Here’s a data point that puts a lot of Apple’s recent behavior into perspective: by next year, Apple's revenues from the iPhone and iPad will be more than double its revenues from the entire Macintosh product line.
That is the projection from investment bank RBC Capital Markets, which says in fiscal year 2011 Apple will generate nearly $36 billion from the iPhone and iPad, versus just under $17 billion from all of its Macintosh computers. (The iPhone will be $27.5 billion, with the iPad contributing $8.2 billion.)
In fact, mobile devices will be by far Apple's biggest business, generating half of Apple’s total revenues in 2011, which RBC estimates will be about $72 billion.
No wonder Apple CEO Steve Jobs had nothing to say about the Macintosh at this week’s World Wide Developers Conference. And no wonder Apple has pivoted so quickly away from old-fashioned computers and onto the Next Big Thing.
Right after the keynote, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece in the form of an open letter to the Macintosh claiming that Jobs had “broken up” with Macintosh in favor of a younger, sexier technology. We headlined it “R.I.P., Macintosh.”
Who knew it would strike such a nerve? So far we’ve had 452 comments, and apparently the piece has been rocketing around on Twitter, sparking quite the debate among Mac lovers.
Does Apple really intend to abandon the Macintosh in order to pursue the iPhone, iPad, iOS, and iAds? Well, now things have ratcheted up again, because some fanboy sent the article to Steve Jobs, and Jobs has responded: “Completely wrong. Just wait.”
Jobs has a history of saying one thing and doing the exact opposite. It’s not lying. It’s his “reality distortion field.” But maybe he means it. None of us on the outside have any idea what Apple ever intends to do about anything.
I would, however, suggest people take a look at revenue figures for Macintosh over the past few years, and compare those numbers to the iPhone. In Apple’s fiscal 2007 year, Mac sales were $10.3 billion. They grew to $14.3 billion in 2008, dropped to $13.9 billion in 2009. This year, according to RBC, Mac revenues will be $16.5 billion and next year they’ll be $16.7 billion. It’s a great business, but one that has essentially flatlined.
Now here’s the iPhone. In 2007 sales were $630 million. In 2008, $6.7 billion. In 2009, $13 billion. This year sales will hit $21.5 billion and in 2011 they will be $27.5 billion. On top of that, the iPad will contribute $3.1 billion in 2010, $8.2 billion in 2011.
Now put those businesses next to one another. One is 26 years old and has gone flat at about $17 billion. The other is brand-new and will go from zero to $35 billion in five years.
In the old business you’ve got 5 percent market share, but in the other one you’re the market leader. And you sell all of the apps, most of the ads, and a lot of the content, keeping a slice of everything.
Where would you put your resources? Yeah. Me too.