minimum amount from Apple, and purchase third-party memory to fit the remaining slots, or when they can afford such an upgrade. Apple is really hurting those RAM vendors this way. What's more, it doesn't make sense to put the kibosh on RAM upgrades for the 21.5-inch 2012 iMac. If you get the 27-inch model -- assuming you can find one since they remain seriously backordered -- you can replace RAM easily, in minutes, so why not the smaller version?
Sure, I realize that the drive towards maximum miniaturization may make it difficult to install convenient RAM upgrade slots and covers on some models. But I'm sure Apple's brilliant designers and engineers can devise a way that makes the process simple. I don't think it's fair to regard a personal computer as a device you're never supposed to open unless you work in a repair shop, or have the latest iFixit manual at hand along with the proper tools and the courage, or skills, to do the job yourself.
Indeed, there are many legitimate criticisms to be made about Apple. Too bad far too many so-called industry analysts and journalists choose to rely on unconfirmed rumors and unfounded speculation.
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