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iOS v. Windows and Immunity to Disruption

The pattern of Mac growth exceeding Windows PC growth (and overall PC growth which includes the Mac) is old news. It has been observed for at least 40 of the last 42 quarters.

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It’s a historically interesting contest, but the story of computing has moved on.  Starting with building computing, via floor computing, office computing and then to desktop computing and portable computing we are now in the era of mobile computing.[1]. The problem with observing mobility in general is that there are too many mobile computing options. Phones have a wide range of capabilities, tablets and various other form factors are positioned on differing jobs-to-be-done. Platforms and services are also scattered around jobs which have been carved from fixed computing or have been established with no fixed precedent.

So can we pinpoint with any accuracy the moment when the tipping point has been reached? We could point to all mobile phone shipments, or even the vaguely-defined smartphone shipments compared to all PC shipments. We could look at tablets alone. If we could get accurate measurements.

One measurement could be to look at operating systems alone. When comparing iOS shipments (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) to Windows we can see that combined iOS shipments exceed all Windows PC shipments for all three previous quarters.

  1. And as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow we will move beyond mobile computing []

How many iOS devices will Apple Ship in the next six months?

Of the $42.5 billion Apple spend buying capital assets[1] more than half was acquired in the last three years. Net of depreciation these assets are currently worth $20.1 billion and the spending rate is about $12 billion per year.

This strategy of spending on capital assets is primarily in support of its particularly integrated approach to its product strategy. The purchasing of tooling for product manufacturing gives many benefits, including ability to deliver uniquely differentiated hardware, a predictable ramp and availability of parts throughout the product lifecycle.

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One additional benefit (for us) is that we get to inspect the allocation of resources prior to production and therefore we can more easily forecast the product’s supply. Spending on tooling happens in advance of production and the company also provides full year predictions of its spending.

The fiscal year forecasts relative to actual spending is shown below. Note the correlation with iOS units shipped one quarter after the spending was booked.

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After reporting its second quarterly earnings, we received an update on what amount to half of the full year’s spending giving us only two more quarters of variability. The current projections for the next two quarters imply about $2.8 billion per quarter spending.

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The pattern from previous years is shown below for comparison. Note the Even/Odd year patterns.

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The company also offered revenue guidance for FQ3 and therefore we can even make an educated guess on the next data point (57 million iOS devices) on the following graph:



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The result is likely to be 120 million shipped between April and September.

It’s remarkably predictable.


  1. Includes land and buildings $5.6b, Machinery, equipment and internal-use software $32.1b and Leasehold Improvements $4.7b []

How many iOS devices did/will Apple ship?

Last August I wrote:

It’s therefore reasonable to assume that calendar 2014 will see at least 250 million iOS devices sold

The actual figure was 259.5 million.

Looking ahead, the capital spending pattern so far shows a distinct rise heading into Q1.

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This could be partly due to the new campus, the new Watch production ramp and perhaps new iPad models.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 7.33.27 PMNevertheless, I think it’s safe to predict that the company is on track to ship 310 to 320 million iOS devices in 2015.

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How many iOS devices will be produced in 2015?

12 months ago I asked How many iOS devices will be produced in the next 12 months?

Based on the analysis of Capital Expenditures (as forecast by Apple in their annual 10K report) I concluded “iOS unit shipments should be between 250 million and 285 million.”

The answer turned out to be 247 million.[1] Including Apple TV the total would probably be around 251 million.

Since last year, I adjusted my model by observing corresponding iOS unit shipments for the calendar year corresponding to each fiscal year. Since the calendar year is offset by one quarter (FQ1 = CQ4) looking at calendar year means looking forward one quarter post-spending. I believe this is more accurate as spending generally happens in advance of production.

The resulting pattern is shown below:

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 2.39.35 PM

  1. Including an iPod touch estimate of 9.5 million []

Best guess for how many iOS devices will ship in 2014

In October 2013, at the end of its last fiscal quarter, Apple stated:

The Company’s capital expenditures were $7.0 billion during 2013, consisting of $499 million for retail store facilities and $6.5 billion for other capital expenditures, including product tooling and manufacturing process equipment, and other corporate facilities and infrastructure. The Company’s actual cash payments for capital expenditures during 2013 were $8.2 billion.

The Company anticipates utilizing approximately $11.0 billion for capital expenditures during 2014, including approximately $550 million for retail store facilities and approximately $10.5 billion for other capital expenditures, including product tooling and manufacturing process equipment, and corporate facilities and infrastructure, including information systems hardware, software and enhancements.

These 10K (fiscal year annual) forecast figures for capital expenditures are shown in the following graph. Note that they also include the fiscal years from 2006 to 2012. Note also that the graph includes the actual expenditures (in green).

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From 2006 through 2013 the sum of the forecasts was $23.445 billion while the sum of the expenditures were $24.662 billion. With the exception of a carry-forward in 2012, the forecasts are broadly in-line with expenditures, with about 5% more spent than forecast.

This pattern of accuracy in spending makes a $10.5 billion expenditure during the current fiscal year believable. In other words, taking the forecast at face value, and given that three quarters of the fiscal year have already passed, what does it imply for the current and last quarter? The following graph shows what Q3 spending should be relative to previous quarters (and 2011, 2012 and 2013).

When will there be one billion iOS devices in use?

iOS unit sales crossed over 700 million units last month. That is a significant milestone but the total number of units in use is likely to be lower. My estimate based on device replacement assumptions is that about 500 million are still in use.

The estimated break-down of units sold and in use by device type is shown below:

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 11-25-2.59.59 PM

How many iOS devices will be produced in the next 12 months?

Apple’s capital expenditures for product tooling, manufacturing process equipment, corporate facilities and infrastructure has followed very closely their production of iOS devices. The pattern is shown in the graph below.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 10-30-2.12.28 PM

Note that although reported expenditures did not match forecasts for 2012 and 2013, the differences nearly cancel each other.[1] The company’s forecast for fiscal 2014 is shown as well.

The orange line shows iOS unit production[2] with the scale on the right-side axis. Note the correlation with forecasts on CapEx. The relationship can be seen more clearly in the following scatter plot.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 10-30-2.33.26 PM

I added the 2014 Forecast ($10.5 billion from the latest 10-K filing). If the relationship holds into next year then the iOS unit shipments should be between 250 million and 285 million.[3].

  1. I suspect that the difference might be caused by a payment being brought forward in 2012. []
  2. Technically, shipments []
  3. The equation for the trend line shown suggests 285,908,000 units []

Measuring the latest iOS accessory market

One of the most startling announcements during the WWDC 2013 was iOS in the car. The mockup that was shown seems to indicate the use of the car’s in-dash display as an “external monitor” for an iOS device while control would come from inputs using Siri.

The technical details were not released so it’s hard to know the protocol used to accommodate this interface. However it seems that it will be generic enough that a number of launch brands signed up for the launch. The list includes Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Ferrari, Chevy, Infiniti, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Acura, Opel and Jaguar.

Is this a significant opportunity?

Before we get excited, it’s important to note that this will likely take a very long time. It won’t even begin until 2014 and the number of new models may trickle into showrooms quite slowly. Consider that the time it took for automakers to universally support external audio input (mostly the trivial line-in) was about a decade.


To also curb our enthusiasm we need to realize that the car industry does not produce many units. In 2012 there were over 60 million cars produced (with the following regional mix:)

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In contrast, 60 million is about the number of phones sold every two weeks. In 2013 there will be more iPads sold than cars.

In particular the companies mentioned had the following production figures in 2011:

Reasons for iOS outperformance in the US

The comScore mobiLens survey for the US ending February 2013 shows continuing rapid expansion of smartphone usage in the US. Even though the 50% penetration threshold was passed seven months earlier, the rate of new smartphone users was second highest ever recorded with over 1 million new-to-smartphones users every week during February.

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Overall penetration increased to 57% with nearly 2% of the population switching in one month. Using the average growth rate for the last six periods, the US could see 80% penetration in another 19 months or by Q3/Q4 2014.