Apple’s getting a kicking everywhere, as tech journos relish the company finally announcing a year-on-year drop in iPhone sales. This plays directly into a favourite narrative, which is that Apple is doomed. The only tiny snag is that people have been saying this for at least a decade; but finally there is vindication!
Only it’s not quite that simple. Yes, Apple had a rocky quarter by its own insanely high standards. And, yes, there’s perhaps cause for concern in the company’s major revenue earner taking a knock and the other major products (the Mac and iPad) being flat or in decline. But Apple reported quarterly sales of over $50 billion (its second-best Q2 ever), and profits were over $10 billion (which actually squeaks it into Apple’s 10 best quarters to date). Given how the rest of the technology sector is faring, this isn’t the worst news ever.
Perhaps predictably, though, this doesn’t fit well with what people want to write. Even the BBC gets in on the act with a piece of analysis that could have been copied and pasted from almost anywhere over the past few years:
Apple, perhaps more than any other company, needs the next blockbuster category to come along. The Apple Watch is bringing in an estimated $1bn each quarter, but that’s not enough. It needs another smash like the iPhone. But there’s no sign of one coming any time soon.
People seem to have this idea that Apple churns out a new idea every day before breakfast, but in reality breakthroughs are rare. And with the iPhone, perhaps that’s a once-only product in terms of influence and sheer sales clout.
Does Apple need to keep innovating and trying new things? Sure, over the long term. But I can’t imagine Apple “more than any other company needs the next blockbuster category to come along”, when it’s still able to stuff $10 billion of profit into the bank during its first sales dip in a decade. And given Apple’s tendency towards secrecy rather than announcing things years in advance (smart for Apple, but annoying for tech journalists and analysts), we have no idea what’s waiting in the wings anyway — hence the default assumption that there’s “no sign of [another smash] coming any time soon”. The way many people are writing about Apple today, you’d think it’s as beleaguered as BlackBerry.