Let’s put Apple numbers in perspective

Comparing operating margins

John Kirk makes interesting points in Apple In Perspective at Tech.pinions when he says investors and those who watch the stock market put too much emphasis on quarterly reporting.

His point is if you look at Apple’s numbers for the recently announced quarter, you might think you’re looking at a company in decline. But year-on-year numbers show anything but a decline.

Sales of iPhones and iPads continue to grow at a healthy clip. And profits of US$9.5 billion on revenue of US$43.6 billion is an outstanding result by the standards of any other company in the world.


Samsung’s iPhone challenge

Samsung invite

Samsung invite

Smartphone battle isn’t Android versus iOS, but Samsung versus Apple.

Tomorrow Apple’s iPhone faces the most serious challenge yet to its smartphone dominance when Samsung takes the wraps off the Galaxy S4. Few specifics are known about the new phone at this stage – although there are plenty of speculative stories online if you want to know what people think the new phone’s specification will be.

Apple’s most recent smartphone, the iPhone 5 remains the recognised market leader. The iPhone brand is better known than any of its rivals. In many markets the iPhone is the top-selling model – although analysts say Samsung outsold Apple globally last year.

Which is why the Galaxy S4 is so important.

Apple pioneered touch screen phones when it launched the first iPhone in 2007. After playing catch-up Samsung proved last year it can innovate as well as Apple. Now it has an opportunity to out-innovate and comprehensively out-sell Apple. That will mark the company’s ascendancy.

The next iPhone isn’t due until around mid-year, which gives Samsung a three-month head start on its rival and increases the pressure on Apple.

Samsung doesn’t have things all its own way. The high end of the smartphone game is close to market saturation. Overall smartphone sales are still growing at around 10% year-on-year but that’s a long way from the 27% growth seen in 2012.



Does Microsoft still matter? Revisited

Martyrdom and Funeral of St. Ursula

Martyrdom and Funeral of St. Ursula Vittore Carpaccio

After writing Does Microsoft still matter? it occurred to me that I write a lot of posts about a company that is possibly out of the running when it comes to leading the technology industry.

At the time of writing there are 92 stories tagged “Microsoft” on this site. That’s more than the number of tags for Apple, Google and Samsung combined.

One possible reason is my tagging isn’t that good. The word “Apple” turns up in 114 posts, while “Microsoft” is in 140. That’s partly because Microsoft has ambiguous brand names. I have to spell out that Word or Windows means the Microsoft product while iPad, Mac, iPhone and iPod are all unambiguous.

A second reason is that this site is now seven years old. Microsoft loomed larger in the early days. If you look at posts only from the last two years, Apple is well in front of Microsoft.

And let’s not forget my focus is more on business than on consumer technology – that tends to slew more in Microsoft’s direction.

Still, for a company that may “no longer matter”, Microsoft gets a fair share of coverage.

NZ iPhone 5 contract plans compared

You can buy a 16GB iPhone 5 from Apple and other outlets for $1049. That’s a lot of money up-front for many people, so many New Zealanders choose to get smartphones on a carrier plan. Here I’ve compared all the options from Telecom and Vodafone in one easy to read table.

The contract plan table is an embedded Excel spreadsheet, so you should be able to sort and filter the data to get the information you need.


Changed Telecom no contract details 10/11/2012

Please note, Telecom has a fair use policy for the places on the chart where I’ve written “unmetered”. In effect this means Telecom reserves its rights if you abuse the unlimited amounts. For more details see: http://www.telecom.co.nz/mobile/mobile/iphone/iphone5/

Windows Phone 8, is it compelling enough?

More than half of the first world’s consumers already use smartphones. Most  devices out in the wild are iPhones or Androids.

This means Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 challenge isn’t about carving out virgin territory. The software giant must grab market share from incumbents.

Microsoft, can you remember how hard it was for your rivals to win customers away from Windows during the PC era?

That’s what it will be like.

Great looking smartphones

The new phones look great. Without getting my hands on one, I’m reluctant to say they beat the competition. Yet, considering what I’ve seen of the iPhone 5 and the latest Androids, then taking my Nokia Lumia 800 experience into account and reading the specs, Microsoft is possibly now top of the heap.

Sadly, being best isn’t enough.

Again, this is the lesson from Microsoft’s PC era dominance. Windows wasn’t always the best PC operation system, Office wasn’t always the best software. The products had momentum and they were safe purchases.

To win the smartphone game – in this context winning and survival are the same thing – Microsoft must prise consumers away from their existing investments in apps, music and add-ons. Not to mention getting them to climb back up the learning curve.

And the market demands it does that faster than consumers normally update phones.

New-look Microsoft

Microsoft now has the right products in place across all its main low-end product lines. They fit snugly together – glued partly by SkyDrive.

I’d be more confident if Microsoft had positioned its Windows 8 and Surface tablets as Windows Phone 8 afterthoughts, and not the other way around. Smartphones are today’s flagships. They should be the priority.

Microsoft won’t disappear if Windows Phone 8 fails: it will be less relevant and less in control of its own destiny.

Mobile news readers want web not apps

The NZ Herald’s iPad app is among the best examples of its kind

Remember how publishers saw tablets and mobile apps as an opportunity to reboot the online news business? Or Rupert Murdoch describing Apple’s iPad as the newspaper industry’s saviour?

They had a point.

The latest numbers from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism show readers who use apps to get news are more attractive customers in every regard. They read more news than others, they choose a wider range of news sources, they read longer and in greater depth. They are even more prepared to pay for online news.

There’s just one problem. Only a fraction of tablet and smartphone users rely on apps for news and their numbers are falling. Most tablet and phone owners prefer getting news from browsers.

Pew says 60% of tablet users and 61% of smartphone users turn to browsers for reading news. A year ago just 40% of tablet users preferred browsers. That’s a rapid turnaround.

While the number of user who prefer apps is roughly steady at 23%, the number of users who choose both apps and browsers and halved.

There’s a marked difference between iPad users and those with Android tablets – most of those who still prefer apps are Apple customers. With Android’s market share increasing, it looks as if those news apps are likely to decline still further.

My experience as a reader says news apps are often more flawed than web sites. Some limit what you can access, others are buggy, many are slow. On the other hand they tend to look better and are much better for displaying photographs.