Signaling that its the era of unit sales growth has come to an end, Apple this week said that it would be much less transparent about device sales.
News of the change came during Apple’s financial results conference call, and after the firm had warned that the current quarter would be soft, sending Apple shares plummeting.
“Starting with the [current] quarter, we will no longer be providing unit sales data for iPhone, iPad and Mac,” Apple CFO Luca Maestri said during the call. “As we have stated many times, our objective is to make great products and services that enrich people’s lives, and to provide an unparalleled customer experience so that our users are highly satisfied, loyal and engaged.”
“As we accomplish these objectives, strong financial results follow,” he continued. “As demonstrated by our financial performance in recent years, the number of units sold in any 90-day period is not necessarily representative of the underlying strength of our business.”
I’d argue otherwise: In recent years, the number of devices sold was very much tied to the company’s financial performance. The sole outlier, and, granted, it has gotten bigger and bigger in recent quarters, is Apple’s Services business. Which hit a record $10 billion in revenues in the most recent quarter.
But Apple’s decision to be less transparent about its unit sales is tied to the strategy I discussed in Apple Jacked (Premium): With device sales stagnating (iPhone) or even falling (iPad, Mac) each year now, Apple has been forced to raises prices across the board as part of an effort to further monetize each customer. It’s Services business is the other half of that strategy.
Put another way, this is Apple taking advantage of the natural momentum or inertia that comes from having such a healthy business. It no longer needs explosive unit sales growth in order to grow financially. All it needs to do is keep sucking the life blood out of its billions of loyal customers.
It’s a good strategy. But as someone who values real-world data and metrics, I mourn this decision just as I complain when Microsoft does the same thing in its own earnings. These are humongous companies that should be beholden to the requirements of their shareholders. And that should include transparent reporting of sales data that can be used to make the right investment decisions.