A Fairly Quick Look at Ian Parker’s Epic New Yorker Profile on Mostly Jony Ive

First, not like it means anything in the grand scheme of things, I gotta hand it to Ian Parker and the New Yorker for scoring this incredible level of access to Jony Ive, Apple, other execs, and last but not least, several formerly-mostly-unknown-to-the-public Apple designers.

If you haven’t read it, and you have “sufficient interest” in Jony Ive and the goings-on at Apple (well, you did somehow find your way here), go read it first before reading this. It might easily be up for various awards. It’s all kinds of insightful, my fanboy-ish issues here and there with wording and characterization. Note: The novella-profile might take 1-2 hours for a single sitting, so be advised/budget your time accordingly.

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It Was a Very Pretty Good Decent Year Fiscal Quarter (All Things Considered)

Well, you’ve all seen the results by now. No need for me to recap the results, though I might post an earnings self-assessment later. (Though it’s easy enough for you to see how I did, in case I don’t.)

So just in terms of a little commentary:

– Oppenheimer means business with his new guidance methodology. It may well be that management expects actual results to hit the top end of guided revenues and net income (we still need more data points), but what is becoming clearer is that we shouldn’t expect Apple to beat revenues and net income top-end guidance as a matter of course. So far, it’s beat revenue range guidance once and net income range guidance never. A side benefit of the new methodology: Wall Street expectations are kept in check.

– Say hello to iPhone. That includes you, NTT DoCoMo, considering that iPhone somehow grew a highly impressive 66% YOY in Japan. Overall, unit sales exceeded the expectations of any analyst or independent who dared to make a projection.

– Sell-through data points. Awesome!

– Apple bought the dip. Big time. Luca Maestri must be helping to bring the share repurchasin’ heat.

– China continues to be a challenge for Apple (though it varies by geography – Greater/Mainland China saw growth, while Hong Kong didn’t).  As far as Mainland/Greater China, I wonder what the eventual rollout of LTE networks, a cheaper iPhone, or China Mobile will do in terms of iPhone.

– The iPad compare was thrown off, but in any case, it’s showing a strong case of seasonality, and I’m sure more than a few people pine for a 2048×1536 resolution iPad mini. 3% YOY sellthrough decline isn’t a disaster, but I’m far from ignoring it. Perhaps the tablet market is still a bit more like a media player than a handset in market size?

– Macs do seem to be more like trucks every year…although the entire MacBook Pro series is still in need of a refresh, and, well, there’s still many trucks sold in the world, whether they’re PCs or actual trucks.

– Nice to see gross margins stabilizing. Hopefully, that means less daunting prior-year compares going forward. Of course, a big question is whether a new form factor iPhone with older underlying tech and potentially lower gross margins will pull an “iPad mini” on the flagship iPhone, at least until the flagship’s “full redesign” anyway.***

– New iPhones would seem to be on the way based on Oppenheimer’s top-end revenue guidance increasing from $35.5B for fiscal Q3 2013 to $37B for the current fiscal Q4. It’s difficult to see Macs, last-refreshed-in-November iPads, or “even older” iPhones being responsible for that. I’m looking forward to the iOS harvest season.

***Margin stabilization seems to hint at iPhone 5S more than a fully redesigned “iPhone 6”.

Apple Product Rumors, Part 20,000: The Intersection of Potentially Solid Product Intel and Common Sense

Let’s start here:


Let’s assume for fun that the iPhone 5S will be delayed due to the infamous production constraints that always pop up like clockwork, every, single, year. Thankfully, this time we’re looking at late September for Apple’s bread-and-butter flagship iPhone. A couple weeks of delay isn’t the biggest deal in the world.

But let’s assume “iPhone go” (as I like to call it) is ready a couple of weeks earlier.

So…launch iPhone go first and iPhone 5S or whatever later?

Why would Apple want to launch the “lesser” iPhone before the newest iPhone, if the original plan was presumably to launch the two at the same time? Is Apple so desperate for sales that it’ll potentially hamper demand for the flagship? The calculus gets even trickier if iPhone go happens to have more than one price point.

Let’s now assume for fun that iPad 5 is on schedule, but iPad mini “isn’t”. Does anyone seriously think Apple doesn’t have contingency plans? Or that Apple will delay THE most popular iPad by not launching a new iPad mini at least once a year?

And while Ming-Chi Kuo has a pretty decent overall history of predictions and supply chain sources, it’s hard to believe that Apple hasn’t “mastered” the Retina Display just yet. It’s had them since June 2010 (iPhone 4), it’s probably been working with them before that point, it’s made even bigger Retina Displays since then (2880×1800, anyone?), and it’s had a 2048×1536 Retina Display to “shrink down” since March 2012.

Last but not least, a quick comment about iPhone go. A $450-550 iPhone 5-based iPhone doesn’t have to be the only “cheaper option”. The A5 would still be expected to be in play as SoC behind the “$0 iPhone” this year, and A5 + current-gen Retina Display are clearly able to be paired together. There’s that common sense thing again. If Apple is trying to reach the lower end of the market, the venerable iPhone 5 hardware isn’t the only option that’s available for this year.

My Prediction for What Apple Will Specifically Name the Rumored Cheaper iPhone With New Form Factor, If It’s For Real

iPhone go.  (Italics optional.)  I know, what an incredible revelation.  Anyway:

IF Apple has chosen an iPad mini-without-the-mini*** path for a new form factor iPhone (be it polycarbonate unibody-based or whatever), that’s the only “suffix” that makes sense to me.  Why?

An iPhone that’s got worry-less (not worry-free, but getting there) unibody polycarbonate or something durability (Jony Ive’s done it before with the one-off unibody polycarbonate MacBook).  Add some water resistance or splash protection?  Sure, why not.

An iPhone with everyday usability, necessity and style (mix Jony Ive’s proven design sensibilities with COLORS).

An iPhone which, with the above qualities, fits the “on the go” lifestyle.

An iPhone which seems a bit more “youthful” (though that won’t necessarily be part of the public-facing marketing pitch), more iPod touch-“playful” than iPhone 4/5-“purposeful” – which corresponds to being more active, which also feeds back into the whole “go” deal.

An iPhone which, if the pundits are “finally” correct, is based on the pay-as-you-go (or something like it) concept, being unlocked or unsubsidized or less-subsidized or whatever.  (Though I’m sure it’ll also be available for $99 or so on a typical carrier-subsidized 2-year smartphone plan.)

Hence, “iPhone go”.

***By which I mean iPad mini is basically an iPad 2 with a dash of more current-gen-type tech (in iPad mini’s case, LTE) in a new form factor.  If iPhone go were to have, say, the A5 SoC + current-gen 1136×640 Retina Display + LTE, it’d be a similar product packaging concept, with the two exceptions of iPhone go having the the same-size-and-pixel-count Retina Display, which also means iPhone go would be roughly the same size and perhaps a bit thicker than the iPhone 5S (unless Apple boosts screen size and/or resolution for the 5S, in which case Apple might have a striaght-up iPhone 6 in the works this year).