The talk about Apple's third quarter earnings -- and what those earnings mean for the future of the company -- are continuing. Although Apple set a new sales record for the iPhone, more analysts are discussing the slower iPad and Mac sales.
How big of a problem is this for Apple?
Let's take a quick look at the stat lines: Apple sold 31.2 million iPhones in its third quarter. That's up from 26 million a year ago. But iPad sales dipped from 17 million to 14.6 million and the company only sold 3.8 million Macs compared to 4 million a year ago.
There's been plenty of focus on the Post-PC era, but Apple has been less exposed than some other computer-makers. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is "laser-focused and working hard on some amazing new products that we will introduce in the fall and across 2014." But it remains to be seen if he can come up with a cool new something to stop the bleeding.
Losing Absolute Control
We caught up with Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, to get his thoughts on Apple's future in a post-Steve Jobs era. He told us one of his biggest concerns from the earnings report is that Apple appears to be weakening in areas where its control is absolute (Macs) and strengthening in areas where it is dependent on carriers (iPhones).
"Long-term that is a big problem. If the wireless carriers suddenly decide they like someone else better, Apple's wonderful iPhone growth number could turn into a bad number leaning in the other direction," Enderle said. "Apple typically has much more control over what happens on the PC and tablet side. And we don't even talk about MP3 players anymore."
The question is this: Was the slide inevitable? Would this have happened on Jobs' watch or would the late Apple co-founder have found a way to head this off at the pass? Enderle is betting on the latter.
"Steve was a strategic thinker and Cook is a tactical thinker. Steve would have anticipated this and had something in place to mitigate it," Enderle said. "Tim will eventually have something to mitigate this, but it may be too late. Eventually the board is going to figure this out. But I think by the time they do it could be much like last time -- Apple is going to be in a lot of trouble."
No Easy Path
Enderle has consistently said that Cook was never the right choice for the job. Jobs chose Cook because he thought he would return from his illness. Enderle characterized him as the "anti-Steve Jobs" in that he was good at all the operations Jobs didn't like to do.
"Expecting Tim to do Steve's job would be like pulling a mechanic out of the line of an F-1 race and having him replace the driver. It's just not going to end well. And by the same token, the driver couldn't be the mechanic," Enderle said. "Steve wouldn't have been good at Tim's job and Tim is not good at Steve's job."
So what's the answer? Enderle said Apple needs to think strategically about regaining some control. And if Apple can't gain more control from the carriers, the company may have to move into the carrier business and compete head on.
"Apple needs to figure out a way around the carriers or gain more control away from carriers on smartphones or find something else to give them control as a hedge against the smartphone, much like they had with the iPad and the PC," he said. "None of those paths is easy."