Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 26, 201211:47 AM

The Way We Talk About Business

How do you feel about yourself?

If I told you that we were going to evaluate you every quarter to see how you were performing, how would you feel? Some companies do reviews every six months, some do them once a year. Is the expectation that you will always be better reasonable to you? Pushing that further, what if I told you that every quarter you have to be better, be earning more money, be healthier and more? Better? Smarter?  Healthier? Faster? Richer? How would you feel? For some, it would be motivating. For others it would be intimidating (count me in this camp). Regardless of how you might feel about this exercise, at what point in the process do you stop being able to continually be awesome? It has to happen, doesn't it? Can you always - constantly and consistently - deliver against expectations (no matter how unreasonable).

The game of Wall Street is going to have to end.

No, I'm not moving away from capitalism... I'm just being a realist. Yesterday, I was reading a news item on Business Insider titled, Apple Just Announced Awful iPad Sales. My stomach sunk. How is this possible? The iPad had been outselling desktop computers since the launch of iPad 2, Amazon, Google, Samsung and others have been aggressive to enter the tablet market. Last week at the Consumer Electronics Association CEO Summit, many senior executives from Sony, Panasonic and VOXX expressed their bullish outlook for the tablet market. After three years of the iPad being in market, was it saturated? Are we done? Here's what the article from Business Insider says:

"Apple just announced that it sold 14 million iPads during its fiscal fourth quarter. This is a massive disappointment. Two reasons:

  1. Apple's iPads business actually shrank q/q. 14 million iPads sold in Q4 is 3 million fewer than the 17 million Apple sold in Q4.
  2. Apple missed analyst expectations. Until Tuesday, analysts were all predicting that Apple sold 17.5 million iPads during the quarter. Then, when Apple announced the iPad mini, it pre-announced some disappointing sales figures and analysts revised their numbers to 15 million. So Apple missed original expectations by 3.5 million, and pessimistic, revised expectations by 1 million."

How depressing...

Apple only sold fourteen million iPads in one quarter and that is three million less than Q4. On top of that, how dare they miss analysts expectations? Have we really come to the point in humanity that selling fourteen million of anything in one quarter with solid margins and profits is considered a "massive disappointment" and "awful"? What's wrong with business today? The public market is pushing too hard for everything to be better, sell more and do more than it did last quarter. Does anyone really think that Apple is about to stall? That the tablet market is now mature? That any of Apple's news is truly awful?

It's not just Apple.

We need some Wall Street reform. Amazon was getting it too today. Their shares fell about five percent. They only had a net income of $63 million this quarter. I know what many investment bankers and financial advisors will say. They'll tell us that this is the nature of business. It doesn't have to be. With the economy being in the shape that it's in, we would be well-advised to celebrate companies like Amazon and Apple and not punish them publicly. Amazon made a bad choice in investing in LivingSocial (which seems to be the brunt of the bad news in this instance). Elevating the business to a 30,000 foot view may be apropos.

It's time to start re-thinking how we frame failure and success when it comes to business.

By Mitch Joel

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  • Posted by Liesl
    Mitch Joel

    So great to call these numbers out! Not only is it important to think about the whether calling 14 million in sales a failure makes sense, it's unrealistic of Apple to expect to conjure up (actionable) gadget lust of the same fervency across their entire product line. The perceived obsolescence currently fueling new fueling iPhone sales can only go so far (reminds me of this classic - http://www.theonion.com/articles/new-device-desirable-old-device-undesirable,2862/)

    With the iPhone, iPod sales are naturally dropping as consumers look for the one device to rule them all. And while phones have become the ultimate status symbol, perhaps tablets will have a slower rate of replacement or perceived obsolescence, being inherently a little less "personal" than the desirably fancy phone in one's pocket. It would seem normal to me for consumers to replace them at a rate somewhere between phones and desktops.

    As for new consumers, the market is getting so interesting with phones getting larger and tablets getting smaller, it makes sense that they may have more options and either go with something else, or want to ride out the next while to see what this confusing time of "phablets" (easily the winner of worst portmanteau of the year) will yield.

    Lastly, call me anti but I personally hope the market is getting saturated as the "Story of Stuff" implications of all these devices getting upgraded every year is unsustainable and it'd be nice if Apple (and others) had to do more solving of new, real problems with innovation (that they have historically done so well) and rely less on sales of products that add a square inch of screen real estate or slap an extra camera on something that was doing fine last year and continues to do fine even if it's perceived as something for which to inexplicably camp out overnight or line up for hours.

    Reply
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