The Next Big Thing

Apple marketeers are as worthy of the epithet “genius” as anyone working in its shops, but this time they are perhaps just a little premature.

  1. EXTERIOR: St Albans High Street, early yesterday morning.
  2. LONGSHOT: Me entering the phone store.
  3. TWO SHOT: Me and uniformed sales person; he’s smiling, welcoming, unusually so.

“Hello, I currently have a Blackberry and think it is probably time I bought myself an iPhone.”

“Yes Sir, that will be fine, do you know if you are still in contract.”

“I think so but I can’t quite remember, can you look it up?”

“Certainly Sir, whilst I’m doing that what sort of iPhone did you have in mind?”

“Well, I’ve been hearing about this iPhone 5 and thought that it……”

“Actually Sir that isn’t out yet, in fact, it hasn’t even been announced when it will be out.”

“Well, it would be daft to buy an old iPhone at the moment wouldn’t it, with another one out soon?”

“Sir, no, not really, we can only sell what we have and the 4S is a really a great phone.”

“Yes, I’m sure it is but can I just put my name down for a 5?”

“Sir, with the greatest of respect, you can’t, because there isn’t even a date when it is expected to come out!”

  1. EXTERIOR LONGSHOT: I am being ejected forcefully from phone shop; I land sprawling on the pavement.
  2. CLOSE UP: Of me, now sobbing, spread-eagled in the middle of the road.

“I only wanted a new iPhone.”

Throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain and probably on many other high streets across the globe, similar scenes are now happening on a daily basis as the Apple marketing machine warms us up a little too early for its next product metamorphosis. Apple marketeers are of course experts at this, but methinks that this time they may have got off the mark too quickly as those of us who aspire to a new iPhone, either a replacement, or in my case my first, seem to think that it is better to wait for the 5 than to buy one now.

It is hard to categorise this as a failure, as by any yardstick Apple is a phenomenal business, but even though recently reported sales of 26m iPhones, in the three months to the end of June, were 28% up on the same period last year, they didn’t meet analysts’ (what do they know anyway?) expectations, so its share price faltered a little. iPhone sales did fall sequentially though, they were down 26% on the first quarter, prompting the explanation that people are waiting for a 5 rather then buying now: it is certainly true in my case. I suppose this is business news of sorts, it certainly got a mention in the FT, my yardstick for economic and business relevance.

Apparently, this shows a marked slow down in the rate of growth of sales over the preceding quarter and it may be that the slightly premature PR activity around the 5 may in fact have backfired on Apple and hit sales. Much the same thing happened with the launch of the 4S but things are a little earlier this year.  In the same way that Xmas shopping periods are getting shorter every year, or high street Sales are starting earlier, the pressure on retailers to perform  in a recession means that cycle times are reducing and it even seems to be affecting Apple too.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, said he was “super happy”: I think he meant that he was happy that people wanted the next product and that everyone was talking about it already, but maybe some of his joy comes from being the world’s highest paid CEO!




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