by Tom Kaneshige

5 Things I Learned from Apple’s Earnings Call

Oct 19, 20114 mins
iPhoneTabletsTechnology Industry

Here are a few nuggets from Apple’s first earnings announcement since the passing of Steve Jobs and the beginning of the Tim Cook era.


Lesson 1: Who Says Apple Hates CIOs?

Apple has been criticized over the years, maybe decades, for its indifference to the plight of CIOs. No product roadmaps, no pre-releases for testing purposes, no really strong enterprise features. But times are changing. In the last few earnings reports, Apple has shown it is an enterprise company.

Apple closely monitors the growth of iOS devices in businesses and rattles off the latest stats during earnings announcements. Its most recent announcement this week was no exception.

Since the iPad’s release 18 months ago, more than 90 percent of Fortune 400 companies are deploying or testing iPhones. The list includes United/Continental, Japan Airline, General Mills, and other companies such as Lowe’s, L’oreal, Royal Bank of Scotland, SAP, Texas Instruments. More than 90 percent of Fortune 400 companies are deploying or testing iPhones.

Slideshow: 15 Ways iPad Goes to Work

But the biggest piece of evidence that Apple is listening to the enterprise wasn’t talked about much. Last week Apple made iOS 5 available to the public. The new iOS version is chock full of enterprise features, from email security to app security. In addition, it embraces a sandboxing approach for personal and business apps and use cases.


Lesson 2: A Billions Dollar Whiff

A company can post $28.27 billion in quarterly revenue and $6.62 billion in profit, en route to $108 billion in annual revenue, and still miss. Apple blamed pervasive rumors (see: Lesson 3) on iPhone sales in the quarter missing analyst expectations.

That’s, of course, silly.

Truth be told, I don’t know how financial analysts come up with their targets. Maybe they just got tired of looking like fools over the last string of Apple quarterly earnings announcements when Apple has blown out their expectations quarter after quarter.

I also don’t know what a “miss” really means. Apple will no doubt come back in a fury, racking up sales of the new iPhone 4S during its traditionally biggest holiday quarter of the year. Apple sold more than four million iPhone 4S units in the first three days.

Lesson 3: Rumors Really Hurt!

Apple secrecy has created a cottage industry of Apple rumors. Rumors about new products and timelines mostly impacted Apple’s stock price. Mad Money’s Jim Cramer infamously taught investors how to start Apple rumors and short Apple stock.

For the most part, until this latest earnings announcement, Apple gave the appearance that rumors never had much of an impact. CFO Peter Oppenheimer said “pervasive” rumors about the upcoming iPhone 4S made many potential iPhone buyers put off purchases. This had a definite negative fiscal impact on Apple’s business, he said.


Lesson 4: China Is Really Big

Yeah, well, everyone knows China is really big with 1.3 billion people. But did you know that Apple’s revenue from China hit $4.5 billion for the current quarter? Two years ago, China represented just 2 percent of Apple’s annual revenue. This year the percentage is around 12 percent.

In addition to China, Apple is focusing on Brazil and maybe Russia and the Middle East. Apple’s earnings announcement really shows the growth potential of the overall global market. Apple plans to open 40 new Apple stores, with three-fourths of them outside the U.S.


Lesson 5: The iPad Is the Future

Since the iPad debuted, Apple has sold 40 million units – 11 million in the last quarter. “It’s pretty clear that if you forecast out in time, the tablet market will be larger than the PC market,” Apple’s new chief Tim Cook said during the earnings call. “That’s not guidance, that’s just something I believe.”

Apple admits that there has been some cannibalism with customers buying iPads instead of Macs, even as Apple posted record Mac sales this quarter (4.89 million units sold). Yet Apple figures other PC makers are suffering at the hands of the iPad even worse.

There’s no question tablet makers have struggled to come up with a viable rival to the iPad. After all, they don’t just compete with the iPad but all the stuff behind it, too: App Store with 140,000 native iPad apps, iOS 5, iCloud, iTunes, and all other iThings.

“I think it’s reasonable to say none of these has gained traction thus far,” Oppenheimer said. “In fact, as all those competitors came to market, our share went up.” What about thenew Amazon Kindle Fire? “I feel very confident about our ability to compete, and extremely confident in our product pipeline,” he said.