Rumor Roundup Episode 2: Is Apple doomed or not? Make up your minds!
This past week was relatively quiet as far as Apple-related rumors go. In the wake of Apple's latest quarterly earnings release, it seems there was enough real news to keep everyone occupied that Apple "analysts" didn't have to go around making things up off the tops of their heads like they usually do. That's not to say that some analysts didn't provide us with plenty of fresh manure this past week, because they most certainly did.
"Anonymous sources" spoke with Dutch website Apple Weetjes and claimed that Jony Ive will be featured on cereal boxes starting this summer. Actually, the real claim is that iPhoto '12 will be released this summer with several design cues taken from the recently released iOS version of iPhoto.
B.S. detector reading: 9/10. Whenever a non-U.S. website most of the rest of us have never heard of comes out with a rumor like this, the smart money is on it being completely made up. While I wouldn't be surprised to see the next version of iPhoto continue the blending of OS X and iOS design elements, rumor sites are notoriously bad at predicting Apple's software release schedules.
As one example, over the past three years I've lost track of how many times people have tried to convince us that iWork updates were right around the corner. Meanwhile, the current version of OS X's iWork suite is older than any of the iPhone models Apple sells today.
This one starts out believable and seemingly well-sourced, and Reuters is usually reputable. Apple has supposedly been in negotiations with EPIX to get streaming rights for films owned by Lionsgate, MGM, and Paramount. That part I believe. But...
B.S. detector reading: 7/10. Reuters (or its source) goes off the rails when it claims this content negotiation deal has something to do with Apple's long-rumored (but never seen outside an analyst's fever dreams) HDTV set. The source claims that while the major focus of the proposed deal was the Apple TV, it could also apply to "upcoming devices that stream content" -- which is where either Reuters or its source breaks out the Jump to Conclusions Mat and assumes that means an Apple HDTV.
Loads of people have assumed Apple will build an HDTV, citing "evidence" that ranges from mildly plausible to more ridiculously contrived than the Loch Ness Monster photos. Far fewer people have actually sat down and thought about how an HDTV would actually benefit Apple. We're talking about a big, heavy product that's expensive to make, expensive to ship, expensive to store, and has razor-thin profit margins. Plus, people don't replace their HDTVs every year, or even every few years.
No matter how "cool" people think an Apple-branded HDTV might be, I haven't seen one person make a convincing argument for how such a device could actually make Apple money. Until that happens, any whisper of an Apple HDTV in any rumor earns an automatic 7/10 reading from the B.S. detector.
Surprisingly, that was pretty much it for Apple product rumors this week. But the tea leaf reading doesn't stop at the stuff Apple builds, especially around the turn of the financial quarter. This week, the rumormongers mostly busied themselves with predicting Apple's unrivalled ascendancy or its impending doom -- sometimes both at the same time, as we'll see.
An analyst from Topeka Capital Markets ("World Famous... in Topeka!") claims Apple will hit a market cap of -- pinky to lip -- one trillion dollars sometime in 2013. For reference, as of this writing Apple's market cap stands at just under $564 billion.
B.S. detector reading: 8/10. Apple's past two financial quarters have been its best ever by several metrics, but over the past five months its market cap has grown by "only" $100 billion. For Apple to almost double its worth as a company over the next year or so would require financial performance that even Apple itself doesn't expect to turn in; the company's guidance for the next financial quarter was so conservative that analysts sounded more than a little bit freaked out during its last conference call.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Apple top the trillion dollar mark one of these years, but I'm not betting on 2013.
Forrester Research looked into its crystal ball and decided the iPad will rule the tablet market for at least the next four years. Supposedly 375 million tablets will be sold in 2016, and 199 million of those will be iPads.
B.S. detector reading: 10/10. Predicting what will happen in the tech sector is like predicting the weather. The farther out your forecast, the greater the probability you're just making it up as you go along. I don't trust my local weather forecast past 72 hours, and I definitely don't trust tech predictions beyond 12 months -- most of these guys are the same jokers who predicted the iPad would be an epic flop, after all.
While the iPad doesn't really have any credible competition now, who knows if that will stay true four or five years down the road? And another thing: can all the factories in China even crank out almost 200 million iPads in a single year? They're having enough trouble keeping up with current demand.
The biggest limiting factor on the iPad's success today is suppliers' ability to keep up with demand; that's why Apple "only" sold 12 million of them last quarter. Apple's going to need the equivalent of 5.5 more Foxconns to make 200 million iPads a year. I just hope that doesn't mean we end up with 5.5 more Mike Daiseys, too.
And now, for the dumbest Apple analysis of the week:
Apple = Sony (Forrester Research)
Forrester Research CEO George Colony trots out a familiar trope, that Apple is nothing without Jobs. Over the past few years this has become just as worn out and overused as any of the other deadly clichés analysts tend to substitute for rational thought whenever Apple's involved, but it's only gotten worse since last October. "Apple will decline in the post Steve Jobs era," Colony says. "Apple's momentum will carry it for 24-48 months."
B.S. detector reading: Off-scale high for several billion reasons. The first several billion reasons all have George Washington's face on them. These first two financial quarters following Steve Jobs's unfortunate passing have been the most successful in Apple's history. The only company that's ever turned in better performance than Apple's past two fiscal quarters is Exxon-Mobil, a company that sells a product which is the life's blood of modern civilization.
The world needs oil to function. It doesn't need iPhones or iPads, yet one of the biggest problems facing Apple today is it quite literally has more money than it knows what to do with. "Um, a stockholder dividend, I guess," is the best idea the company came up with (but still a better idea than "Buy Twitter").
Yet for some reason, guys like George Colony have no faith in Tim Cook or the rest of Apple's management team -- all of them, it must be said, hand-picked by Steve Jobs, and all of them running the company de facto over the past few years as Jobs struggled with his medical issues.
But here's the most astonishing part of George Colony's prediction of Apple's "decline": it contradicts his own company's research. Remember about eight paragraphs back, when we found out Forrester Research said the iPad would dominate the tablet market for the next five years? That in 2016, Apple would be selling almost six times as many iPads as it does today? Apparently Forrester Research's own CEO didn't bother to read that report, because he's claiming almost the exact opposite of what his company has "researched" regarding Apple's future performance.
If Forrester's own CEO doesn't take his company's research seriously, why should anyone else?
That's it for this week's rumors and "analysis" about the world's most successful corporation. The week ahead looks slow for real news, so it's a safe bet we'll be hearing lots more about the iPad mini, Apple HDTV, and more products every bit as mythical as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and "sources in the Asian supply chain."
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