Apple: the world's leading mobile device company

By Jonny Evans

Apple [AAPL] achieved record Mac sales in its just-gone quarter -- combine portable Mac and iPad sales and there's no doubt Apple is the world's leading mobile device company.

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Record Mac sales driven by mobile

The statistics tell it like it is. Apple sold 4.89 million Macs in its just gone quarter. That's a new record. Rip that figure apart: Apple sold 1.278m desktops and 3.616m notebooks in the quarter.

"The increase in Mac sales was fueled by the very strong growth in MacBook Air as well as the continued strong performance of MacBook Pro," said CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, last night.

The MacBook Air is the future of Apple's notebooks. Light, extremely portable and powerful, its support for MultiTouch makes this an alluring machine. Alluring, that is, until Apple begins to diversify its iPad line, as it must. Just take a look at the sales chart, and consider the 11.12 million iPad 2's Apple shifted across its 90-day quarter.

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Set for growth

"We see the tablet market as a huge market, and we could not be happier with our position in it," said CEO, Tim Cook, during last night's Q&A, where he also made a promise. "And we've got some fantastic things in the pipeline."

"And after selling 40 million in the first 18 months, which is more than our wildest dreams were and selling 3 out of every 4, I think we've got a fairly good handle on what to do next," he added.

What could Apple do next? Traditionally Apple doesn't diversify too fast, but it could conceivably offer up (this list is speculation, it is not to be taken as fact):

  • The iPad Pro/HD -- a powerful iPad with an A6 processor and a higher-resolution screen. Perhaps capable of running pro-apps, perhaps even Mac apps.
  • The iPad touch -- an iPad with a smaller, 7-inch screen.
  • The iPad max -- a 15-inch iPad. Some may suggest the MacBook Air is this.

Apple will doubtless surprise us with its future product roll-outs.

[ABOVE: An Apple video from 1987 shows you the iPad and Siri combined future of computing, I feel.]

Let the cannibalization continue

Some people worry that the iPad may cannibalize Mac sales, but that's not what's happening. Apple's iPad is denting PC and destroying netbook sales, but Macs seem pretty resolute in the face of the post-PC charge.

"I do believe that we're seeing cannibalization," admitted Cook. "I think that it's showing up in 2 ways. I think that some people are electing to buy an iPad rather than a Mac.

"However, I believe a materially larger number of people are electing to buy an iPad instead of a Windows-based PC. And so I think we are overwhelmingly coming out very, very well in that cannibalization....with cannibalization like this, I hope it continues."

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Grow baby, grow

If you take a look at the thin blue trend line in the image above it's pretty clear that iPad sales seem set for exponential growth. This means the company has successfully defined the future of the post-PC.

Apple watchers know Mac sales began to grow with the advent of the iPod, and that the iPhone also added zest to Mac sales. Today and there's no doubt the iPad has clinched Apple's reputation for delivering best-in-class devices, albeit tied inexorably to the Apple ecosystem, which some pundits despise.

The company has barely begun. Last night Apple's strategy to expand its share in emerging economies was briefly discussed, with China seen as a blueprint for future success. Rest assured, China will become Apple's biggest market, perhaps as soon as next year. The country is already Apple's second-largest market -- all in a few years.

The smartphone space race is also kicking into high gear. Cook again, said last night: "...we want the iPhone to be in as many customers' hands as possible because we think it's the greatest phone by far. And that's why we live to do that. And so yes, we aspire to much larger volumes than where we are. And we think the smartphone market will eventually absorb the handset market."

Chasing the mainstream

The handset market is 1.5 billion handsets. The smartphone market is around 400 million units. There's huge growth potential in this, but when Apple makes a snap at the handset space with its Siri-powered pre-paid and post-paid offering...

Apple now offers the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 at lower prices to those who want them. This is only part of Apple's strategy.

"The big win is to eat into the 1.5 billion and not just for us but I think for others as well, and we are very focused on doing that. You can tell that with the moves that we've made recently," said Cook last night.

I'm expecting more drama in the Apple-verse as the company moves to grab some of those 1.5 billion per year handset sales.

Certainly, Apple missed some estimates -- even I expected 20 million iPhone sales. This won't cause any long-term problems. The history of the iPod nano tells me iPhone sales in the current quarter are going to set new records.

What are your thoughts? Speak up, I'm interested.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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