Anders Brownworth and Horace Preview of Apples September 2014 special event. We focus on how Apparel gets disrupted. We also wrap the Creativity, Inc. book review.
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Dash just added Gmail widgets yesterday, and they’re already one of the more popular widgets on the site. By default they show your inbox, but you can also set them up with Gmail search phrases like “label:apple”. You can even combine search terms to produce results like “all email received in the last 12 hours containing the phrase ‘scoop’ and an attachment.”
The bank robber Willie Sutton did not say, when asked why he robbed banks, “because that’s where the money is.” He did agree with the idea however saying “Go where the money is…and go there often”.
Regardless of it being apocryphal, this idea came to be called Sutton’s Law and is often taught to medical students. It’s similar to the notion of Occam’s Razor: when an obvious or simple answer competes with an obscure or complicated answer, pick the obvious one first.
These are sound analytical rules of thumb. When thinking about what products and services could arise in the immediate future, those most obvious and with fewest assumptions should be put forward first. The what part is relatively easy. The tough question is more about when will they emerge?
We now know that Apple will announce new products on September 9th. This gives us an idea of when something will happen, answering the tougher question. It leaves the simpler question of what will emerge.
I put forward my predictions as follows:
- Regarding iPhone, a tweet on product mix and pricing.
- Regarding an “iWatch”, an answer to a question from Eric Jackson.
- Regarding the potential for wearables, a post on the subject.
One more item has surfaced on the potential of payments processing which I want to address now.
Handling payments, to me, is a perfectly plausible activity for Apple mostly because the company has made quite a few comments on the value of their “customers with credit cards” and the effort that went into Touch ID (which seems to be extravagant relative to the value of rapid unlocking).
But one word of caution: if Apple does enable payments it’s important to realize that being a (payment) bit pipe is not a particularly profitable business. It will undoubtedly bind value to the iOS devices which make it possible, but I don’t think there will be a direct capture of profit from the transactions themselves.Notes:
- I’ll be there and will report via Twitter and a special session of The Critical Path podcast [↩]
One of the paradoxes of the “post-industrial” era is the aversion to application of capital to growth opportunities. Generally speaking, capital has become trapped in bank accounts as opposed to equipment which could be used to produce value. This aversion is rooted in many dysfunctions, chief among them being the misunderstanding of the purpose of the firm.
But there are exceptions. Illustrated below are the patterns of spending in property plant and equipment (capital expenditures) by companies that still recognize that there are opportunities to be obtained by investment in the means of production.
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).
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).
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ABI Research estimates that AOSP (or forked Android) is the fastest growing mobile operating system with a total share of units shipped of about 20%. This is not surprising considering that most Chinese vendors don’t include standard Android into their products. Indeed the current leader in China, Xiaomi has its own take on Android and includes a unique UI and set of services. This is also not a new pattern, Amazon’s fork of Android has been in development for many years and powers the second most used tablet in the US.
If one looks at the volumes of smartphones shipped by vendor, the most rapidly growing (Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi, ZTE, Coolpad and “others”) are likely to be using forked versions of Android.
The reasons for this are many: a reluctance to deal with Google’s obligations, Microsoft’s IP licensing costs , potential litigation, politics (including bans on Google services in certain markets), etc. But the most likely reason is flexibility. Vendors competing on price and localization are looking to move quickly against each other and can’t wait for blessings from above. Belonging to some “Alliance” and all that it entails is just too much to ask for companies that are, so to say, delicate.Notes:
- which even Samsung seems to be eschewing [↩]
iTunes/Software/Services revenues grew at 12%. This was the second fastest segment growth last quarter, with the Mac growing at a slightly faster 13% rate. Apple mentioned in the quarterly earnings conference call the for the first nine months of its fiscal year (i.e. since September) the line item iTunes/Software/Services has been the fastest growing part of the business. The following graph shows the growth scorecard for Apple’s line items and it shows how the iTunes store is the only line that has been consistently green (growing above 10% for at least seven years.
In addition to its revenues, iTunes can also be measured in terms of billings (or gross revenues). The billings growth rate is even higher at more than 25%. This is mostly to the more rapid growth of apps relative to a decline in music. As Apple only records the 30% it keeps as “revenue” for apps the overall growth in apps is less visible in its accounts.
The relative performance of billings vs. reported revenues is shown in the following graphs:
IBM did not invent personal computing but their “PC” became synonymous with the category. Having entered the market in 1981, the IBM PC quickly became the top selling brand. From 1984 to 1993 IBM sold more PCs than any other vendor, conceding the spot to Compaq which remained on top only until 2000. No PC vendor remained at the top of the sales leagues longer than IBM. HP had the second longest run but that run was broken last year as Lenovo (who acquired IBM’s PC business) surged.
As the graph above shows, the period of time when IBM was dominant was characterized by far lower volumes. In 2004, the year IBM exited, they sold about 10 million units. ((as the graph shows, if we consider Lenovo as taking over from there, they did a very good job extending the legacy.)) It was a decent performance but one that did not keep up with the Dell and HP/Compaq race to the bottom in pricing and subsequent rise in volumes.
However, throughout its position of strength, IBM was a reluctant PC maker.
Will Sherlin writes:
Horace Dediu joins us for the 22nd episode of “The Innovation Engine” podcast to discuss innovation and the future of mobile – what the post-mobile world will look like; how Apple, Google, and others are shaping the mobile experience of the future; and the next frontiers of mobile after health and fitness.
In this episode of the podcast, Horace talks about why mobile and smartphones will no longer be thought of as synonymous in the very near future. He discusses how soon-to-be released products like Apple’s HealthKit and Google Fit, combined with the revolution in wearables, will continue to drive change in industries like health care and will put more power than ever in consumers’ hands.
Horace also shares his thoughts on “The Disruption Machine,” Jill Lepore’s New Yorker article that criticizes Clayton Christensen’s theory of disruptive innovation. While he believes there is some merit to the notion that disruption is overused, Horace says the article overlooks years of research and writing since that has helped refine Chrinstensen’s theories. He wrote a post for the Asymco site titled The Disruption FAQ in response to the article if you are interested in reading more of his thoughts on the matter.
Other highlights from the conversation include:
- What we learned about the Apple New Product Process, or ANPP, from Leander Kahney’s book Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products
- Some of the reasons why health care technology lags behind consumer technology, and why that means we are just beginning to scratch the surface of what will be possible in personal health care
- Other “white spaces” in the marketplace that Horace sees as ripe for disruptive innovation, including education and transportation
- Why Horace says software, not technology, is the thing with the power to truly transform industries