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  • The Apple Blowout Report

    January 28th, 2015

    So after loads of predictions on how Apple would do for the first quarter, the truth is out there. Ahead of those announcements, there was word of Microsoft selling 10.5 million Lumia smartphones, and perhaps a million Surface tablets, as if ether result is a positive. Hint: They’re not, at least by the standards set by Apple or even Samsung for that matter.

    What is certain from Apple’s fiscal 2015 first quarter numbers is that lots of people are buying iPhones and Macs, and not so much iPads. Still, the folks at Samsung must be freaking over Apple’s results, particularly after so many alleged tech and financial pundits originally embraced that company and expected them to destroy Apple.

    So Apple reported record quarterly revenues of $74.6 billion, with a record quarterly net profit of $18 billon, or $3.06 per diluted share. Compare those figures to last year’s results, with revenues of $57.6 billon, and a net profit of $13.1 billon, or $2.07 per diluted share. Gross margins were 39.9%, compared to 37.9% in the year-ago quarter. That means Apple is making more money from each sale. This all compares to analyst estimates that averaged $67.69 billion.

    So it’s back to “beat the Street” mode, and if the stock market is in any way rational — and that’s usually a stretch — the  share price should be soaring by now. Apple very much appears to be unstoppable.

    Down to the specifics: Some 74.5 million iPhones were sold, a figure that defied industry analyst projections and sometimes by a huge amount. At the same time, it’s reported that, even in China, the iPhone is doing extremely well, and Samsung is declining. Indeed, 65% of Apple’s sales last quarter were made overseas.

    Mac sales totaled 5.52 million units, a 14% year-over-year increase and the second-best ever compared to the previous quarter. While Apple traditionally doesn’t break down sales by individual models, I fully expect the high-end 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display to have exceeded expectations. It was perennially back ordered during the December quarter, and has gotten rave reviews across the board, except for some complaints about the alleged high price.

    I know that when I had an entry-level iMac 5K here for several weeks, on loan from Apple, I quickly understood the attraction. In addition to high-end performance, sometimes exceeding that of the Mac Pro when an app doesn’t take advantage of more than four cores, the 5K display is just wonderful. The fact that Dell wants $2,499, same as the cheapest iMac 5K, for just a 5K display, shows that Apple isn’t overcharging by any means.

    During the quarterly conference call with financial analysts, Apple revealed that there were double-digit unit growths in both desktops and note-books. There were, as usual, no individual model breakdowns.

    During the conference call, Tim Cook called the results, overall, “hard to comprehend.”

    With all the good news, though, there was a pocket of not-so-good news. iPad sales fell to 21.4 million units, down 18% over last year where 26 million copies were sold. But don’t forget that’s still 20 times more tablets than Microsoft moved in the same quarter, yet the latter is being praised for such pathetic results. Could it be that those ubiquitous Microsoft Surface ads, which pit the device against the MacBook Air, may have had the perverse effect of selling the latter?

    Despite skepticism about the potential for the iPad, Cook maintains that he’s focused on the long-term, not sales results for any individual quarter. But he did repeat what has already been known, that the upgrade cycle is much longer than an iPhone, “probably between an iPhone and a PC.” He did assert, though, that iPad is used six times more than other devices, which would explain why the online numbers recorded by Apple’s tablet are so dominant.

    Regardless, it’s clear that there will be plenty of room to spin the decline in iPad sales, and many will claim that the device has hit a saturation point. But Cook also said that between 50% and 70% of iPad purchases go to first-timers, so that assumption doesn’t wash either.

    In other developments during the quarterly conference call, Cook announced that the one-billionth iOS device was sold last quarter, a 64GB iPhone Plus. But Cook would not break out sales of individual models, other than to say that the numbers varied from region to region. I suspect the percentages of the iPhone phablet are higher in Asia, for example, where such gear is far more popular.

    Cook also revealed that “only a small fraction” of existing iPhone users have upgraded, and that more Android users are switching to iPhone as the result of the new, larger models. It’s the largest switcher rate in the past three years, but again there were no numbers to consider.

    While the future of the iPad may seem somewhat of a question mark right now, the same cannot be said for the iPhone and the Mac, where growth remains high. And nobody can predict how well the Apple Watch will do when it goes on sale this spring, or what Apple plans to do about Apple TV. So many questions and, as usual for Apple, so few real answers, except that they continue to make boatloads of money.

    And I haven’t even begun to consider Apple Pay, except for the report that Apple’s mobile payment system now accounts for two out of every three dollars processed through a contactless payment system. Don’t forget that Apple Pay only debuted last October.



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