Tim Cook’s Midas touch
When Timothy Donald Cook, now 56, took over the reigns as chief executive officer at Apple Inc. in 2011, there was considerable apprehension from many quarters. The question that preoccupied most was about whether Cook would be able to take forward the dynamic legacy that the late co-founder, Steve Jobs, was leaving behind. Also, Apple had a $350 billion stock market valuation at the time, and analysts wondered if Cook would be able to find another winner product, apart from the iPhone and the iPad (and even the iPod line-up, at the time) to take the company to the next level.
Fast forward to 2017—as the June quarter results suggested, Apple now has a market cap of nearly $830 billion, and is on its way to becoming a trillion-dollar company.
If we are to talk about Cook being able to motivate Apple’s employees enough to come up with cool new gadgets, there isn’t any doubt at all that it has pretty much been a resounding success.
Let us take the example of the AirPods. These are completely wireless earphones, unveiled with the Apple iPhone 7 last year at a time when the iPhone ditched the 3.5mm headphone jack, and defined a new category in the music accessories space. There was no shortage of competition subsequently, with Samsung, Sony and Bose and many well-funded start-ups, including the likes of Bragi, bringing wireless earphones at various price points as alternatives to AirPods.
As per research firm NPD Group, as many as 900,000 wireless headphones were sold in the US alone, and Apple’s AirPods garnered 85% of the revenue. Apple doesn’t share sales figures of AirPods, at least not thus far, and lists them in the “other products” category, but the domination is becoming clear. Still a fairly niche category, admittedly, but such dominance is nevertheless a positive sign.
Then there is the small matter of the Apple Watch. Scoffed at by many for being “expensive”, Apple managed to ship as many as 3.4 million units of the Watch in the June quarter of 2017, according to research firm IDC. This gives the Apple Watch a market share of 49.6% in the smartwatch space, with Samsung in a very distant second place garnering 11% market share.
“Sales of Apple Watch were up over 50% in the June quarter, and it’s the number one selling smartwatch in the world by a very wide margin,” said Tim Cook, during the quarterly earnings call in August.
However, none of this is perhaps signifies domination as much as 41.03 million iPhones being sold in the last quarter, up from 40.4 million iPhones during the same period last year.
The new iPhone line-up (dubbed iPhone 8) is on its way, and it could perhaps feature an iPhone with a brighter and longer (or wider, depending on how you’re holding it) screen, and the new iOS 11 operating system.
Then there is the iPad Pro and the iPad line-up has already been refreshed, and is becoming a viable laptop alternative. The much-awaited Mac Pro is ready to join the already updated iMac and MacBook computing device line-up. Apple could reach the trillion-dollar mark sooner than expected.
But that is not all. There is the upcoming HomePod smart speaker, which we must do well to not categorise as a “me too” product following in the footsteps of the Amazon Echo line-up and the Google Home speaker. Apple has used the time to understand user preferences, and it is going to arrive when virtual assistant Siri, which plays a major role in the HomePod, is also getting a significant artificial intelligence upgrade.
A June 2017 survey by digital media and research company Morning Consult suggested that 19% of those who already own an Apple product are interested in buying the HomePod. The smart speaker rolls out later this year, with a price tag of $349 (around Rs22,475). The HomePod runs the Apple A8 chip, also seen in recent iPhones, and can become the smart home control hub too. Since this focuses on sound better than Amazon’s and Google’s speakers ever did, Apple could have yet another winner on its hands.