James Allworth, Harvard Business School Forum for Growth and Innovation fellow and co-author of How Will You Measure Your Life joins Horace for an in-depth discussion of the vulnerability of Apple to low-end disruption. Specifically, assuming the iPhone reaches a point of over-service, did Apple arm its suppliers with the means to create its replacement? We dip into case studies of Dell, HP, HTC and Microsoft and touch on how iPod escaped this fate.
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Tim Cook is quoted as having said the inventory is not only evil but that it’s fundamentally evil.
With just-in-time production inventory can be reduced, at least work-in-progress inventory. Unfortunately inventory cannot be completely eliminated. The fact remains that you sometimes need to stockpile product for launch and need to have some on hand depending which way it’s sold. There is also substantial channel inventory (which is off Apple’s books but still evil) that needs to be in the hands of distributors.
Tight inventory management has become a characteristic of Apple and that contributes to getting ranked number one in Supply Chain Management. So we can expect that Apple runs a tight ship. In fact we have evidence of this through the ability to track our purchases from when they ship out of a factory in China all the way to our homes.
This tracking in itself shows that when product is in high demand production is initiated on direct consumer orders not just in response to maintaining a level of inventory. So with that in mind, we can revisit the question of how many iPhones 5 the company has produced.
First, we need to step back and recall the method for analyzing production. I built a model which attempts to show what a typical production run for an iPhone model would look like. I first published the process in early 2011. It used the historic data from iPhone 1, 3G and 3GS to try to predict iPhone 4 production. I’ve updated the model to show what that would look like today.
The assumptions driving the model are:
When Apple announced five million iPhone 5 were sold to end users over its launch weekend, I was surprised. Not because my guess had been around 6 million, but because the company had set expectations by announcing a doubling of pre-orders from the year-ago 4S launch.
Instead of doubling its performance for the launch weekend the company only sold 25% more units. How can there be this discrepancy? Is this a sign that demand is not growing at the rate we’ve become accustomed to? Is it a sign that there are shortages of components or labor or other production problems?
No, probably none of the above.
What we saw in the 5 million figure is what the company was able to deliver in the hands of buyers. It’s possible that there were people who did not get a phone when they wanted it, and at the same time it’s possible that some phones were available for sale and did not get bought.
This is because Apple offers the product through multiple channels. Some channels like Apple Stores may have gotten too many units while other channels like their on-line store, operator stores or retail partners did not get enough.
In other words, we have a situation of over- and under-supply (or over- and under-demand) simultaneously because the product is misallocated.
Can this really happen?
Horace and Moisés discuss the early consumer response to iOS 6 (Maps in particular), and how people appear to greatly prefer native apps to their web app counterparts. They also dig into just how large an opportunity cost Apple is capable of absorbing in the interest of protecting their platform. In doing so, they examine the native app vs. HTML5 debate.