It’s Going To Be A Very Apple-y Holiday Quarter

on November 22, 2012

Tightwads, Value Buyers and Spendthrifts

Oscar Wilde once said that cynics know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Similarly, tech pundits are often obsessed with price to the detriment of value. Despite all evidence to the contrary, pundits think that price is the number one consideration of consumers. In fact, some pundits seem to think that price is the ONLY consideration of consumers. But for most consumers, value is what matters most and price is only one component of that value.

There are three types of consumers: Tightwads, Value Buyers and Spendthrifts. There are two things you should know about these three types of consumers.

First, there are far more value buyers than there are of any other type.

Second, you not only want to ignore the tightwad customers, you want to actively avoid them. They’re a plague on your house.

Pundits seem to think that all consumers are tightwads and all of their analysis reflects that conviction. Smart companies know better.

Reality matters

Remember, reality matters. It doesn’t matter what the pundits think. It doesn’t matter what I think. It doesn’t matter what you think. What matters is what the market thinks. If our thoughts don’t reflect market realities, then we, not the market, are in the wrong.

Naysayers v. Reality

For the past month I’ve read and listened to every imaginable reason why Apple is going to fail. Well, Apple may fail eventually, but not this holiday quarter they won’t. Not by a long shot.

Here are a couple of miscellaneous reasons why I think Apple is just going to crush it this upcoming quarter

1) Mac Sales Continue to Grow

Sales of Mac hardware to U.S. businesses grew by 49.4 percent year over year in the September quarter, posting continued growth while PC sales shrank.

Charlie Wolf of Needham & Company highlighted Apple’s success in the enterprise as the “big story” regarding Mac sales in the September quarter. With PC sales to U.S. businesses declining 13.3 percent year over year, Apple had a 62.7 percentage point difference.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. No one thinks that Macs are important because they’re still such a minority player. But they’re not so niche as you think.

Overall, the Mac’s unit share of the U.S. business market was 9.3 percent in the September quarter. That was up from 5.9 percent of total sales in June, and 5.4 percent in September of 2011.

Apple had an even bigger share of revenue of PC sales to U.S. businesses, accounting for 17.4 percent. That was also up from an 11.5 percent share in June, and 10.7 percent share a year prior. ~ AppleInsider

Overall Mac sales may even shrink this quarter, but their overall importance in the Enterprise will grow. Remember, phones are already outselling Windows machines and tablets are rapidly headed that way too. (EDIT: NPD: Tablets to Outsell Laptops in Q4, Beyond.) Windows is not nearly as monolithic as people think. And Macs are not so nearly as unimportant or niche as people think either.

2) China

Apple’s iPad shipments for China nearly doubled in the third quarter after Apple settled a lengthy dispute over the iPad trademark name.

People forget that over 60% of Apple’s sales come from overseas and that Apple’s overseas sales numbers are rapidly growing. Yes, it will be a big holiday quarter for Apple in the Western world. But it will be a big quarter for Apple in the rest of the world too.

3) Nielson’s Most Wanted Gift Survey

Have you seen the Nielson most-wanted gifts survey? I mean seriously, it is out of sight. What do American kids aged 6 to 12 want this holiday season? Four out of the top five items on the list are made by Apple.

Let’s take a quick look at the top six items on the list:

48% want iPads
39% want Nintendo Wii U’s
36% want iPod Touches
36% want iPad Minis
33% want iPhones
31% want computers

Now there’s a couple of observations that I take from that list.

First, Apple continues to maintain high consumer mindshare. People think Apple first.

Second, Apple’s popularity is growing. Despite a plethora of competing tablet, smartphone and gaming devices, kid’s attraction to the Apple brand in general and iOS in particular has grown steadily over the past three years.

Third, the iPad Mini is fourth on the list. Yet I strongly suspect that an awful lot of parents are going to walk into an Apple store looking for iPads and iPod Touches and they’re going to end up walking out of that store with an iPad Mini.

Fourth, as an aside, that list ain’t good for Microsoft. Microsoft has lost an entire generation of users – kids who will be growing up using Apple products, not Microsoft products.

It’s Going To Be A Long Harsh Winter For Some Of Apple’s Competitors

Why PC manufacturers Should Fear Apple

The tipping point for tablets has come and gone.

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing articles arguing that tablets were the next big thing. It seems like just yesterday because it WAS just yesterday.

But suddenly, it feels like that battle is over and and done with. If you look through the Nielson survey for whatever age, you see that tablets dominate. Not only are Apple tablets popular, non-Apple devices are on the rise too. Yesterday I was arguing with people who insisted that the tablet was a toy or a fad. As is usual with new ideas, we’ve suddenly moved from the “that will never happen” phase to the “of course that happened and I knew it would all along” phase. True, not everyone is convinced but for the most part the naysayers have learned to remain silent lest they be thought of as quaint, at best, or out-of-touch with reality, at worst.

The age of the tablets is upon us – (just as we all knew it would be, all along.)

Why Microsoft Should Fear Apple

Yesterday, Ben Bajarin wrote an excellent article entitled: “Why Competitors Should Fear the iPad Mini“. A couple of his key takeaways were that families expected to own more than one iPad Mini, that with an iPad Mini consumers feel they pay more but they get more and that “the tablet is taking the place in the hearts of many consumers as the new personal computer.” He couldn’t be more right.

The final word on Microsoft’s tablet efforts has not yet been written, but the preliminary reports do not look good. Not only has Microsoft missed a generation of phone users but now they are missing a generation of tablet users too.

PC sales continue to decline and there are reports that a staggering 42% of Windows users say that they plan to buy an Apple product – either a Mac or an iPad – rather than a Window’s 8 device. I take such claims with a huge grain of salt, but as I said in my article: “Windows 8′s Greatest Sin“, consumer’s now have choices that they didn’t have before. Microsoft is making their long-standing customers choose between Windows 8 and other options. And many are choosing to opt out.

Why Google and Amazon Should Fear Apple

Apple may dominate tablet sales, but there are going to be a ton of Google Nexus 7’s, Amazon Kindle Fire’s and even Barnes & Noble Nook tablets sold this holiday quarter. But the people buying those tablets are buying media tablets that run stretched phone apps. The people who are buying the iPad and the iPad Mini are buying a tablet that runs tablet apps and that can also act as a Media tablet. That’s my opinion. But I think that’s also the opinion of the market and I think we’re going to see that opinion expressed in hard sales numbers come this January.

Remember, there are three types of consumers: tightwads, value buyers and spendthrifts. Tightwads are going to be drawn to the Amazon Kindle and the Nexus 7 because of their subsidized prices. The Nook, at least, is trying to make money on the sale of its hardware. Kindle Fire’s and Nexus 7’s sales are empty sales. Neither Amazon nor Google makes a penny of profit until they sell additional goods, services or advertising. And their chances of doing that when selling to tightwads is not good. Not good at all.

You Can Hang Your Hat On It

I actually think Apple’s margins may be lower this quarter. They’ve introduced, re-newed or refreshed almost their entire line and some of their products – the iPad Mini in particular – will make them less than normal margins. But Apple’s margins are absurdly high to begin with. And since many of Apple’s products are supply constrained, the high margins truly reflect the high value that consumer’s place in Apple’s products.

The last time I paid attention to such things, Apple – a hardware seller – had higher margins than Microsoft – a software seller. That just shouldn’t happen. And in any case, I can guarantee you that Apple’s less than usual hardware margins are going to be far, far, greater than the virtually non-existant hardware margins of either Google or Amazon.

The future is uncertain and predictions are always perilous. But if Apple doesn’t have a banner quarter, I’ll eat my hat. Then I’ll go out, buy another hat, and eat that one too.

It’s going to be a very Apple-y holiday quarter. You can hang your hat on it.