Apple missed analysts’ estimates in its June quarters of 2012 and 2013. Three years ago investors — and customers — were waiting nervously for the next iPhone. Two years ago the company’s sales in China, its most important growth market, fell. Those were things worth worrying about.
On Tuesday, Apple’s stock suffered a more serious adverse reaction than on either of those darker July afternoons, falling more than 7 per cent. Profits and revenues beat consensus estimates. This time the worries are iPhone shipments that were a sliver below expectations and a slightly weaker-than-expected revenue target for the September quarter.
Some investor wobble is to be expected. They own a different company than the Apple of two years ago, and their expectations are higher. The stock has doubled since then even after Tuesday’s sell-off. Tim Cook is firmly entrenched as chief executive.
But the growth story is still intact. The iPhone remains a magical success story, with 47.5m units sold in the last three months, up 35 per cent year-on-year. Consumers are willing to pay significantly more for them, with the average selling price up $99, or 18 per cent, in 12 months. China’s economy may be slowing, but so far it has done nothing to slow customer demand: revenue from the region rose 112 per cent year-on-year to $13.2bn. At that pace, it will outstrip the Americas as Apple’s biggest market in the next few months.
None of this is to argue that Apple can keep growing at its current pace indefinitely. How the company can follow the iPhone 6 and the conquest of China is a legitimate question; the Apple Watch is not yet showing signs of being a world beater. Anxieties about Apple eventually losing share to cheaper rivals are similarly legitimate. The point is that nothing in Tuesday’s numbers diminishes the fact that Apple absolutely dominates the most profitable part of mobile technology today, or the stubborn fact that dominance is hard to maintain.
这一切绝不意味着苹果能够永远保持当前的增长速度。有人想知道苹果如何在iPhone 6和征服中国市场之后延续成功，有这样的疑问是合理的；Apple Watch迄今仍没展示出在世界热卖的迹象。对苹果最终被产品售价较低的竞争对手抢走市场份额的担忧同样是合理的。关键在于，周二发布的财报数据既没有削弱一个事实，即苹果在当前移动科技利润最高的领域占绝对主导地位，也没有削弱另一个铁一般的事实，即维持这一霸主地位并不容易。