Apple’s quarterly earnings call was full of new information about the company. Below are five areas in particular that caught my ear, based on comments from executives. Chief operating officer Tim Cook (Apple’s acting leader with chief executive Steve Jobs out on medical leave) answered many analyst questions himself, while chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer also fielded some of the questions.
Cash On Hand
One question asked what Apple might do with its $26 billion in cash. Oppenheimer noted that after last quarter’s strong sales, Apple now actually has over $28 billion dollars in cash — and still no debt. In terms of what it may use this money for, Oppenheimer wouldn’t say, but we still have some fun ideas.
One particularly hot topic in recent months has been the sale of netbooks, very small, less powerful laptops that usually sell below the $500 mark. Cook said Apple was indeed watching the space but noted that Apple still felt such products were underpowered for most customers needs and that they could not get a good experience out of the smaller keyboard and display. “But we’ll see,” Cook ended with, leaving the door open to Apple potentially moving into the space in the future.
There wasn’t any data for the Apple TV released in Apple’s earnings report today, but when asked about it, Cook noted that the product saw a big pick up in sales year over year with over three times as many units being sold. He made sure to reiterate Jobs’ comments from last year that the Apple TV is a “hobby” for Apple, but noted that strong movie rental sales through the device point to a time when Apple may take it more seriously as a consumer product.
No one specifically asked about the “iPhone nano,” the name members of the media are giving to a smaller, potentially cheaper version of the iPhone that’s been rumored for some time now, but Cook indirectly responded to it when asked about iPhone competitors. He noted that developing software on devices with multiple screen sizes and resolutions was hard on developers, so Apple clearly wants to avoid that (this would seem to be a knock on Google’s Android platform, which is on several different devices with more coming this year). The iPhone nano would of course be smaller than the current iPhone and would have a smaller screen — so that statement seems to rule out such a device for now.
Cook also noted that the $199 price point offers a “compelling value and we see nothing in the marketplace that is anywhere close to it.” So that seems to pretty much rule out a $99 iPhone for the time being.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the Apple call came towards the end when the topic of iPhone competitors came up again. Specifically, the question was, how will some of the upcoming products change the way Apple thinks about the iPhone? It was pretty clear this meant the recently unveiled Palm Pre device. Cook said it was difficult to judge products that are not yet on the market but that he welcomes competition as long as “they don’t rip off our IP [Intellectual Property].” An interesting statement given that the Palm Pre is the first major phone to use a multi-touch display since the iPhone.
The next question asked Cook to elaborate on which companies he might be referring to. Cook said he didn’t want to talk about any specific company, but I think it’s pretty clear who he meant. Look out, Palm!