Apple's iPad could begin cannibalizing Mac sales, according to analysts. Apple COO Tim Cook acknowledged that some customers are purchasing iPads over new Macs.
Apple's July 19 earnings call was filled with the sort of
news that sets analysts' hearts aflutter. After all, the company reported
significant growth in iPad and iPhone sales for the fiscal 2011 third quarter,
on its way to quarterly revenues of $28.57 billion and net profit of $7.31
"We expect [Apple] will become the largest market cap
company on the planet," Gleacher & Co. analyst Brian Marshall wrote in a
July 20 research note. "Its business model is becoming stronger over time as
well as the company benefits from an increasing richness of its revenue mix."
Apple sold 20.34 million iPhones during the quarter, a
year-over-year increase of 142 percent. It also sold 9.25 million iPads, good
for a year-over-year increase of 183 percent. The company also sold 3.95
million Macs, a 14 percent increase from the same quarter in 2010.
"We sold every iPad we could make," CFO Peter Oppenheimer
told analysts and media listening to Apple's July 19 earnings call, while
suggesting that significant majorities of the Fortune 500 were studying how to
best integrate the bestselling tablet into their employees' workflow.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs and his executives like to talk about
the tech world entering a "post-PC" era, one in which mobile devices such as
the iPad take precedence in users' lives over the traditional PC. But could
that phenomenon end up backfiring on Apple, driving a decline in Mac sales over
the long term?
During the earnings call, Apple COO Tim Cook both
acknowledged and downplayed the gravitational effect of the iPad on sales of
the company's other products. "Some customers chose to purchase an iPad instead
of a new Mac during the quarter," he told media and analysts. "But even more
customers chose to buy an iPad over a Windows PC ... there's a lot more of the PC
Windows business to cannibalize than the Mac."
Following the call, analysts chewed over the cannibalization
issue a little more.
"The iPad has successfully integrated the functionality of a
slimmed down notebook into a media-player form factor," Marshall continued in
his note, "and has effectively rendered a significant portion of the Mac (and
potentially the iPhone) product family obsolete. This presents a serious
problem as iPhones and Macs generated 64 [percent] of Apple's total revenue in
[calendar year] 2010."
Others seemed more tempered about the iPad's potential
effect on Apple's other product lines.
"Mac unit growth continued despite increased demand for
iPad, and we believe this demonstrates the halo effect from iPhone and iPad
sales to increase Mac sales," Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley, along
with his co-authors, wrote in a July 19 note to investors. "We believe this
effect offsets any potential cannibalization of MacBooks due to iPad and we
believe the new OS launch [June 20] could lead to stronger growth trends for
Apple continues to ramp up its iPad distribution, with an
increased focus on the enterprise. According to the company, some 86 percent of
the Fortune 500 is either testing or deploying the tablet. "To be this far into
the enterprise with a product that's only been shipping for 15 months is
incredible because the enterprise is traditionally much more conservative,"
Cook said during the earnings call.
Apple's enterprise strategy when it comes to mobile devices,
he added, centers on providing guidance and training to carriers' sales forces,
since the majority of those businesses apparently want their devices connected
to a network.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter