Many have wondered if and how current Apple CEO Tim Cook will manage in the wake of Steve Jobs, and if he will be able to brandish the same level of charisma and marketing cunning that helped Apple’s products and brand flourish in the past. That still remains to be seen. However, in recent comments to the media, Mr. Cook managed to talk about what is assumed to be the impending release of the iPhone 5 without ever giving us much of anything to chew on.
And that isn’t easy to do.
The line of questioning started when a Barclays analyst asked Cook, ”Do you have any idea with the iPhone, how much rumors and speculations hurt sales?” (I guess we know how Barclay’s feel s about the iPhone 5 News Blog and similar tech media blogs, huh?) Cook’s answer, as reported by the New York Daily News and others, was refreshingly sly:
“It’s difficult to sort out,” he said. “I am fairly convinced that there’s an incredible anticipation out there for a future product. And as you would expect, given what we would be able to deliver in the past… it’s a reasonable amount.”
It’s a reasonable amount of cloudy, is what his answer is. But Cook’s statement is still not a flat-out denial that this “future product” could very well be a new iPhone 5 released in the December quarter.
In other words, anticipation for and speculation surrounding the future release of the iPhone 5 is hurting sales now.
It’s hard to imagine, however, that Apple’s revenue model does account for the buzz and speculation that helps the iPhone, iPad, and virtually every other Apple product outsell its competitors pound for pound, so Tim Cook’s sense here that the speculation is a real drag on Apple’s sales is somewhat laughable. Sure, there’s always a downturn in iPhone sales in the couple of months heading into the new iPhone’s release, but every new iPhone release is more explosive that the one before it, and much of that explosion comes from the pent-up excitement and anticipation that the Apple rumor mills grind out.
Heck, conspiracy theorists even think that the 9to5Mac iPhone 5 prototype was planted by Cupertino to 1) throw us all off of the real iPhone 5, and 2) get people really psyched about it. My tin foil hat must have been cocked crooked just enough to have avoided succumbing to that conspiracy theory, but I still appreciate how it demonstrates the power of the rumor mill.
What I took out of the Cook comment was the extremely careful, nuanced use of “a future product.” That’s a thing of beauty, folks. Not “the future product” or, God forbid, “a future iPhone,” or “the future iPhone” — but the extremely generic “future product.” That is a well-manicured piece of language — so deliciously subtle and careful that, to me, it smacks of a very exciting iPhone 5 release. And once again, Cook is doing exactly what Steve Jobs used to do: completely ignore the next iteration of the iPhone so that people would talk about it more.
And it’s working. I like this guy!
The Daily News also surmised some release date hints from Cook as well:
And Cook’s referral to “the past” could be an indication that the company intends to continue with its established model of releasing a new phone each year. Last year, of course, Apple released the iPhone 4S in the fall.
Did you get that from what Cook said?
It would seem to me that Tim Cook was referring more to what level of product that Apple has been able to deliver in the past — not to the release date. But what’s important to remember here is that Mr. Cook’s comments were all in reaction to recent slumping earnings. We’ve seen in the past how other CEO’s from Apple partners and competitors leverage the iPhone in cooling down investors. In this case, that was clearly the motivating factor behind his comments. Certainly, there’s nothing to take away from these comments that gives us any more information than what we previously had about the iPhone 5.
By Michael Nace