As I continue to read the silly comments and conclusions made by tech pundits and industry analysts, I really wonder about the decision-makers who hired them. Of course that assumes they aren’t just self-employed, in which case it doesn’t matter. There’s no government test or license required to hang out a shingle and call yourself an industry analyst.
So we had a typical situation, where analysts misjudged Apple’s expected sales on the iPhone launch this past weekend. Some suggested as little as five million, same as last year, while other estimates were as high as eight million. When Apple announced that over nine million were sold, suggesting that more would have found their way into the hands of customers had the iPhone 5s not been in very short supply, you can bet there were excuses aplenty.
One claim has it that the nine million sales merely means Apple stuffed the channel. If that were the case, why couldn’t they supply an iPhone 5s to everyone who wanted one? Did they ask dealers to deliberately hold back product to create the illusion of being sold out? Giving up potential sales doesn’t pass the logic test. Sure, perhaps these customers would be willing to wait, but when that wait extends to another quarter, Apple’s financials suffer. No sane CEO would allow that to happen.
On the other hand, stuffing the channel merely to report high shipments may have a short-term value if sales aren’t stellar. You can bet some other otherwise unnamed tech companies are known to do that, but they have to pay the piper somewhere along the line. Either they cut back on future shipments, or sell off excess inventory at lower prices, which doesn’t help the bottom line. Again, it’s foolish, and not a sensible way to boost a company’s bottom line. The real answer is just to find more customers if they can.
Let’s now return to the innovation front, where Apple continues to be criticized for not building a revolutionary product every other day. They are quick to blame CEO Tim Cook for not being Steve Jobs, even though he was there through all of Apple’s greatest years when Jobs was at the helm. But they speak or write without thinking. Consider that the 1998 iMac, the 2001 iPod, the 2007 iPhone and 2010 iPad were particularly notable developments in recent Apple history. Notice that these products were released three or more years apart, and that the other upgrades were simple refreshes, more or less.
If you look at the lessons of history, you’ll see that Apple has only revolutionized a product category on a few occasions. The rest of the time, those new products were refined, tuned, and sometimes made a tad more affordable. OS X debuted in 2001, and it’s now 2013, and you can see that the changes have been gradual, not drastic. OK, perhaps iOS 7 is a pretty major upgrade, at least when it comes to the user interface, but that happened on Tim Cook’s watch, so they just ignore it, or complain it’s a bad upgrade.
The ongoing argument is that Apple with Jobs was good, except when they were criticizing the company and saying it was on death’s door. Apple after Jobs, with Cook in charge, must be bad. It doesn’t matter that sales may exceed expectations. It doesn’t matter that iOS is actually gaining market share in the U.S. at the expense of Android, and it doesn’t matter that, after one week, an estimated 52% of the iOS Web traffic comes from iOS 7.
All right, some people hate iOS 7, but nobody forces them to upgrade. We even had someone post a comment on this site, claiming to have purchased an Android smartphone because of problems with an iPhone 4S running iOS 7. Inasmuch as that post appeared a mere five days after iOS 7 came out, and nobody forced the person to upgrade, you wonder if it’s all made up. Feel free to come to your own conclusions.
This isn’t to say that the pressures aren’t on Apple to quickly catch up with demand for the iPhone 5s, and to keep sales high until next year. There’s also the iPad, and how the next refresh will change things. Already the chatter speaks of a slimmer and lighter full-sized model, and adding a Retina display to the iPad mini. Whatever Apple does, it won’t be enough and it’ll be too expensive.
Then again, I wonder if the critics even know the real prices. Microsoft is still running ads pegging an iPad as starting at $599, rather than $499, to make the comparison between the failed Surface tablet seem more drastic. The ad also reduces the size of the iPad to seem smaller in comparison with a Surface.
That, my friends, is false advertising. I would think Apple would make an effort to correct their sometimes partner, or maybe it’s all too funny to take seriously. After all, customers aren’t taking it seriously, and it’s not at all clear that the Surface 2 will fare any better.