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iPad 3: Apple waters the money tree

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'The new iPad'. That's actually what Apple is calling it, or 'the third generation iPad', but that's all pretty academic since everyone else is going to call it 'iPad 3'. I certainly will.

iPad 3 was introduced today along with the note that, in the "post-PC era", Apple leads the way with the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod touch. That 'post PC' phrase was first used by Apple in relation to iOS 5 and the cloud.

Apple always starts product announcements with a bit of a brag, and today's mentioned that Apple sold 172 million iOS post-PC devices in 2011. That's around the population of Brazil. Brazil is sometimes quoted as the the sixth most populated country in the world, but Pakistan has a very similar population size.

But apart from efforts to start up high-tech manufacturing in Brazil, it wasn't part of the announcement. Actually, Tim Cook announced Apple is bringing Siri to Japan with Japanese language recognition. Siri for Japan will be part of iOS 5.1 (available today), but the Japanese part of Siri will appear in iOS 5.1 in the coming weeks. Japan's population is around 127 million - but the Japanese have way more money than Brazilians.

In other Apple figures, Apple may only have under 12 per cent of the world's market, at least in Macs, but manages to get really good profits from what it sells. Apple captured 19 per cent of all sales dollars of consumer electronics sales in the US during the 'holiday quarter' of 2011.

The holiday season was also the best quarter in Apple's history. Actually, almost every quarter Apple announces seems to be the best ever.

Long-term Mac users like myself may be feeling a bit awed and trivialised by the rise of iDevices. Sure, we have them too, but a whole new breed of people is buying iDevices and seems almost unaware of Macs at all.

That's not surprising, actually - Asymco's Horace Dediu recently noticed a startling statistic: Apple sold 156 million iOS devices in 2011 ... that's 30 million more than the 122 million Macs Apple sold since the first one went on sale way back in 1984.

The iOS platform reached 316 million cumulative units at the end of 2011. The iOS platform overtook the OS X platform in under four years. You can see why the operating systems are converging.

Almost half of Americans have smartphones, according to a survey of internet use. That's 46 per cent. In May last year it was 35 per cent. (Only 13 per cent of these were people over 65. Time for a new marketing campaign?)

If you already count the iPad as a kind of laptop (and the new iPad 3 is more powerful still, with a Quad Core processor), NPD Group stated Apple shipped an estimated 23.4 million laptops and tablets. This represents a 26.6 per cent market share during the quarter.

According to the first quarter 2012 financial report, Apple sold 3.7 million laptops, a 28 per cent improvement over last year's first quarter. In contrast, NPD says the overall notebook PC market grew only 11 percent year-over-year.

HP registered just 8.7 million units for a 9.9 per cent share, while Dell and Acer nearly tied for third with 6.9 and 6.8 million units respectively. Lenovo rounded out the top five with 6.3 million units and 7.2 percent share.

But if you discount iPad as a laptop, as some still do, Apple drops to fifth, for 4.6 million units sold (MacBook Pro and Air).

But if you insist on doing that, how does iPad fit into the tablet category? NPD reported Apple has 59.1 per cent of the market for 18.7 million units sold, followed by Amazon (5.3 million units, 16.7 per cent share).

Since Amazon does not disclose quarterly sales figures for Kindle, it's difficult to determine how accurate NPD's estimate really is. In December of 2011, however, Amazon did disclose it had been selling a million Kindles a week.

Money-wise, Apple is the world's biggest public company measured by market capitalisation. In February, Apple solidified its lead over Exxon Mobil, the previous titleholder, as Apple's shares hit a record high of US$526.29, giving it a market capitalisation of just under US$500 billion. Apple is only the 11th company to reach the top spot since 1926, according Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst for Standard & Poor's.

In other ramifications, you could criticise Apple for having all its manufacturing offshore. But Apple, perhaps stung by this charge, stated this month that the Cupertino company is actuallyresponsible for 514,000 US jobs: 304,000 jobs directly tied to Apple and its business partners (plus three in New Zealand), and another 210,000 jobs that are part of the 'iOS app economy', which might be just a little disingenuous.

The first category includes 47,000 Apple employees and another estimated 257,000 employees at companies such as Samsung, Corning, FedEx, and UPS who are part of Apple's supply chain and other businesses. Rather than a direct count of employees at other companies, that latter figure is calculated based on 'employment multipliers' published by the US government and applied to Apple's domestic expenditures.
Hmm.

At least Apple reckons it has paid out over US$4 billion to these developers since the App Store was launched under four years ago. Apple did create an entirely new industry, which is saying something. There are over 5000 iOS developer jobs listed on Indeed.com, for the US - and of course, many other countries have strong iOS developer showings too. Even New Zealand.

And Apple is still popular. It's the world's most admired company. Unlike Exxon Mobil.

But can Apple carry on? I reckon yes.

As the event to launch the iPad 3 finished, Apple CEO Tim Cook concluded "2012. Across the year, you are going to see a lot more of this kind of innovation ... we are just getting started".

- Mark Webster mac-nz.com


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