He may or may not have taken off his mock turtleneck, but Steve Jobs did make a special appearance at the fourth quarter 2010 conference call, taking questions but no prisoners, and probably saying a few things that made his subordinates wince. It was indeed wild.
Jobs began the Apple earnings conference call today by going on a tear against two of his biggest competitors, Google and RIM. Apple “handily beat RIM,” with 14.1 million iPhones sold last quarter, versus 12.1 million BlackBerry devices, and Jobs doesn’t “see them catching up.” According to Jobs, RIM must move from its “comfort zone” of the enterprise, and woo both the average consumer and developers, and it will be a “challenge.”
Regarding Google, Jobs once again challenged the search giant on Android sales data. Not only did he question the reliability of Google’s claim of activating 200,000 Android devices a day, but he also countered that in the last 30 days Apple was selling an average of 275,000 iOS devices, with a peak of 300,000.
Fragmented vs. Integrated Platforms
In terms of platform philosophy, Jobs went after Google for calling Android open and iOS closed, arguing the difference was between a fragmented and an integrated approach. He complained about “proprietary interfaces” added by companies like Motorola and HTC.
He contrasted iOS as a development platform with only two versions, with Android which has more than 100 on more than 200 handsets. Jobs contends that customers and developers want devices that “just work,” and he’s confident that his “integrated” platform will triumph over a “fragmented” one.
Jobs also took a shot at Nokia, saying Apple doesn’t “know how to make a great smartphone for $50.” Apple approaches product design from what’s best for the consumer, not necessarily what will sell the most, though Jobs pointed out that Apple did both with the iPod.
On tablets, Jobs adamantly defended the 10-inch form factor, arguing that a 7-inch screen just “isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps.” According to Jobs, “10 inches is the minimum size for a great tablet,” which notably does not rule out larger displays.
Jobs further argues that competitors can’t match Apple on pricing, have zero apps for their tablets, and may end up abandoning the 7-inch model next year, leaving customers with “orphaned product.” He summed up his thoughts on the tablet platform succinctly: “We’re out to win this one.”
Breaking with three years of tradition on refusing to report sales of the Apple TV, Steve Jobs announced Apple has sold 250,000 since the device went on sale at the beginning of the month. If those kinds of numbers persist, it’s hard to imagine Apple not introducing an App Store for the Apple TV.
Another high point in Jobs’ performance: When asked about his feeling on Flash, he replied, “Flash memory? We love flash memory.”
Here are some other highlights that aren’t quite as theatrical, but are impressive nonetheless:
- Macs are more than doubling the growth of the PC industry average of 22 percent thanks to strong iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro sales.
- Despite decreasing sales, the iPod continues to represent about 70 percent of the media player market in the U.S., and is the top-selling device internationally in most markets.
- The iPhone had a blowout quarter with more than 14.1 million units sold, up 92 percent year over year, compared to 64 percent for the industry average. It’s now available in 89 countries, and being piloted or deployed by 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies. While there’s still a “sizable backlog” of orders, supply/demand equilibrium is getting closer.
- The iPad is being met with “great enthusiasm” in 26 countries and 66 percent of Fortune 100 companies. Supply channel inventory is now 3 to 4 weeks, less than the 4 to 6 desired, but enough so that additional partners and countries can start to sell iPads.
- Sometime in September, the 125th million iOS device was sold, up from 100 million in June, meaning Apple is now tracking at 100 million iOS devices sold per year and growing.
- Retail saw nearly 75 million visitors, up from 50 million a year ago. 874,000 Macs were sold at 317 Apple Stores worldwide, “about half” to those new to the platform. The company plans to open between 40 and 50 new stores in 2011.
Finally, Apple has $50 billion in the bank, up $5 billion from last quarter. Rather than return the money to shareholders as dividends, Jobs said Apple plans to “keep our powder dry” for “one or two” possible strategic acquisitions in the future. Nintendo looks quite ripe, doesn’t it?
As conference calls go, this one was just about the best ever. Check out the audio for yourself if you don’t believe me.
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