Earlier this week, I dropped by the Apple store at the nearby mall. The place was packed with consumers checking out MacBooks, iMacs and iPods, while an army of super-friendly employees actually provided good customer service (a novelty within the Canadian retail scene).
There is no doubt Apple, which has $15-billion of cash on the books, continues to be red-hot. The only question is how hot is hot. If you measure hotness by what the analysts are saying, Apple is going to have a monster fourth-quarter. RBC analyst Mike Abramsky expects Mac shipments to soar 47% in Q4 from the same period last year. He credits the release of Leopard, sleeker iMacs, and the iPhone as huge drivers.
Meanwhile, Piper Jaffray had expected Apple to selling 3.7 million Touch units and 23 million iPods, although sources now suggest Apple is aggressively ramping up production. Meanwhile, Apple shares have jumped more than $30 in the past month to $189.95.
Truth be told, Apple is a juggernaut and there’s no indication the good times are going to end any time soon. Apple has been transformed from a player serving a niche, but loyal, market into a mainstream player. People who never considered buying a Mac a few years ago are enthusiastically jumping into the fray.
Apple’s got it so good that even a recession in the U.S. may not cut it off at the knees, while rivals such as Dell will probably be forced to slash prices to maintain sales.
It is pretty amazing to see how Apple has blossomed. Was it the iPod? Do consumers finally appreciate design? Or has the computer really become a mainstream tool, and Apple now finds itself at the right place at the right time.
What do you think? Are there any bumps in the road ahead for Apple? Or is it smooth sailing?
Update: The Apple Blog (my new, favorite Apple blog) has a good post on why Apple stores are resonating with consumers. Here’s a bit of his take:
Nothing beats word of mouth marketing, and by creating a completely open environment for customers to enter and be free to play, talk or hang out is a beautiful thing. It’s like the Starbucks of the IT industry. You compare the Apple store to the Dell stands you see in malls and you realize the immediate polarization in business models as well as brand. Apple fosters community-building relationships, not only between customers and machines, but between customers and other customers. Walking into an Apple store, I feel completely open to talk to the stranger standing next to me playing with the same device. After all, we tend to share one huge interest: our devotion for Apple.