SAN FRANCISCO -- What, you thought millions of job losses and an underwater housing market would have people rushing out to buy
Not to infringe on Marek Fuchs'
They Just Don't Get..."
franchise, but investor reaction to news this week that the company may have suffered the indignity of selling fewer Macs last month than it did a year earlier -- when the
1,000 points higher
-- is just a little curious.
As a result of the report, as well as another confidence-sapping week in the stock market, Apple shares have dropped nearly 10% since last Friday, evaporating much of the "Let's put Steve Jobs' health behind us" rally that had the stock as high as $103 last week.
In recent trading, Apple was off $1, or 1.1%, to $89.64.
The fun started late Tuesday when research firm NPD reported that Mac unit sales dropped 6% year over year in January, with iPod unit sales falling 14%.
As Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster noted on Wednesday, that offers a strong likelihood that Apple, facing difficult year-over-year comparisons in February and March due to last year's launch of the ultra-thin MacBook Air, would not reach the 2.3 million unit sales level of last year's fiscal second quarter.
Munster also noted that this is exactly what Wall Street had expected. No surprises here, folks. So, if you put any stock at all in analysts' median price target of about $118 a share, did you just get a 10% discount?
Merrill Lynch analyst Scott Craig pointed out this week that Apple has now lost unit-sales market share for the past three months. This is never a trend you want to see, but guess what -- Apple computers are relatively expensive! It's not inconceivable that sales of the company's premium-priced models are going to suffer as much as consumers have been lately.
Earlier this week, Changewave Research published its monthly survey of 2,701 U.S. consumers and promptly found the "worst spending outlook" it had ever recorded. According to the survey, 61% of respondents said they planned to spend less money in the next 90 days.
Asked why, 42% said they're saving money, 44% said they make less money.
Even more distressing, only 12% of those surveyed said they planned to buy any consumer electronics over the next 90 days. Drilling down even further, 4% planned to buy a desktop PC, while 6% think they'll purchase a laptop.
But here's the thing: Of the people who plan to buy a laptop, 30% plan to make it an Apple. That's up two percentage points from the January survey.
What's more, of those who had bought a PC in the past 90 days, what company do you think had the highest satisfaction rate at 81%? You got it.
This isn't to advertise for Apple products, but don't you sort of like the odds for its PC business either when a) people start spending money again and/or b) the company begins, as expected, to move more fully into less-expensive offerings?
From a larger perspective, however, the focus this week on Apple's PC business is somewhat misleading. Nearly two-thirds of the company's revenue involves selling something other than computers.
And as much as any company can think about any sort of growth in 2009, for Apple it's about one product -- the iPhone.
Look at the revenue breakdown for the company's first fiscal quarter: The top line grew by 6%, or $559 million. Apple's PC revenue was essentially flat (due to a decline in desktops), while iPod revenue dropped 16%, despite unit sales rising 3%.
The iPhone? It's now more than 12% of the business, contributing more a
in revenue growth from a year ago.
This is why more attention should rightly be paid to how the company plans to position its one growth product amid the reality of a woozy consumer. Help from partner
would help, but so would cheaper iPhones, hence the growing expectations you'll see some lower-priced models this year.
What, you thought Apple wouldn't fight for customers?