You young whippersnappers may not be aware of this, but grizzled old hands like myself can recall a time when the iPod reigned supreme at Apple. Long before
came along to grab all the attention, the iPod was where it was at. And when Apple got on the phone with stock analysts every three months to detail its quarterly earnings, the questions weren’t about phone activations and rollout plans and expansion to Europe—it was all iPod, all the time.
Yes, April 2007 was a simpler era.
I exaggerate, of course, but listening to
Wednesday’s conference call between analysts and Apple executives, I was struck by how little attention was devoted to the iPod, arguably one of the main drivers behind Apple’s success in recent years. Yes,
Apple recorded record Mac sales
during the just-completed fiscal third-quarter and this was the first time the company had any
hard iPhone sales figures
to report. But still, the iPod rated just the most obligatory of mentions—the opening act to the Mac and iPhone headliners.
Two quarters ago, Apple sold 21 million music players. These days? “Oh yeah—the iPod. That’s selling pretty well, too.”
More than pretty well, to be more accurate. Apple sold 9.8 million iPods during the three months ended June 30. While that may seem small when juxtaposed so close to that 21 million figure from the fiscal first quarter, that 9.8 million total is still 21 percent more than the number of iPods Apple had sold at this time last year. And that sales growth came despite the fact that Apple hasn’t updated its iPod offerings since last September when
it overhauled the whole shebang.
Looking at the
third-quarter sales figures, I’m struck by two thoughts.
The fact that year-over-year sales continue to rise nearly 11 months after the last product release indicate that there continues to be a high demand for
ought to update its iPod offerings again and soon.
That second point doesn’t stem from any deficiency in the current iPod offerings. Rather, I bring it up merely after looking at a 2007 calendar and seeing what lies ahead.
The holiday season.
To emphasize just how important the holiday season is to Apple’s iPod fortunes, consider this string of numbers:
- ’06Q1: 14.04 million
- ’06Q2: 8.53 million
- ’06Q3: 8.11 million
- ’06Q4: 8.73 million
- ’07Q1: 21.07 million
- ’07Q2: 10.55 million
- ’07Q3: 9.8 million
Those are Apple’s iPod unit sales, broken out by fiscal quarter. Notice how especially large the numbers for each of the past two first quarters are? That’s because it covers the months of October, November, and December, when most people are doing their holiday gift shopping. Even if I wasn’t suggesting that Apple should be preparing to update the iPod line sometime in early fall, you can bet that someone in Cupertino has already come to that conclusion.
So let’s mark it down—iPod updates are coming sooner rather than later. That leaves a few questions: What kind of updates? Will it be to some of the existing offerings, all of them, or will it introduce a new iPod model altogether?
If you threatened to kick me in the shins unless I made an educated guess, I would pick a widescreen iPod—think an iPhone, only without the phone part of the equation. Maybe, just to
appease my good pal Dan Frakes, Apple could find a way to stick buttons on the thing.
But I can’t claim a monopoly on the right to speculate about the iPod’s future. I’d love to hear your best guesses.