Why Apple's Upgrade Cycle Change Should Benefit Customers, Sellers

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-01-28 Print this article Print

In the days when I was buying equipment for a large organization based in Washington, D.C., big companies didn't waste our time with silly announcement games. Instead, if they knew that I was writing specifications for a computer or related items, it was common for these companies to brief me on what specifically they had coming out. They did this in part so that I could make sure the specs included them, of course, but they also wanted me to know what to expect a few months down the road.

While purchasing regulations are in a state of constant change, the reality is that I needed enough lead time to know what would be possible to buy when the RFP hit the street. This means that in the days of 16-bit processors, there wasn't any point in my requesting a 64-bit processor because they wouldn't be available commercially.

But this all meant that products had to be available (or at least information about them available) in time for me to think about buying them. This also meant that the product upgrade cycle had to be something besides just once per year.

Whether or not Apple is changing its cycle to accommodate my former employer is unknown. But by evening out the variations in sales cycles, the company is certainly making things easier for corporate buyers. It also seems certain that it's making things easier on Apple and its suppliers as well. If everything along a supply chain flows smoothly without huge variations, the manufacturer saves money, and the feast or famine feeling recedes to a feeling in which everyone can count on what's happening any given day.

Apple's supply chain has obviously been built to spend months getting ready for the first day of sales, but that's hardly the most efficient way to run a manufacturing operation. When you (or your suppliers) have to build large inventories of components or finished products far in advance, it costs money at every stage of the process.

At each step along the way there are charges for everything from warehousing to interest, with no immediate revenue to offset those charges. Those extra costs have to be covered somewhere, and that somewhere usually means stockholders and customers.

If Apple is indeed working to smooth out its product cycle, and that's what it looks like, then it's a good move for everyone concerned.


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