February 2013
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Month February 2013

Measuring the iBook market

In June of 2011 Apple announced that 130 million ebooks were sold through iTunes. In October of 2012 it announced that 400 million sold.

That means 270 million ebooks were sold in 16 months. Or about 17 million units per month, on average. It also suggests 2012 ebook sales of about 200 million units.[1] The following graph shows the download rate of books relative to apps and songs:

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 2-28-3.09.25 PM

The download rate looks paltry but we need to remember that Apps have a very low average selling price (about 23 cents including in-app purchases) and that Songs are probably priced around $1.1 on average. In contrast each ebook could be generating about $10 per download.

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LG's new Tele-vision

LG Electronics has acquired HP’s WebOS for an undisclosed amount. When last it changed hands WebOS was part of Palm which was purchased for $1.2 billion in 2010.

Palm has thus been effectively divided into several smaller pieces distributed as follows:

HP will own:

  • Support of existing Palm users
  • Palm back-end assets including source code, infrastructure and talent
  • webOS patents

LG will own:

  • Stewardship of the Open WebOS and Enyo open-source projects where the source code resides
  • Associated talent
  • WebOS websites
  • License for IP related to webOS

LG announced that it plans to offer an “intuitive user experience an Internet services across a range of consumer electronics devices.” In an interview, the CTO of LG said that given the current situation with Android, LG does not plan on making smartphones running webOS but will use it in televisions and other devices such as cars, signage and appliances where there are no embedded OS’s. “We’d like to secure a software platform across all devices.”

The iTunes Value Structure

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) reported that global digital revenues were $5.6 billion in 2012. This represented about 9% growth from 2011 and accounted for 34% of total industry revenues[1].

Apple regularly reports iTunes as a separate revenue item and occasionally it also reports payments data for developers and app download rates. By interpolating the data published and combining it with some assumptions it’s possible to estimate the mix of revenues (and costs) associated with iTunes.

My yearly estimates are summarized below.

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 2-26-6.04.23 PM

Note that I also included historic digital music industry revenues (as a line). I also included the following summary items:

Panel Discussion with Horace Dediu, Devin Hunt, and Marko Taipale @Tampere Goes Agile 2012

Building the right thing.

Why do some companies seem to be able to build products that fit their customers’ needs exactly while some do not? How to build a company that builds the right thing?


5by5 | The Critical Path #74: Pixelated

On the disruption of console video games and the signals sent by Google with their very own Chromebook.

via 5by5 | The Critical Path #74: Pixelated.

My interview at iCON Prague with Digit.cz

This was fun.

You can see the original description and download links here.


Apple's International Retail Strategy

In 2012 Apple opened 41 stores. The total is the second highest yearly opening rate since the stores first began operating. The highest total was in 2008 when 47 stores opened.

Although it is a healthy total, the surprising story about retail is that stores are not being opened as quickly as Apple’s sales and reach are growing. The following graph shows the yearly opening rate.

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 2-25-6.28.22 PM

The line in the graph above shows the change net sales since 2006 (right scale).

The store opening rate has been around 40/yr. during the last five years, up from 30/yr. during first seven but a 33% growth rate it’s still a frustratingly slow rate of growth. Consider that during 2007 when Apple opened 34 stores, Apple’s net sales were growing at the rate of $7 billion/yr and that in 2012 when it opened 41 stores sales grew about $37 billion or more than 5 times faster.

Although performance for the stores has improved (i.e. the sales per store went up), sales outside of their own retail channel are now a far higher portion of total. 2007 retail revenues were $4.7 billion or 17% while 2012 were $19.1 billion or 12%. You can see the mix by region in the following graph:

Bits v. Bytes: Follow the money

Google announced its first computing product: the Pixel. It’s not the first Chromebook but it is the first device which is uniquely branded as a Google product (Motorola notwithstanding.)

It’s a curious choice given that companies which have “crossed-over” from being service or software oriented to hardware have started with more “mobile” devices. Amazon launched the Kindle as a low-end product and gradually moved it up-market. Microsoft launched with the Surface tablet and then followed with the Pro version as a hybrid laptop/tablet.

It’s also curious since Google has spent years contributing to the development of mobile phones and tablets under the Nexus sub-brand. This was an approach consistent with earlier Chromebooks as well.

But the Pixel is a high-end product. It’s priced at the top of the range of what a laptop computer might cost (given the dimensions).  Perhaps it’s part of a pattern where Google will hone its hardware skills toward releasing a phone or tablet it can call its own. Starting with a more traditional computer is “easier” than trying to deliver on the more demanding smaller form factors.

And yet, the more obvious question is why would Google want to be in the hardware business? Isn’t being a web-focused company implicitly suggesting that hardware is a commodity to be farmed off to perpetually impoverished and violently abused OEMs?

The truth is quite different from this. Samsung currently makes far more operating profit from Android phones than Google does from all its operations. Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 2-22-3.47.58 PM

When looking at the patterns of sales and profit capture for hardware vendors since 2007 the contrast is stark:

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