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I admit I'm mathematically challenged, but I am always fascinated by numbers such as these. Let's start with Apple's last figures. I don't have Apple stocks or anything - the Inc is still making excellent profits, but what people worry about these days is growth. I don't know why, myself - I agree with Teilhard de Chardin that growth purely for the sake of it is one of the four evils. But ever since Apple's exponential rises after the introduction of iPhone and then iPad, it seems to be what markets simply can't get enough of, and if they're not sufficiently satiated, they squeal. There was disquiet among those highly intelligent (supposedly) market people about Apple's last earnings call, and obviously I don't understand this stuff because Apple was able to beat expectations by just about every measure.

Apple has US$146.8 billion (about NZ$175.59 billion) in cash and returned over US$36 billion to shareholders in dividends and share repurchases over the last five quarters. Apple sold 33.8m iPhones in the last quarter - that's up 26%. That's growth, right? That adds up to 150 million iPhone sales for fiscal 2013.

There were 14.1M iPads sold in the quarter and 71 million iPads in fiscal 2013.

Apple made US$4.4B in iTunes Store sales and US$4.3B in iTunes software/services revenue for Q4.

The only negative note in all this was Mac sales. Jobs rather famously said the iPad was ushering in the PC-free era, and of course Macs are personal computers too. At first, while PC sales dropped, Mac sales kept going up, probably due to the 'halo effect' of all the attention the iPads and iPhones were getting. That's no longer true. In the last quarter, 4.6 million Macs were sold, down from 4.9 last year for a total of 16 million Macs sold in fiscal 2013. That's 300,000 less Macs sold in the quarter - but that was before the new iMacs and MacBook Pros were properly on stream.

Apple has made 15 strategic acquisitions so far in 2013: one every three or four weeks. The ramifications of this probably won't all be known for a while.

Apple has had 49 stores opened or remodelled this year. Of these, eight new stores opened in Q4, and two were remodelled. Note: we have none of these actual Apple Stores in New Zealand. We only have Licensed Apple Resellers. In other words, people, including chains like Dick Smith, JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman, have licenses to sell Apple products. We do also have a few specialist resellers like iStore, Übertec and Yoobee, which people often assume are 'Apple Stores' - but they're not. Of which, more later.

Apple's actual Stores had 99 million visitors through 416 outlets. Of these, 162 are outside the US (Australia has five, I think), and they made US$10.9 million in revenue (NZ$13.4m) in Q4.

In the earnings call, Apple mentioned plans for 30 new stores coming in 2014, plus 20 remodels. Twenty of these new stores will be outside the US.

So can we expect one here? No idea. Probably not. You know, like they say - why put one in a New Zealand city when you could open one in Rio de Janeiro? I guess you could almost say the same for Australia, but that's where Apple is headquartered for the region.

But let's examine this. Once upon a time, every single Apple product that came into New Zealand went through Renaissance to be distributed, and for a while, Renaissance acted as if it was Apple. Of course it wasn't, but people still refer to those times as 'Apple' when it really wasn't.

Renaissance ran some very effective services, particularly in education. But various things went on, and I'm sure there are a lot of stories to be told in this saga.

For Renaissance lost it's singular reseller role it had held for decades so that it was split between it and Ingram Micro. It bought the Magnum Mac chain which it had formerly provided with Apple gear to sell. It also acquired Natcoll, which was run by Murray Wood, the founder of Magnum Mac ... and then Renaissance rather inexplicably renamed the stores and Natcoll as 'Yoobee'. Once 'Mac' has gone from your company name, you don't get it back: Apple stopped letting that happen long ago. Not long after after this, Murray - a nice bloke - died in the Christchurch quake.

In the last couple of years, Yoobee stores have been under-performing, and the Yoobee Design School (formerly Natcoll) has suffered thanks to the recession and lower international enrolments. That arm of Renaissance will soon be sold to the Academic Colleges Group. Yoobee also recently shut four of its nine stores. From where I'm sitting, it looks like it has been a long and painful slide.

Current CEO Colin Giffney says Renaissance's board now believes 'the model is no longer viable' for a dedicated chain of Apple-only retail stores. It hasn't been that viable for a long time. Even so, Yoobee once spanned the country with these stores, had a distribution monopoly it somehow relinquished, and iStore and Ubertec seem to be able to handle the model with aplomb. ImageText, meanwhile, manages by integrating and selling Apple products along with other lines and has done successfully for many years while also trading in service and support. But I guess they're individual operations without the same boards to mollify and without all the baggage Renaissance had to carry.

For the margins are very tight. Stores that sell Apple products will try very hard to sell you something else - anything else - with your Apple purchase, just to make some margin. So don't let it annoy you. Think about it - a low (four or five per cent?) margin on a 27-inch iMac is better than the same percentage on a $700 iPad, but it's the iPads that are moving out the doors these days. And they'll likely make more like 20 per cent on that iPad cover they want to sell you.

Possibly the biggest loss from the diminution of Renaissance was the presence in education. There was the legendary bus tour that went around the schools, passing on wonderful knowledge to Mac-using teachers and support staff, and Renaissance had skilled people assigned to the universities. I'm not sure who has taken up those roles nowadays, if anyone, but education was always a ripe market for Apple, and it always did good business here. That expertise will be missed if it's no longer in operation.

Meanwhile, Apple has more staff in New Zealand than it's ever had, and it looks as if positive moves are coming. How that will pan out, I have no idea - but I'm pleased to notice the attention.

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