Apple Confounds the Skeptics All Over Again

January 21st, 2009

All right, just yesterday I was suggesting that Apple would record good sales for Macs and the iPhone, and, based on a preliminary survey, suggested iPod sales might decline slightly. But, as usual, Apple made the industry analysts and Wall Street money people look foolish.

In the final quarter of 2008, which is actually the first fiscal quarter for the company, Apple reported total sales of $10.17 billion, and a record profit of $1.61 billion, or $1.78 per diluted share. A poll from Thomson First Call of financial analysts came up with $9.75 billion sales, or $1.39 per diluted share. Apple not only beat the street as usual, but continued its amazing growth curve.

In all, a total of 2,524,000 Macs were sold, which comes in at a nine percent growth rate compared to last year. Of these, 71% were note-books. What’s more, despite expectations of lower sales, there was a slight increase in iPod sales, about three percent, with a record 22,727,000 sold. But the increase was solely due to international sales; U.S. sales had a three percent decline. Apple also moved 4,363,000 iPhones, an increase of 88 percent over the previous year.

Apple’s stock Wednesday afternoon soared some 11.24 percent in after hours trading. This is definitely a a fascinating development, because Apple’s stock often tends to decline under those circumstances, regardless of what sort of financial results they report. So maybe the stock market has, for now at least, decided not to let the pall of Steve Jobs’ illness hang over company.

Apple has more than $28 billion dollars in the bank, and one hopes it’s a bank that isn’t suffering in the current economic climate. If you want to get more of the raw numbers, go to Apple’s site for the particulars.

In the analyst conference call after the numbers were released, COO Tim Cook, CFO Peter Oppenheimer and Treasurer Gary Whistler held court as usual. Aside from an apologetic question about Steve Jobs’ health, which elicited a nondescript response, the session dealt strictly with numbers and prospects for the future.

In response to a question about netbooks, which are gaining rapidly in sales, Cook merely echoed the skepticism to their prospects voiced by Steve Jobs in the last quarterly call, He insisted that the “products are inferior and will not provide the experience to customers they are happy with.”

So unless or until Apple feels they have a better variation on the netbook theme, that may be the sum total of their feelings on the subject. It’s not as if there’s a driving need for Apple to rush into a new market to boost sales, even in light of the present market prospects, unless things suddenly get real bad.

There was even some surprising news about Apple TV, as Cook revealed that sales had gone up over three times from the previous year. Apple still considers the product a hobby, but demand for Apple TV, it’s clear that the movie rental business is fueling increased sales. So Apple will stick with the product line for now, it appears, since they clear have confidence it’s going to grow.

As usual in these conferences, details are often kept fairly general. Even though the financial analysts who participate in these calls try to dig a little deeper for solid information about new products, they seldom get a meaningful response. Apple typically keeps details close to the vest and sometimes the responses only raise more questions.

Sometimes Apple can be downright misleading, such as the time, several years ago, when they dismissed the prospects for a low-cost Mac desktop just a few months before the Mac mini was released. So maybe even the denials about the prospects for an Apple netbook are to be taken with a grain of salt. But of course, should Apple come out with a product for that segment, rest assured the word netbook simply won’t be mentioned, and they will deny that the product, whatever it is, is actually a netbook.

There was also nothing new to report about when the next upgrade to Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, will appear. As you no doubt recall, there was no word about Snow Leopard’s status during the final Apple keynote at Macworld Expo, not even a short demonstration to counter the rollout of Windows 7.

More to the point, Apple still isn’t recognizing the 25th anniversary of the Mac. I was also surprised that none of the analysts seemed aware that it was a question worth asking. But that’s just me.

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3 Responses to “Apple Confounds the Skeptics All Over Again”

  1. Vito Positano says:

    Hi Gene,
    Please explain to us non-economists why the SEC is not investigating Apple’s lie that it will not introduce a “low-cost Mac desktop just a few months before the Mac mini (indeed a low cost desktop) was released” but is investigating Apple for not disclosing the true seriousness of Steve Job’s malady, since, it seems to me, both have a profound effect on Apple stock.

  2. @ Vito Positano: The first is competitive spin. They said they wouldn’t enter the cheap PC arena, because they don’t want to produce junk. When the Mac mini came out, it wasn’t a piece of “junk” so far as Apple was concerned. 🙂

    Besides, sales and profits were good.

    As to the second, the state of Jobs’ health has had a material impact on Apple’s stock price, and so they are looking into whether any deception was involved.

    No, I’m not an economist either. That’s just the way it looks from here.


  3. Kaleberg says:

    I don’t know if you have been following the EFI-X PC Kit, but it seems that you aren’t the only one wanting a desktop unit somewhere between an iMac and a Mac Pro. There was some new discussion on Macintouch today that brought you to mind:

    The EFI-X PC Kit apparently lets users run OS X on otherwise stock PC hardware, and this is bringing out the mid-range power users. While Apple may respond legally by cracking down on anyone who sells a complete PC system, they will be hard pressed to suppress what is basically a cloned BIOS, the original back door that opened the PC market to clones in the early 1980s. Apple might decide on a two pronged approach, cracking down on system integrators but also selling your long coveted mid-range headless tower. People might still want to save a few bucks and roll their own, but most would just buy Apple if their pricing was sensible.

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