Small-but-im­por­tant de­tails from Ap­ple’s re­sults

Dan Moren re­veals the news that caught his eye

Macworld - - CONTENTS -

Ap­ple’s quar­terly fi­nan­cial calls are usu­ally a time for big num­bers: record rev­enue, bil­lions in in­come, mil­lions of iPhones sold, and so on. But what I al­ways find more in­ter­est­ing are the tit­bits that make their way through, like tiny row­boats at risk of be­ing crushed by the mon­strous rocks that are Ap­ple’s block­buster fi­nan­cial re­sults.

This quar­ter was no dif­fer­ent. There were more than a few bread­crumbs dropped by Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook in-be­tween field­ing ques­tions about gross mar­gins and talk­ing about tar­iffs, some of which zipped by so fast that they were all too easy to miss.

I’ve picked out two that perked up my ears, along with the larger sig­nif­i­cance that I think they im­port.

There’s some­thing in the Air(Pods)

The early days of the AirPods were fraught with scarcity is­sues. The ship date for the head­phones were de­layed, and even once they were avail­able, the roll out was grad­ual. But most ev­ery­body who ac­tu­ally man­aged to get their hands on them agreed that Ap­ple’s wire­less ear­buds were pretty fan­tas­tic.

Now, a year and a half since the de­vice’s launch, the pop­u­lar­ity of the de­vices hasn’t slowed down.

As CFO Luca Maestri pointed out dur­ing the call, the com­pany is still sell­ing the wire­less ear­buds as fast as they can make them. Tim Cook com­pared the ex­pe­ri­ence of see­ing them to the orig­i­nal iPod, where the sight of the white ear­buds even­tu­ally be­came ubiq­ui­tous; I too have seen AirPods pop­ping up all over in the past year or so.

Usu­ally Ap­ple prod­ucts hit a sup­ply/de­mand bal­ance af­ter they’ve been avail­able for a lit­tle while, so it’s in­ter­est­ing that AirPods aren’t quite at that point yet. Part of that prob­a­bly speaks to the chal­lenges in scal­ing up pro­duc­tion; the AirPods are small, pre­cise de­vices that no doubt are dif­fi­cult to build in quan­tity. But it also makes me won­der about the next ver­sion of the AirPods, for surely there will be a next ver­sion. It’s true that we’re still wait­ing on the wire­less charg­ing case that Ap­ple teased at 2017’s iPhone event; that could make an ap­pear­ance at a Septem­ber an­nounce­ment, but Maestri’s com­ment makes me won­der if Ap­ple might al­ready be tran­si­tion­ing to an up­dated model of AirPods to show up along­side the new case.

Be­tas for all

This one’s a lit­tle bit ran­dom, but I found it fas­ci­nat­ing. At one point, Tim Cook men­tioned that the com­pany’s beta pro­grams have more than 4 mil­lion people in them. Of course, that’s a pretty small slice of Ap­ple’s over­all mar­ket, given that the com­pany sold 41.3 mil­lion iPhones just last quar­ter. (That’s set­ting aside the difference be­tween ‘people’ and ‘de­vices’ – I’d cer­tainly be in­ter­ested

to know the break down of beta par­tic­i­pa­tion among Ap­ple’s var­i­ous plat­forms, but we’ll likely never know.) But that’s still a pretty healthy chunk of people – many of whom are end users and not de­vel­op­ers – us­ing pre-re­lease soft­ware. More, I’d wager, than most other com­pa­ra­ble be­tas, and I’m not count­ing Google’s per­pet­ual ‘beta’ labels here.

Hope­fully that large base of beta testers also means the soft­ware that’s even­tu­ally re­leased is even more sta­ble, thanks to the sheer num­ber of eyes on it. But, more im­por­tantly, this speaks to Ap­ple’s mar­ket­ing prow­ess, which helps en­tice users into want­ing all those new fea­tures it shows off at WWDC. De­spite the risk of bugs or ren­der­ing their de­vices un­us­able, people are still ded­i­cated to try­ing out those ca­pa­bil­i­ties be­fore they’re of­fi­cially ready. Just one more re­minder that Ap­ple’s a tech com­pany that’s not quite like any other.

Ap­ple’s AirPods have proved a hit with con­sumers

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