It’s an almost morbid concept, but, within days of the death of Steve Jobs, Apple critics appeared to be writing obituaries for the company. Jobs was the product guy. Tim Cook is the operations guy. How could Cook possibly perform creative miracles after the roster of products of which Jobs approved are used up? Of course, that’s based on the assumption that nobody works for Apple, I suppose, and it’s a sure thing Sir Jonathan Ive isn’t just sitting there counting his millions.
Apple’s mapping misstep became front and center as an example of the sort of screw up that wouldn’t have occurred under Jobs’ watch. Except that Antennagate occurred when Jobs was at the helm, and whom do you think signed off on all those online missteps, culminating in MobileMe and iCloud? And do you recall what Jobs said in response to a complaint about poor reception on the iPhone 4 because of the so-called Death Grip? He dismissed it with the suggestion that customers hold the phone differently. Besides, Maps didn’t just appear overnight. Jobs was around when Apple decided to ditch Google and do it their way.
In contrast, Cook has clearly worked hard to clean up Apple’s image. When Mapgate threatened to hurt Apple’s holiday sales, Cook issued what can only be interpreted as a sincere apology, and even suggested that customers use other mapping apps until Maps could be fixed. That clearly includes Google Maps for iOS, which was posted in the App Store last week. To Apple, it doesn’t matter so much as long as you buy their products. Besides, while loads of people downloaded Google Maps, I suspect a large portion of iOS users aren’t tuned in to the fineries of navigation software, and won’t bother.
Google claims that there were over 10 million downloads of Google Maps for iOS within the first 48 hours of its release. In contrast, within three days after iOS 6 was released in September, over 100 million devices had been upgraded. The ongoing success of Google Maps will probably be clear in a few weeks once the pent-up demand from early adopters has been satisfied.
In recent weeks, Apple’s stock has nose-dived big time. Some suggest Apple deserves a reality check, and the bears have taken over on Wall Street. Profit margins will be challenged this quarter and perhaps through 2013 as the competition becomes fiercer than ever. Tablet market share will decline against the competition and, besides, the iPad mini is cannibalizing lots of sales from the more profitable full-sized iPad.
Perhaps not, as there’s a published report indicating that 47% of iPad mini sales are to new customers. The report is based on a survey from Morgan Stanley and AlphaWise, in which 1,000 U.S. consumers were contacted. According to industry analyst Katy Huberty, yes sales of the regular iPad are being cannibalized to a degree, but concerns are said to be overblown.
Besides, if the iPad mini attracts customers who might have not purchased an iPad if Apple never released a smaller model, that’s a win, right? An expanded market means that Apple will be better able to fend off the growing number of competitors.
What about the introduction of the iPhone 5 in China? When analysts didn’t see reports of loads of people waiting on lines to buy one, they assumed sales were poor, not realizing that Apple set up a reservations system so someone could place an order without waiting and hoping one would be available at a retailer. The first weekend, some two million were sold, according to Apple. Nothing shabby about that.
All right, the stock price stabilized on Monday, though I never make predictions about Wall Street. All it takes is one alleged financial analyst to talk down a stock, and suddenly all hell breaks loose. But you wonder how many are banking on falling stocks to actually turn that into big profits? Buy low, sell high, and sell short, or sell in any way you can to inflate your capital gains. Or maybe, in fear of higher capital gains taxes in the U.S. next year, many holders of key stocks are going to get their profits now to keep the tax bills low.
While I understand Apple can’t expect to remain at the top of the tech industry forever, the current concerns appear to be highly exaggerated. With the revelation that iPhone handset sales in China were quite good, that maybe the iPad mini isn’t stealing loads of sales from the iPad, and that demand, in general, for Apple gear is high, I have to wonder why so many people are suddenly down on the company. I suppose part of it is that old cliché about the bigger they are and such, that Apple is destined for a hard fall any time now. Might as well dump the stock before it all comes crashing down, or maybe it’s all about the Mayan calendar, but I wonder if you realize that there are actually a number of Mayan calendars that do not indicate an end-of-the-world scenario. Sorry to be a party-pooper.
I suppose it’s also a good time to consider what Apple might have in store for you in 2013. The overwrought speculation that an Apple branded smart TV is inevitable doesn’t mean such a product is really in the pipeline. Sure, I suppose prototypes have been built, but Apple builds lots of prototypes, and few translate into a finished product. Let’s not forget what Tim Cook said on the subject, that Apple expects to only do a few things well, and thus shouldn’t be expected to enter many markets. If there is an Apple smart TV in our future, it’s going to have to be something really special. Maybe the Apple TV box will be it, either an enhanced version of the one you can currently buy, or something altogether new. Or maybe it’ll remain a hobby for the foreseeable future.
And don’t forget something else Tim Cook said in those recent interviews, that Apple wants to build products you never thought you’d need, but you can’t live without once you buy one.
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