The raw facts are much the same each time. Record revenue and profits. Solid growth. iPhone and now iPad sales astounding. And if only Apple’s suppliers had the capacity to build more of the little buggers they’d be making even more money.
Today’s facts are, indeed, just that. Record second-quarter revenue of $24.67 billion; record second-quarter net profit of $5.99 billion, or $6.40 per diluted share; 3.76 million Macs sold, up 28% on the same quarter a year ago; 18.65 million iPhones sold, up 113%; 9.02 million iPods sold, a 17% decline (how did that get in there?); 4.69 million iPads sold.
Apple’s cash reserves are up another $6.1 billion and now sit at $65.8 billion.
The sheer scale of this money-making machine seems to reduce Wall Street analysts to dull sycophancy, because the subsequent ritual is the same too. Analyst: “Could you tell us about …?” Apple: “We don’t comment about the future or unreleased products. We’re confident. Look! Big numbers! Did you see the big numbers?” Analyst: “Thank you, and congratulations.” Repeat.
In the short term, it does appear that Apple’s main problem is simply cranking up the factories.
“The iPad has the mother of all backlogs. We’re working very, very hard to get out to customers as quickly as we can,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s COO and, while Steve Jobs continues to remain on medical leave, acting CEO. Other areas of the business are in “supply-demand balance”, he said.
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Cook hosed down concerns that the disasters in Japan could disrupt production. While the spot price for DRAM chips did rise 11%, and Lenovo warned that shipments of its tablet computers could be affected, Apple doesn’t buy on the spot market and has contingency plans with its suppliers.
But looking further ahead, a key challenge for Apple will be the rise of Google’s Android operating system running on a plethora of third-party devices.
One analyst compared this situation with two decades ago. Apple’s closed, proprietary Mac environment was challenged by Microsoft’s more open Windows system that allowed third parties to open the box and innovate for themselves. Microsoft ended up owning 90% of the personal computer market and Apple nearly disappeared.
Cook responded by repeating the impressive iPhone and iPad sales figures, reminding us that most Fortune 500 companies are deploying or testing them — though of course a “test” could be just a handful of devices in a 10,000-personal company — and how many hundreds of thousands of apps they get available.
“We feel very, very good about where we are, and we feel great about our future product plan,” he said, before telling us that more than 10 billion apps had been downloaded.
Confidence. Big numbers. Repeat.
“We continue to believe, and even more and more every day, that iPhone’s integrated approach is materially better than Android’s fragmented approach, where you have multiple OSs on multiple devices with different screen resolutions and multiple app stores with different roles,” Cook said. “I think the user appreciates that Apple can take full responsibility for their experience, whereas the fragmented approach turns the customer into a systems integrator. And few customers that I know want to be a system integrator.”