Welcome to the February issue of About This Particular Macintosh! While the weather outside is frightful the PC fires are so delightful! That’s right. In retail stores across America desktop PCs are being replaced by hand-held computing appliances and cellular devices. Tough times for the beige box boys! PC component prices are climbing, and profits are declining (for most PC companies). Take a look inside our latest offering of Audacious Tidbits and Puckish Musings to see why more and more consumers are choosing to “Buy different.”
The Gates To Hell?
No. Bill Gates hasn’t been sent packing to the netherworld but the changes at the top of the world’s largest software company are intriguing. Mr. Gates has chosen to turn his attention to software while Steve Ballmer has been assigned the hard job of leading Microsoft into the new millennium. While many analysts characterize the executive changes as much ado about nothing, we believe Mr. Gates’ decision to vacate the top position at Microsoft signals a toughening of Microsoft’s position with the Department of Justice and the states that filed the anti-trust suit. We expect many changes under Mr. Ballmer’s watch.
Well, not exactly, but we were impressed with Apple’s quarterly numbers. For the quarter ended January 1, 2000 Apple Computer reported:
- A net profit of $183 million, or $1.03 per diluted share (including the sale of shares in ARM Holdings, the cost of Mr. Jobs’ new plane, and some minor one-time items).
- Revenues for the quarter jumped to $2.34 billion. This was an increase of 37% from the year-earlier period.
- Gross margins were 25.9%, down from 28.2% in the year-ago quarter. (They had to airfreight a lot of units to have them in stores for the holiday rush.).
- The company sold 1,377,000 computers (give or take a couple of thousand). This included more than 700,000 iMacs and 235,000 iBooks.
- Unit sales were 46% higher than a year earlier This clearly shows the benefit of better technology (not to mention a longer sales quarter than last year).
- Apple’s growth in units sold was about 2.7 times that of the estimated growth for the PC industry (In other words Apple’s gains came at the expense of other hardware companies.
- Not including Apple’s investments in ARM and Akamai, the company ended the quarter with over $3.6 billion in cash and short-term investments.
At press time we expect more major brokerages to upgrade their ratings of Apple and for a sharp improvement in its rating among the major debt rating agencies. Enough said. We believe this impressive performance speaks for itself
Da Plane, Boss, Da Plane
It might seem like Fantasy Island, but who wouldn’t want Steve Jobs’ reward for a job well done? Options on ten million Apple shares and a Gulfstream V with all taxes paid. Considering that Apple shareholders have benefited to the tune of $15–$16 billion dollars since his return to Apple as iCEO (interim CEO, not to be confused with his new title of Internet CEO or iCEO), he certainly earned some compensation. Actually, had Mr. Jobs held onto a portion of the $400 million in Apple stock he received from the NeXT buyout he would have realized substantially more for his efforts.
Did You Hear All The Hardware News?
Neither did we. And for good reason. Readers may remember the long delay in the release of the Lombard (a.k.a. Bronze Keyboard) PowerBook. That’s because widespread anticipation of the Lombard PowerBook caused a sharp drop-off in the sales of its predecessor. Ill-informed rumors and media speculation about new Apple products can skew buying patterns and increase costs. Don’t take our word for it; listen to Apple’s CFO Fred Anderson. In order to maintain margins and strict inventory controls, Apple will not release new products when there is significant in-channel inventory of the products being replaced. Do everyone a favor. If you need a new Mac, buy one. Don’t worry. There will always be newer, faster machines coming to market. Skewed sales patterns only increase prices and delay product innovations. Trust us. The next Mac you buy will probably not be your last one.
The Sun Never Sets
With the addition of Grant Osborne and Raena Armitage to the ATPM staff, the sun never sets on our expanding empire. Grant is from the U.K. (which is also long-time American staffer Tom Iovino’s favorite hot spot for fun and frolic) while Raena hails from the land down under. Our staff now works around the clock (and around the globe) to bring you the most interesting news and delightful views about the world of Mac computing. We welcome Grant and Raena to our staff.
Go ahead and look around. There’s probably a can of WD-40 somewhere in your home. That’s right, there’s one can. Few people need two cans of the ubiquitous household lubricant. The point is most homes now have at least one PC. Few people need two or three. The PC that was purchased three or four years ago is being replaced with a less expensive model. The ascent of hand-held organizers, sophisticated cellular phones, and computing devices is changing the market for personal productivity hardware.
Sure there is still a market for the beige box PC, but consumers will no longer pay a premium for an old-style PC. Apple’s colorful offerings are grabbing market share from the company’s hardware rivals. Style, function, and ease-of-use are more important to today’s consumers than Intel’s claims about megahertz. Our only question: when will the company that pioneered hand-held computing devices with the Newton bring to market a new and better product?
The staff of ATPM has enjoyed watching Apple Computer regain its place among the world’s top PC manufacturers. In our view much work still needs to be done. The professional content creation and graphic design markets are among the most lucrative markets for hardware manufacturers. Although consumer-level PCs outsell professional models there is an extraordinary opportunity for Apple Computer to regain profitable market share and increase gross margins by tending to the needs of power users and professionals.
The RISC processor, QuickTime, and the forthcoming Mac OS X provide Apple Computer with a unique opportunity to reestablish itself as the platform of choice among content creators, graphic designers, and media professionals. Read more about this in our March issue.