A Strange Thing About Apple’s Numbers

Apple NumbersThat Apple is an innovative, market disrupting, publicly traded company with a long history and a few hundred million customers is not up for dispute. Apple of the 21st century has a growing list of competitors.

Add Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Amazon, and a growing number of Chinese knock off manufacturers that compete with Apple at every market segment and it’s a wonder the company prospers at all. Yet, Apple owns most of the profits in every major market it enters, and the company provides one thing that other companies do not.

Numbers.

Rather, Apple publishes financial numbers every quarter. And not just the revenue and profits. Apple tells the world how many Macs were sold (not shipped), how many iPhones customers bought all over the world (not just shipped), and how many iPads were sold. Pretty or not, Apple doesn’t hide from itself.

Microsoft makes PCs and smartphones, but Microsoft does not tell anyone how many they sold in a given quarter. Google sells Chromebooks, smartphones, and tablets, and seemingly cannot count them because the company has refused to announce how many are shipped, let alone sold.

Why the disparity in honesty, transparency, and forthrightness?

Surely Apple’s competitors know their numbers, but perhaps some are just so incompetent at the executive level they really do not know how many were manufactured, how many were shipped, or how many of whatever they think they’re selling were actually sold.

As a publicly traded company Apple has an obligation to provide specific financial information– especially revenue and profits, and bolsters that with gross margins and other numbers the bean counters love. Unit sales of major products are merely a plus, another way for Apple to set itself apart from the general riffraff of technology competitors.

No one argues that Samsung sells more smartphones than Apple, but how many are sold is a guesstimate. No one argues that Lenovo, Dell, HP, and others sell more Windows PCs than Apple sells Macs, but the numbers you read about are guesstimates.

Wait a minute. Apple does not disclose the number of Apple TV units sold each quarter. And Apple has yet to disclose the number of Watch units sold each quarter. All we’ve heard are guesstimates. Those are not major products. Apple has never, to my knowledge, released sales numbers of product accessories and that’s exactly what Watch is; an iPhone accessory. So, to date, sales are guesstimates, but it’s worth noting that the watch industry is going through a dramatic slump the past six months, nearly as bad as the economic slump from 2008-2009. Obviously, Apple sells enough Watch units each quarter to impact the rest of the industry.

Every quarter, quarter after quarter, year after year, Apple’s financial disclosures reflect the sales units of every major product. Why don’t Apple’s competitors do the same thing?

Amazon, how many Kindle-anything have you sold? Google, how many Nexus-whatevers have you sold? Microsoft, how many of those supposedly hot selling Surface-thingamajigs have you sold?

Crickets.