Tag Archives | PCs

Apple Quarterly Sales Results: What Depression?

Apple LogoI’m not a financial analyst, so I hesitate to do anything that smacks of analyzing finances. But Apple just released its financial results for its first fiscal quarter and hosted a conference call to discuss them, and the news seems mostly good, especially given the dire condition of the economy. The company reported record quarterly revenue and profit, and also revealed the following:

Macs: 2.5 million Macs were sold in the quarter, representing 9 percent growth. 71% of them were notebooks; desktop sales, not surprisingly, are down. Macs sold Apple pointed out that an IDC study says that the overall PC market shrunk during the quartert.

iPods: The company sold 22.7 million iPods, representing 3 percent growth. The players have 70 percent market share. iPod revenue, however, was down.

iPhones: 4.4 million  handsets were sold in the quarter. 13.7 million were sold in calendar 2008–above the company’s once-daunting 10 million goal.

Apple Stores: The company’s 251 stores in 10 countries sold $1.7 billion of stuff in the quarter, including 515,o000 Macs–“almost half to new owners.” But per-store sales were down because of the touch economy and discounts and deals offered by third-party sellers of Apple products.

A few tidbits based on questions asked by financial analysts who were in on the call–the quotes below are from Apple COO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer:

How’s Steve Jobs? How will Apple fare without him? “Steve is the CEO of Apple, and plans to remain involved in major strategic decisions, and Tim will be responsible for day-to-day operations.” There’s an “extraordinary breadth and tenure of senior Apple executives,” and they lead a team of “wicked-smart” employees. “The values of our company are extremely well-entrenched…We’re on the earth to make good products, and that’s not changing…We believe in saying no to thousands of products…I strongly believe that Apple is doing the best work in its history.”

Will Apple continue to open new Apple Stores given the economic climate? Yes. 25 new stores in FY09, half outside the U.S.

Would Apple sell more iPhones if they cost less? “$199 with contract is compelling…we see nothing else close to it…we’re years ahead of the competition.” Apple isn’t interested in selling cheap, basic phones.

Netbooks: They represent only 3 percent of PC sales. “It’s a category we watch, but right now we think the products there are inferior, and won’t provide an experience to consumers that they will be happy with.”

Apple TV: Sales are up by a factor of three, but it’s still “a hobby” that the company is investing in because it thinks there’s something there long-term.

Snow Leopard, the next version of OS X: They’re excited about it, but no comment beyond that, and no timetable for its release.

The sale of iPhones in Wal-Mart stores: Wal-Mart’s outlets “reach a tremendous amount more people than we could reach in our stores” in areas of the country with no Apple Stores.

iPhone competitors: Most aren’t for sale yet, so it’s hard to judge them. It’s tough for developers to build for platforms which involve devices with different size screens and other variances in features. “We’re very, very comfortable with where we are competitively…we like competition, as long as they don’t rip off our [intellectual property]…and if they do, we’ll go after them.”

Does the Palm Pre’s multi-touch screen violate Apple patents? “I don’t want to talk about any one company…but we will not stand for having our IP ripped off and will use whatever weapons are at our disposal. I don’t know how much clearer I could be than that.”

Apple’s market share: The company had 16 percent unit share, 32 percent revenue share in U.S. retail in the quarter. “I think those are fantastic results, and we’re extremely proud of them.”

What percentage of the 500,000 apps downloaded from the App store were free versus paid? The company isn’t disclosing that.

Others who know way more about crunching numbers will analyze these numbers in depth, and likely poke holes in Apple’s upbeat spin. (Silicon Alley Insider is already saying that iPhone sales were disappointing.) But Apple sold scads of products and made financial progress on multiple fronts in a quarter during which much of Silicon Valley was busy reporting dismal numbers, scaling back ambitions, and laying off employees. It may not live in a reality-distortion field of its own, but its contrarian instincts still seem to be serving it well.


A Little Less Lenovo

LenovoThe crummy state of the economy continues to bring crummy news for the tech industry: Lenovo announced today that it’s letting 11 percent of its workforce go as part of a broad restructuring. It’s also reducing executive compensation by 30 to 50 percent (sorry, guys!).

Buried in its press release is one tidbit that might be a plus for Lenovo customers: It’s relocating its customer-support call center from Toronto to Morrisville, North Carolina, the company’s main North American site. If this involves Toronto staff losing their jobs, it’s regrettable for the folks who are impacted. But I’m a big believer that tech support staffers provide the best help when they work most closely with the rest of a company’s team. And it’s good to see that Lenovo isn’t reacting to economic pressures by relocating tech support to another country where language issues could stand in the way of solid tech support.

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Laptops Overtake Desktops–This Time For Real

kinglaptopsIn the news world, there are things that I think of as Groundhog Day stories–ones that announce a noteworthy event that you could have sworn earlier stories had already made a big deal about having happened. One of those would be the notion that laptops have finally outsold desktop PCs. Every time notebook sales outpace desktops in some specific respect–in U.S. retail stores, for instance–there’s a rash of laptops-overtake-desktops articles. Here’s one from 2003.

There’s another outbreak of such stories today. But this one was prompted by a new report from iSuppli that’s pretty darn definitive: It says that global unit sales of notebooks surpassed desktops for the first time in Q3 2008. Unless you want to wait for the day when there are more laptops on the planet than desktops, this is it–laptops have overtaken desktops. Period. Finally. End of need for future Groundhog Day stories on the matter.

So can I make a modest proposal? If the majority of personal computers being sold everywhere on earth are laptops, they’re not the variant of the PC they were when they first popped up in the 1980s–they are the PC. It’s desktop computers that require qualification, and the time will come when desktops become an endangered species, just like minicomputers were by the 1990s. Which means that it would be perfectly reasonable to redefine the unmodified term PC as meaning a computer that’s portable.

I’m not promising I’ll stick to such a policy here–if I’m the only person who does, I’ll just confuse people–but I kind of like the idea.


Mac’s Internet Share Rises, Firefox Above 20%

Internet research firm Net Applications has somewhat stunning news: Windows share of the operating system has fallen below 90 percent according to the company for the first time since the mid 1990s. Furthermore, its share of the browser market has also fallen, now below 70 percent for the first time in nearly a decade.

IE now stands at 69.77 percent, down 1.5 percent or so from the previous month. Contrast this with Firefox, who now has about 20.8 percent of the market, up about .8 percent from the last month.

This has to have Redmond worried. I clearly remember pinging my Microsoft sources back a year or two ago when Mozilla really began to pick up market share. The response was “oh, they only expect them to peak at 15 or 20 percent and that will be it,” or something to that effect.

Well, we’ve now blown through that, and look to be poised for more gains. Firefox is beginning to move from the alternative to the competitor catagory when it comes to browsers. That’s something many — including Microsoft — did not expect.

The bad news doesn’t end there. Apple’s Mac OS is resurgent. It’s share is now up to 8.9 percent, the highest market share ever recorded by the firm for Apple. Contrast this with Microsoft, whos .8 percent drop to 89.6 percent was the biggest drop in over two years.

Vista’s adoption is still awful: only one in five users use it two years after it was released. While it has generally grown by about a percentage point each of the past few months, this shows that the computing public has generally given Microsoft’s latest OS the Windows Me treatment.


The Single Greatest Year in Tech History, Part One: The 1970s

With movies, it’s unquestionably 1939, the fabled year that saw the release of Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, and Goodbye Mr. Chips. With baseball, there are multiple contenders, including 1924, 1949, and 1998…but I’m a Red Sox fan, so let’s just say it–it was 2004. Rock music? Maybe 1967, the year of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced?, The Doors’ The Doors, The Who’s The Who Sell Out, and Aretha’s I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.

But what was the greatest year in technology history–the one that saw the highest number of significant products appear and/or other important events transpire? As far as I know, nobody has ever asked that question, let alone attempted to answer it. Will you join me in trying to figure it out?

In the coming days, Technologizer will recap significant moments, year by year and decade by decade, and give you the chance to vote on the years that made the biggest difference. For reasons of practicality, we’re beginning all this with 1970–we’re pretty sure that the greatest year, whatever it may be, happened in the past 39 years. (If you want to advocate for an earlier year, we’ll give you the chance to do so at some point via write-in votes; anyone know for sure what year the wheel was invented?) We’re also defining technology to cover personal technology relating to information and entertainment: PCs, Web stuff, TVs, MP3s, phones, and GPS, but not airplanes, cars, or clones. Eventually, we’ll winnow down the contenders and determine a winner.

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iSuppli Slashes PC Sales Outlook for 2009

Next up on the bad tech economy news parade: iSuppli. The analyst firm sent out an advisory Thursday indicating that it was reducing its PC unit shipments forecast for growth by a stunning two-thirds. The reason? You guessed it, the economy.

The changes mean that instead of the 11.9 percent growth it had projected back in September (with the way things have been changing so rapidly, that now seems like an eternity ago), it now sees only 4.3 percent growth in 2009. iSuppli has also revised down its forecast for 2010, although it does show some improvement over 2009 nonetheless: 7.1 percent growth, down from its earlier forecast of 9.4 percent.

Analyst Michael Wilkins directly mentions the credit crisis as having a large impact on larger-ticket purchases like PCs, and its hurting the consumer as well as the enterprise.

“The result of the financial turmoil is less money to spend, and often that money is itself more expensive,” Wilkins said. “With less money to spend, application markets, like PCs, have been impacted.” All in all, we shouldn’t really complain. The PC market has had solid growth for the past five years, growing at double digit rates. 2008 was to be the sixth straight year, but now it appears as if that will not happen.

Regardless of market conditions notebook PCs should still manage to post growth, up 15 percent this year. Desktops on the other hand will continue to see shrinking sales, down five percent from 2007.

No word from either Gartner nor NPD, which also produce PC sales forecasts on whether they’ll be doing some face-saving by tamping down growth numbers a bit.


Build (or at Least Envision) Your Dream PC

Asus and Intel have launched WePC.com, a Web site that’s a marketing vehicle, but an entertaining one: It lets you noodle out ideas for new PC designs, then publish them so that other folks can vote on them and discuss them. The designs will supposedly be taken into consideration to serve as the basis of new Asus systems, but even if your dream machine stands no chance of ever becoming reality, it’s fun to piece it together.

(Side note: The site provides a configuarator that lets you specify your computer’s specs, including the number of FireWire ports…and the minimum number of FireWire connectors it permits is one. Guess that whoever designed this configurator agrees with those who say that even the idea of a FireWire-free laptop is a travesty.)

(Further side note: The configurator doesn’t involve specifying the CPU inside your dream PC, but you get the chance to describe the machine using free-form text. I’m happy to see that some people are proposing PCs that run OS X and/or use AMD processors, even though the site is sponsored by Asus and Intel.)

I spent a few minutes at WePC roughing out a machine I’m calling the Foxbook, which continues the idea behind my series of articles about working in the browser by proposing a thin-and-light notebook that’s designed to run Firefox really well and which has enough connectivity options to ensure that you’ll be able to get online anywhere on the planet. It’s not a standard netbook, since it has a largish 14-inch screen. And I wouldn’t be stunned if it cost more than a grand, especially if it had a nice aluminum case. But I’d sure like to have the chance to buy one–and I’m reasonably confident that laptops that bear at least some resemblance to it will arrive in the not-too-distant future.

If you find WePC intriguing enough to design your ideal machine, why not leave a link in the comments on this article so we can check it out?

(Full disclosure: Federated Media, Technologizer’s advertising partner, helped Asus and Intel launch WePC.com…and in fact, there are ads for it in this site. There might even be one on this very page. But I’m not writing about it because of those ads, and I won’t make any money if you click on the ad or otherwise make your way over to WePC. I just think it’s clever enough to deserve a quick mention.)


Can Dell Be Dell Without Factories?

This is startling: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Dell is trying to sell at least some of its factories to contract manufacturers–and maybe all of ’em. For any other computer company, the news would not be all that striking; these days, such a high percentage of electronics manufacturing is done by third parties that it’s more noteworthy when a computer manufacturer is actually…well, a computer manufacturer.

But this is Dell we’re talking about–the company that’s been, at its high points, the biggest computer on the planet based on the excellence of its factories and the efficiency of its direct-to-customer model. For more than twenty years, it’s obsessively refined its manufacturing and logistics processes to build PCs as efficiently and cheaply as possible. It is, in other words, a control freak of a company; it’s hard to imagine it letting go of the very process of making Dell PCs.

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