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Apple Conference Call: Steve Jobs Goes Wild

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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 (s appl) earnings conference call today by going on a tear against two of his biggest competitors, Google (s goog) and RIM (s rimm). 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 (s mot) 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.

Quality Control

Jobs also took a shot at Nokia (s nok), 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.”

Apple TV

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.

Everything Else

Another high point in Jobs’ performance: When asked about his feeling on Flash (s adbe), 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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21 Responses to “Apple Conference Call: Steve Jobs Goes Wild”

  1. It blows my mind that no one pointed out that he said “when people think of open they think of windows”.
    Its fairly obvious that steve jobs is trying to redefine “open” from “open source”.
    Probably because he has hurt and stole so much from open source developers. From cupps, to khtml to bsd and even the mach kernel.
    While accusing of oem’s of putting a proprietary ui on top of android. OSX (and by proxy, ios) put proprietary api’s and ui’s cocoa and aqua on top of an open source operating system and calling OSX.
    He is probably playing on the non-tech’s ignorance but I can’t help but see it as “calling the kettle black” situation

    • As a guy who’s been passionate about both Open Source and Macs for decades, that threw me the first time I read it, too.

      But having done work in accessibility, user support and training, I see what he’s getting at. “Open” was an uncharacteristically poor choice of words for talking about Windows; what he clearly meant was “consistent; broadly meeting user expectations via a de facto standard.” Of course, that takes a lot more syllables than “open.”

      And he’s right, really. What IS the Android UI? My best friend has an HTC Desire that he’s very happy with because of the unique, proprietary HTC interface on top of quite-decent hardware. He doesn’t have the same UX as another friend who’s got a Droid X, even though they’re running the same (base) OS.

      Meanwhile, we’re getting ready to replace an iPhone 3 and second-gen iTouch with new iPhone 4s… and don’t expect any really major surprises on the UX front. New features? Sure; that implies an enhanced UX. But Apple will lose a ton of customers if they ever break their UX to the point where what people already know how to do doesn’t work anymore and/or isn’t intuitively obvious based on what they already know.

      That’s the irony of being Apple now. Everybody (rightfully) bashes Microsoft for their backward-compatibility fetish in spite of all the real problems that come from the way they maintain that compatibility. In reality, Apple customers — both on the Mac and in iOS — have quite firm expectations on BC. The difference is that Apple have encouraged those by maintaining compatibility as well as they have while still moving the platform forward regularly and extensively. If MS had the same track record, we would all be using Windows — and it would be a modern, secure, stable OS, not the hypersonic train wreck it is today.

      A lot of the negative reaction to Jobs’ “open” comment comes from developers who see it as a religious issue, not from people who actually have to bring (hopefully) paying customers along for the ride. The important definition of “open” changes real fast once you step into that latter pair of shoes.

  2. Buy RapidWeaver and replace IWeb with it.

    It is a smart move. Better meta tags and SEO means higher placement on Google search for Apple pages and ads. Bling, Bling! They could buy RealMac for peanuts.

    Also, buy SDRSoft for IPhotos.

  3. I actually emailed this to Steve Jobs as a suggestion, this morning. I’d be astounded if it happened; but, it makes more sense than any of the other suggestions. Especially since he recognizes the growing process of convergence.

    Apple should buy DirecTV. 26 million subscribers in the US, Mexico, Latin America. Immediate access to all the major channels and beaucoup others. Rights for all of them: sports, movies, series, specials.

    John Malone bought out Murdoch’s 39% share for ~$11 Billion. For Apple, it’s affordable.

    AppleTV becomes part of the DVR set-top boxes as well as standalone.

  4. Oh my God!!! The man is wilder than wild, super wild, the wildest of the wild. Reading the first lines of what he said, my first impression was he must be scared of Android to fire at them that wildly. But going through more, I just started to think the obvious: The man is confident!!! This is a guy who learned all the lessons of his major failure of the 80’s. The guy is back on top, executing like crazy, blowing out estimates quarter after quarter, on his way to extend his domination. He just pushed his company to their first 20 billions quarter. More to come… Yep, he had all the reason in the world to blaze the competition.

    • It’s the full-circle-crazy fantasy that just won’t die, but it would finally get Apple into the living room, and a combination Wii/Apple TV would be awesome.

      However, the point is what strategic acquisition would be worth $50 billion, or a part that? AMD for $5 billion? Adobe for $15 billion? Netflix for $8 billion?

  5. Leska Emerald Adams

    Listened, Steve is awesome, on a very articulate brilliant roll! Very enthusiastic, precise, well thought out, clear as a bell. What a Titan! All cylinders firing like a rocket!