Apple’s stock has been stuck at the $120-130/share range for the past several months. It’s peak was $134.45 back in February. But since that time the stock has been relatively flat when compared to the previous year of continual growth.
After finally receiving a MacBook, that went on sale April 10th, I’ve been able to put it through it's paces. I've used the MacBook in coffee shops, traveled over 700 miles with it, pushed a full NBA playoff stream through it, crushed out hundreds of emails, edited a dozen or so Pixelmator images and worked over the charger and keyboard thoroughly. To quickly summarize this new MacBook — it is the perfect road warrior laptop and business companion, eliminating any need for an iPad, and for many the MacBook Air.
If you are looking to purchase a new MacBook, perhaps it would be best to order it online, but be prepared to wait until June to receive it. According to Apple's online store, MacBook orders are still backlogged by as much as 4-6 weeks, and they are unavailable at any retail location. Apple claims this is due to incredible demand, but is the backlog due to incredible demand or incredibly slow productions times leading to few, if any, available MacBooks?
Apple packed a host of new technologies into the new MacBook. Force Touch trackpad, layered batteries, a new keyboard design, and efficient retina display are all new Apple-led inventions that put the MacBook in a category unto its own and could be weighing heavily on production. But perhaps the biggest problem isn't Apple's new display, keyboard, trackpad or battery. What if the biggest hold-up in MacBook availability is because of Intel.
Crickets chirping may be all we hear in Apple retail store locations after employees hold their traditional “open the doors” count down for the official launch of Apple Watch. This launch is going to be the biggest non-launch in recent Apple history. Online pre-orders all but ensured Apple’s retail locations would be left with no inventory on opening day, as an estimated estimated 2.5 million watches were sold in a few short hours. Why Apple would spend tens of millions of dollars building up the Apple Watch launch for 04.24.15, encouraging millions to enter their retail doors when they would have no inventory to sell is beyond my pay grade. Apple has encouraged consumers to arrive at the stores, demo Apple Watch, and leave empty handed. The goal, now, is to get those would-be customers to purchase the watch online, and hope they are willing to wait until June to get it. Fortunately there was the Macbook launch. Oh wait, that is also a blunder of thunder. If you want a MacBook you can take one home — well, um, you can order one online today and receive it in 4-6 weeks.
This is the kind of experience I’d expect at Best Buy or Fry’s, not with Apple. Are heads rolling on Infinite Loop? Maybe I have just become spoiled, expecting Apple to deliver on their promises. No one is perfect, and understandably creating two brand new products that are unlike anything else in the market is an enormous challenge. But the way the shortages were managed and then communicated to customers took all the wind out of Apple’s sails (and one could argue short-term sales as well).
Last week Mark & I were working through the various aspects of what we consider two incredible products of technical genius that have both been initially tarnished by poor customer communication.
- Angela - Apple Store Lines are a Good for Apple
- Over / Under: Angela Ahrendts out by June?
- New MacBook Still Vaporware, But High In Demand
- Apple MacBook: Failure to Launch
While a perfect launch by Apple would have produced an ample supply of Apple Watch and MacBook, to meet the excitement and demand created by Apple, the reality of manufacturing each of these these bleeding edge technology wonders in mass quantity has proven more difficult than anticipated — even for one of the best company on the planet who is known for building incredibly complex items at an incredible pace.
My brother and T-GAAP colleague wrote an article yesterday, “Over / Under: Angela Ahrendts out by June?” We have never in our four year history seen such a lightning rod for positive and negative comments about the same article. Mark was called brilliant and an idiot at the same time (funny because sometime I think he is a brilliant idiot — but that’s another story).
In all seriousness we at T-GAAP are very aware that the problem with the Apple Watch launch isn’t solely due to Angela Ahrendts’ new way of launching a fashion item via the Apple Store. That said, her new methods did not help any. While the Apple Watch production has been rumored to be plagued with low display yields by LG, or another manufacturing process, we don’t think this is a supply chain issue. A supply chain problem would have reared its head long ago, so Tim Cook would have known about it before his March Keynote that things were going sideways. Apple flubbered big-time in its communication to customers. Apple set expectations one way, based on the history of delivering products, and then has failed to come close to meeting those expectations. The problem is as much a marketing problem as a manufacturing one. The pre-order system only inflated Apple’s woes. And Apple Watch isn’t the only casualty in this process as MacBook has suffered the same fate. Today, you can go into an Apple Store to look and touch, but cannot walk out with one of Apple's two new products — a cardinal sin for retail sales.
The new MacBook was supposed to be in the hands of tens of thousands by now. When Tim Cook showed off this bad-boy laptop at the March 2015 special event, all I could think was — hmmm, my MacBook Air is now looking rather clunky (it's only a mid-2013 model heaven’s sake!).
Apple’s attention to detail is impressive: the new Force Touch trackpad, butterfly individually lit LED keyboard, retina display, smaller size and most of all the weight — only 2lbs! In addition to all that goodness comes a choice of three stylish colors: silver, gold and space gray. To top it off, the new MacBook comes with a solid 9 to 10 hours of battery life (all day use is how Apple likes to talk about this). Unfortunately, for the next four-six weeks the only place you can use one is in an Apple retail store, secured to one of their nice wooden display tables. After a test drive, and MacBook-lust sets in, you’ll need to order online and pray that the next 4-6 weeks lead time holds up to being accurate.
On Friday, April 10th, Apple Watch pre-ordering was launched, and by-appointment-only demos were available for would-be buyers in order to get some personal time with Apple’s first wearable device. Another Apple product, largely overshadowed by Apple Watch, was also launched. Or was it?
The all-new MacBook was to be available for purchase – not just pre-order – on April 10th. Friday morning, I gathered in line at Portland, Oregon's downtown Apple store. Upon entering it appeared that roughly a 1/3rd of the people in line were waiting to get their hands on the new MacBook. Unfortunately those hoping to make a purchase and walk away with the new laptop were sorely disappointed, because there were no MacBooks in stock to buy from Apple. Two customers I spoke with had flown in from Utah, and another had taken the day off to drive several hours in order to purchase the MacBook. Needless to say, customers were not happy about the news — No MacBooks available in store for purchase.
April 10, 2015, Apple Store Pioneer Place, Portland, OR, 8:15 AM. Most all Apple retail locations state-side open at 10 AM, and at least in Portland, OR, no lines exist – yet. One lone guy was pacing the front doors, wanting to get a look at Apple Watch, but if he tried to use Apple’s Concierge system after 12:00 AM last night, he was out of luck at least in this region. Many were unsuccessful in using Apple’s Store app to schedule an Apple Watch appointment, as it appears Apple’s system was apparently overloaded.
If you hadn’t noticed, Apple is on what can only be described as a never-ending tear of success, and their enemies seem incapable or inept at stopping them. But this does not mean other tech players aren’t trying to wear their big-boy pants — they just continue to come up short at competing effectively. Perhaps the worst offender is Microsoft. Under former CEO Steve Ballmer, the Redmond software giant became very good at making lofty promises, delivering failures, demonstrating vaporware or throwing an occasional chair. Today’s Microsoft, run by Satya Nadella, is now a softer, gentler software vendor, but has yet to be any more effective at defeating the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and soon to arrive and dominate the wearable market, Apple Watch.
Nadella showed initial promise by downplaying the consumer electronics market, turning his focus on enterprise solutions. Old habits die hard. Microsoft is once again is pulling out their Fisher Price "My First Marketing Playbook" in another attempt at capturing the consumers eye with Surface 3. Will a cheaper Surface, whose best feature is the 5 seconds of switching between a poor tablet and so-so ultrabook, backed with a massive advertising budget, be enough to derail Apple’s best laid plans?