Category Market


Apple’s new watches are priced in a pattern unlike any of the previous pricing models for Apple products.

Previous pricing models for iPhone, iPad, Mac and iPod were typically structured around storage differences. The higher the storage, the higher the price. The Mac had a slight variation where processor and graphics offered some additional configuration options. To illustrate, the graph below shows typical price bands for the iPhone (2011 and 2012)

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.51.16 AMIn contrast, the watches are differentiated by size, materials and bands. There are also a total of 38 watch configurations available at launch (SKUs) and another 38 bands that can be purchased separately.

The bands come in four price points and the watches in 15. Of these 15 watch prices, four are dramatically different. The pricing of the watches is shown in the two graphs below (with and without the Edition).

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.03.19 PM

The Analyst’s Guide to Apple Category Entry

Understanding Apple’s intentions seems to be a popular parlor game and there are many attempts at divining intention from data and market study. These attempts at market research for answers are futile because Apple does not compete in existing markets but rather it creates new markets. For instance, the market for the Apple II could not have been assessed from research into the computing market of 1974. The intention for Apple to enter into music devices and services could not have been predicted through an analysis of MP3 player market in 2000. The iPhone was also not predicated on the market for “Internet Communicators” in 2006 or 2002 when the iPad was first contemplated.[1]

Instead of measuring the size of pre-existing markets, surveying the functionality of existing products, or weighing toxically financialized ratios like margins and market shares, I recall this ad (Our Signature, first seen at 2013 WWDC):

This is it
This is what matters

The experience of a product
How it will make someone feel
Will it make life better?
Does it deserve to exist?

We spend a lot of time on a few great things
Until every idea we touch
Enhances each life it touches

You may rarely look at it
But you will always feel it
This is our signature
And it means everything

My interpretation of these lines, coupled with additional public statements can be used to create a “litmus test” for new product categories:

1. The experience of a product. Read: They will work on things to which they can make a meaningful contribution. To me this means that they will build things which require an integrated approach. As Apple is “the last integrated company standing” it means they will work on problems where the system is not good enough. This means that they will not work on problems where an individual modular component is not good enough. By system I mean, in the largest sense: production, design, distribution, sales, support and services must work in a seamless way. Systems analysis implies a broad understanding of the causes of insufficient performance along the dimensions of “experience”. The experiences are what differentiate the products (and lead to high margins) and these experiences are possible only through the control of interdependent modules.

2. Does it deserve to exist? Read: They will work on very few things. They will say no to many things. It’s still true that all of Apple’s products can fit on one table. That may not be true forever, but their product space will not grow as quickly as sales grow. This means that there is no notion of “marginal value” or portfolio theory where products are added because they can be justified as “moving the needle” or balancing demand. Rather, the few things which will be worked on will address non-consumption. Non-consumption of experiences.

3. Enhance life. Read: The things they release are inevitable even though nobody asked for them. The reason this is possible is that there are unmet and unidentified “jobs to be done” which are powerful sources of demand and whose satisfaction leads to unforeseen rewards. The problems that can be addressed are uncovered through a process of conversation with a few people. They are not uncovered through surveys or large n statistical studies. Without the ability to ask the right questions, big data only leads to big misdirection. In contrast, good taste in questions allows small n to lead to big insight. Apple’s ability for finding the right problem to solve comes from this greatness of taste in questions.

So given this litmus test, will Apple build a Car?

I believe the problem of transportation and its proxy, the automobile, provide all the requisite demand for Apple’s attention. Technical questions abound and they may still prove unsurmountable before a launch happens, but there are no doubts in my mind that this is a problem Apple would see fit to address.

Non-consumption of unmet and unarticulated jobs to be done can and should be addressed with systems solutions and new experiences.

The poetry is pretty clear on the matter.


  1. The market for phones was large but the iPhone pricing and features made it incompatible with any reasonable segment of it. []

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 7.33.14 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-08 at 7.35.30 PM


Retail in 2020

This year’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday data from IBM shows a continuing pattern of growth for mobile devices. As the graph below shows, in the five years since 2010 mobile devices grew from 5% of the online shopping traffic to 50%.  Traditional computing (desktop and laptop) made up the difference.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 10.34.30 AM

The graph also shows that sales value via mobile devices crossed over 25% of online spending. The fact that mobile shopping is not equal to mobile spending is due to the convenience factor of mobile. It’s more likely that users will spend idle time scanning for bargains or tracking down ideas from friends but wait until they are at home to make the final purchase decisions in front of a computer.

The transition to spending directly from a device is a slower process, but that process was also one that online had to undertake as buyers became comfortable with online commerce. When it comes to payment, buyers are understandably more cautious.

This does not change the prediction made last year that “the transition to post-PC consumption will also be practically completed by 2020”. That leaves six years for mobile saturation and a total transition time of one decade.

At that point I expect 90% of browsing and perhaps 75% of spending to be happening on devices. Some of this will undoubtedly be enabled by biometric authentication as shown by Apple Pay. Trust and ease of use in this technology will undoubtedly accelerate the transition making mobile payments more comfortable and secure than on the legacy computer.

What is less predictable is how much those devices will also be used to transact payments for the physical retail stores. In some scenarios it’s possible that by 2020 a majority of all shopping will be enabled by devices.[1] That would subjugate the retail segment to the power politics of mobile platforms.

It is interesting therefore to note the mix between the platforms in the graphs above.

  1. There is also the matter of in-store discovery and advertising via NFC and bluetooth i.e. iBeacon []

How big is iCloud?

Apple has declared that what used to be “Other Music Related Products and Services”[1] plus “Software, Service and Other Sales”[2] which was formerly known as “iTunes/Software/Services”[3] is about to become “Services”.

“We’ll also have a category that we refer to as services and this will encompass everything we report under the heading of iTunes software and services today including content, apps, licensing and other services and beginning this month it will also include Apple Pay.”

“Services” will therefore encompass a massive amount of revenue. The reported revenues for the fiscal 2014 were $18 billion. Including all billings, the turnover in sales is over $28 billion. For next year, assuming that Apple Pay, which is just getting started, is unlikely to contribute greatly to revenues, Services turnover will top over $35 billion. That figure would make Apple Services alone one of the top 90 companies in the Fortune 500.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 5.11.47 PM

Regardless, as a component of overall sales, the group formerly known as iTunes/Software/Services (shown in red above) was a modest 7% of total sales in the last quarter. Using all available information regarding downloads, payouts and reported financials, an estimate can be obtained on how this 7% is itself divisible into nine sub-segments:

  1. Includes revenue from sales from the iTunes Store, App Store and iBookstore in addition to sales of iPod services and Apple-branded and third-party iPod accessories. []
  2. Includes revenue from sales of Apple-branded and third-party Mac software, and services. []
  3. Includes revenue from sales on the iTunes Store, the App Store, the Mac App Store, and the iBooks Store, and revenue from sales of AppleCare, licensing and other services []

Measuring the Apple Watch opportunity

When the Apple Watch was launched, all eyes turned to the Swiss watch industry. Analysts measured it and asked if it’s big enough to be interesting. Industry observers questioned the competitiveness of an entrant vis-à-vis the ancien régime. Marketers weighed in with segmentation hypotheses and how Apple’s queer new device might best fit.

These are all mistakes in analysis.

The market for Apple Watch is not the Swiss (or Chinese) watch market. The market for Apple Watch is the number of wrists in the world. To the extent that those wrists will be covered with Apple hardware will determine whether it is successful or not.

Measuring the existing market is a mistake because the existing products are hired for different jobs. Those measurements will yield only an answer to how big that job is.

Assessing competitiveness vs. incumbents is a mistake because incumbents have perfected solving the problems of wrist-worn timekeeping devices over a century. Apple’s watch is not a wrist-worn timekeeping device any more than the iPhone is a phone or the iPad is a pad.

Segmenting the market by whatever means are convenient today is irrelevant because the segments are currently positioned on the current jobs to be done. It’s no more relevant than classifying the iPhone along the segments defined for phones in 2007.[1]

Some have tried to wedge the Apple Watch among the “fitness tracker” market. This is no more plausible given that fitness tracking is no more interesting than timekeeping is to Watch.

The best way to measure the opportunity is to quantify the “wrist-space-time” continuum and deciding what is and what isn’t addressable. The wrist is an interesting place to put a computer and Apple makes computers. The rest is left as an exercise to the reader.

  1. e.g. keyboard phones, flip phones, and feature phones []

iPhone Launch Patterns

When the iPhone 4S launched, one million units were pre-ordered and 4 million units were sold during its opening weekend. That made the daily rate during the 4S weekend 1.3 million units/day or one third faster than the pre-order rate of 1 million units/day.

When the iPhone 5 launched, 2 million were pre-ordered and “over” 5 million were sold during during the opening weekend. That made the daily rate during the  launch weekend about 1.7 million which was about 15% slower than the pre-order rate. However, a few months later the 5 launched in China setting an opening rate of 2 million in three days or about 666k/day. Adding China’s rate to the Rest of World rate yields about 2.4 million/day or about 20% faster than the pre-order rate.

When the iPhone 6/6Plus launched, 4 million were pre-ordered and 10 million were sold during the opening weekend. That made a daily rate during the launch weekend about 3.3 million, again lower than the 4 million/day in pre-orders. However, just like the 5, the 6 launch excluded China. If we assume that a China launch would have run 30% faster than the 5 launch[1] then my estimate of launch performance for the iPhone range is shown in the graph below:

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.35.01 PM

I included in the graph the various other launch volume data we have available.

I also included lines showing how pre-order volumes relate to weekend values for the products where we know both.

It therefore does not seem improbable that had China been available (and at the time when it will be) the iPhone launch weekend rate for the 6/6Plus combo would have been about 4 million/day. A rate consistent with the history for the product.

  1. Considering that this year China distribution includes China Mobile a 30% increase from two years ago is, in my opinion, conservative []


When the iPhone launched, Steve Jobs introduced it as being three products in one:

  • A wide-screen iPod
  • A phone
  • A breakthrough internet communicator

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 2.40.54 PM


When the Apple Watch launched, Tim Cook introduced it as being three things:

  • A precise timepiece
  • A new, intimate way to communicate
  • A comprehensive health and fitness device.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 2.37.52 PM

Going where the money is

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[1]. 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.

  1. I’ll be there and will report via Twitter and a special session of The Critical Path podcast []

How big is Apple’s Ecosystem?

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.

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 8.58.53 PM

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: