AMITIAE - Wednesday 27 April 2016

Cassandra: Wall Street Still Lacking the Skills to Drive Apple

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


My taxi driver this morning was an utter prat. He was a nice enough guy: polite. But he had no idea how to control the throttle or brakes. Let me claim expertise here as a while back I was a police driver in the UK with a First Class ticket. You know those chases you see in movies? Been there, done that; rare actually; but in reality, not like movies at all.

My driver either didn't understand that removing the foot from the accelerator would slow the car (engine braking), or he was having a constant crisis of confidence. There we were on a straight road, vehicles ahead moving away: dab. Approach a bridge: dab up and another dab down. Another car went past: dab, dab. And so on. I kept wanting to shout at him, "Leave the bloody brakes alone" but I expect he would have had no idea what I was talking about.

Everyone knew Apple's latest quarter was not going to be brilliant, even Apple. Apple guidance suggested income would be $50-53 billion, with gross profit of 39-39.5%. You would think that Apple would understand its own workings, but that fails to take into account how Wall Street thinks it is driving the economy. What the analysts thought was that rather than $50-53 billion, Apple should actually come up with $52 billion, so when the actual figures - within Apple's own estimates - did not meet what Wall Street thought, Apple fails again. Dab. Apple just will not behave as Wall Street expects. Dab, dab.

The sales of devices were down as expected: Q2 is rarely as good as Q1, although Q2 last year was exceptional. Dab. Mac Sales down by 400,000 when the rest of the PC industry is also seeing massive contraction. Dab. iPad sales actually rose when Wall Street is convinced that market is doomed. Dab. iPhone sales did not include the iPhone SE and even Tim Cook said that the device would be lower. And they were. Dab, dab.

Other figures are revealing as well: more about Wall Street than Apple. The Apple Watch is a failure after its first year, with estimated sales of $6 billion. Rolex sells $5 billion. Dab. Apple Music now has 13 million subscribers, bringing in $9.99 a month ($15.99 for families), although some markets, like Thailand where I am have lower fees (and less music). About $10 x 13 million? Dab. iCloud also has a continuing income scenario with Apple's "1 billion active devices" (iMore), that includes iCloud for photos, documents and other synchronisation: "a source of recurring revenue that is growing independent of the unit shipments that we report every three months." Dab.

There are also other markets that are just being tapped, particularly in Asia, and certainly including India where the potential for growth (unlike perhaps the US market) is large. Dab, dab.

Already there have been calls for Tim Cook's replacement, who always carries the cross that he is not Steve Jobs. Dab. Analaysts forget of course, that when Jobs was CEO, they were pretty critical of him too. Dab, dab.

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As with almost every quarterly report over the last few years, negative analysis in the days and weeks before, coupled with Apple's inability to match the analysts magic guesstimates, mean that there is an immediate penalty in the share price: a drop of 6.34% is shown right now. But then the price is about the same as January 2015, when it rose and rose, then fell; but also higher than 2 years ago. For now the price will probably fall. Dab, dab.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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