Welcome to the world of near-insanity, where a highly successful company is constantly thought of as being poised to fail. It’s the sort of journalist and tech analyst freak-out that has played itself out for years when it comes to Apple Inc.
You almost wonder if there’s a deep, dark conspiracy at work here? Or maybe some competitors, and I can think of one from South Korea offhand, are subsidizing reporters and analysts to write bad stories about Apple. But there’s no support for any of that. It’s just an offhand possibility that very likely isn’t so.
What makes such matters more troubling is how the so-called industry experts are so busy touting products — compared to Apple — that are not doing near as well as you’d believe if you didn’t check the actual sales estimates.
I’ll get to the Apple Watch shortly. Let’s look at personal computers first.
So a key example is the Microsoft Surface. It’s not that Microsoft hasn’t had a few intriguing ideas. I suppose the Surface Studio, with its foldable 28-inch touchscreen, has some potential. However, its entry-level price is $1,200 more than the starting price of Apple’s direct competitor, the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display. Is the presence of a touchscreen that can be folded into all sorts of different positions for content creators worth the extra money?
I mean, whatever you think about large touchscreens, it’s an intriguing idea, though it doesn’t seem as if it’s made the Surface lineup any more sales-worthy. So in the March quarter, sales dropped by 26%. Maybe they would have fallen more had there not been a Surface Studio around, but it doesn’t auger well for the ongoing relevance of Microsoft’s PCs.
Besides, I wonder how other PC makers feel about the company on whom they depend for their operating system also competing with them for hardware sales.
Regardless, the Surface is clearly getting a lot more traction than its history of tepid sales would justify. Apple is regularly urged to copy the Surface, and the iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard is thought of as having such influences. But there have been keyboard cases for iPads for years. Maybe the Smart Keyboard is a somewhat better solution, but that doesn’t make Microsoft’s approach original.
But what about another Apple product line that has not been given so warm a reception by the media?
Introduced in 2014, the Apple Watch more or less made the smartwatch credible. Although there had been contenders from Samsung and other companies — and don’t forget the now-departed Pebble — sales weren’t so terrific. What was Apple going to do to enter this space?
The first Apple Watch served several functions, for fitness, reminders and as pieces of jewelry. The Apple Watch Edition listed for $10,000, and a fancy watchband would put the price in compact car territory. Apple sought fashion experts to gain coverage.
For the Series 2, Apple took a more practical approach, and moved more heavily towards the fitness market, and made the gadgets somewhat more affordable at the low end. The Edition became Ceramic and far cheaper. New features were added, including an onboard GPS that would allow you to do more things on an Apple Watch without dependance on an iPhone.
Despite Apple’s claims of growing Apple Watch sales, the critics took a “yeah, sure” approach. It’s not that they had better data, or any data. Apple doesn’t disclose actual sales, but they can be inferred from the “Other Products” results. Some might feel that the numbers aren’t being revealed because Apple doesn’t have confidence in the product, or it may be just to keep the actual numbers from competitors.
Now there is some good news about the potential for the Apple Watch. But it comes in a survey that has essentially meaningless results..
So according to a survey of some 500 consumers taken last month, Apple fared well in buying intentions. Now understand that such surveys are at best rough approximations of customer plans. It doesn’t mean that the people who respond to such surveys will actually go through with those purchases, especially if those plans won’t be acted on for several months.
That said, let’s look at the results from analyst Raymond James. Again, don’t take it seriously.
So some 14% of those taking part in the survey plan to buy Apple’s forthcoming HomePod speakers, or Beats wireless speakers. It doesn’t make much sense to mix those products, since Beats speakers are available now, and the HomePod, which features the Siri digital assistant, isn’t expected until the holiday season. The numbers were higher than the Amazon Echo, which is an allegedly successful and high profile product.
It doesn’t matter that recent sales estimates pointed to Echo sales in the 12 million range since the gadget debuted in 2014. I don’t consider that so successful, since it’s much less than even the Apple Watch, which is, as I said, supposed to be a failure.
The survey also indicated high demand for the Apple Watch and AirPods. But why would fancy wireless earphones be matched with a fitness gadget? Well, it is true that both are included in Apple’s Other Products category, but that doesn’t explain why they were combined.
As I said, surveys of buyer intentions are bound to be misleading, and extremely inaccurate. It’s even worse when you combine two products that are only superficially in a similar category — one of which hasn’t even been released yet.
So there you have it. Some positive news for Apple I suppose. Make of it what you will.
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