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Apple has started the new year by disappointing investors with its first profit warning in 17 years. The company said that poor sales of its latest range of iPhones has helped to weaken its first financial quarter (September to December 2018). Apple now expects revenues of US$84 billion (£66 billion) with a gross profit margin of 38%, having initially expected between US$89 billion and US$93 billion. In the same quarter last year, Apple brought in US$88.3 billion on a gross margin of 42%.

苹果公司以令投资者失望的方式开始了新的一年,它发出了17年来的第一次盈利预警。该公司表示,其最新系列iPhone销量不佳,这有助于削弱其第一个财政季度(2018年9月至12月)。苹果目前预计营收为840亿美元(660亿英镑),毛利率为38%,最初预计为890亿美元至930亿美元。去年同一季度,苹果公司实现了883亿美元的收入,毛利率为42%。



This revision caused the company’s stock to drop 10% to its lowest level in 21 months. It is time to find culprits, and I will not be surprised to see headlines like, “Tim Cook is not up to the Job(s)” or: “Seven years after Jobs’ death, Apple is starting to rot.” We mustn’t believe them, however.

这一调整导致该公司股价下跌10%,降至21个月来的最低水平。是时候找罪魁祸首了,看到这样的头条新闻我也不会感到惊讶,“蒂姆·库克不能胜任工作”或“乔布斯去世七年后,苹果开始腐烂。”然而,我们不能相信这些新闻报道。

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In other words, if Apple’s profit margin is 38%, Tim Cook would be able to add or detract 1.5% at most. The same is true in reverse of Steve Jobs’ achievements during his two periods at the helm (1976-85 and 1997-2011). We can’t attribute Apple’s once skyrocketing stock to his tenure because we don’t know what the alternative best-case scenario would have been.

换句话说,如果苹果的利润率是38%,蒂姆·库克最多只能增加或减少1.5%。史蒂夫·乔布斯在他的两个执掌期间(1976-85年和1997-2011年)所取得的成就也是如此。我们不能把苹果一度飙升的股票归因于他的任期,因为我们不知道其他可以替代的最佳方案会是什么。

In my view, Apple’s problems are primarily caused by external events. Cook explains in his recent letter that, with the exception of the services business – which includes the App Store and iTunes and accounted for 14% of revenues in financial 2018 – all the other Apple businesses will be “constrained”. This means Macs, iPads, iWatches but most importantly iPhones, which accounted for 62.7% of total Apple revenues in 2018, compared to 63.4% in 2016.

在我看来,苹果的问题主要是由外部事件引起的。库克在他最近的信中解释说,除了服务业务-(包括AppStore和iTunes,占2018年财政收入的14%)-所有其他苹果公司的业务都将受到“限制”。这意味着Mac、iPad、iWatches,但最重要的是iPhone(2018年占苹果总收入的62.7%,而2016年为63.4%)

What is causing this constraint? The increasing competition from Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi – but also from Google, LG and Samsung – has eroded the once dominant position of Apple in the smartphone market. Competition has been particularly damaging in emerging markets, which Cook is blaming on a strong dollar and weaker macroeconomic conditions – as opposed to any faulty Apple strategy in this part of the world.

什么导致了这种限制?来自华为和小米等中国制造商以及谷歌、LG和三星的竞争日益激烈,削弱了苹果在智能手机市场曾经的主导地位。新兴市场的竞争尤其具有破坏性,库克将此归咎于美元走强和宏观经济环境走弱,而不是苹果在这一地区的任何错误战略

With respect to markets where the iPhone has enjoyed a more dominant position – especially the US – Apple recognises that customers don’t replace their devices as often as they used to. A recent report by BayStreet Research estimated that, while the average user upgraded her iPhone every 24 months as recently as 2015, by the last quarter of 2018 this holding period had jumped to 36 months.

在iPhone占据主导地位的市场-尤其是美国-苹果认识到,消费者不会像过去那样经常更换自己的设备。BayStreet Research最近发布的一份报告估计,2015年消费者平均每24个月就升级一次iPhone,但到2018年最后一个季度,这一持有期已跃升至36个月。

This is due to fewer carrier subsidies, according to Apple – but also, in my opinion, to the fact that the new devices do not have much more to offer. I use an iPhone 7, which I bought in 2016, and I am honestly not inclined to spend US$1,000 for I-am-not-sure-which new features on a newer version. I already get much more from my current device than I need.

据苹果公司称,这是由于运营商补贴减少所致,但是,在我看来,新的设备并没有提供更多的东西。我使用的是我在2016年购买的iPhone 7,老实说,我不想花1000美元买新版本的新功能。我现在的设备已经比我需要的功能多了。

Apple’s problem

苹果的问题

It worries me that Apple is a single-product company. Among its other revenues, iPad sales are one-tenth of iPhone sales eight years after tablets were launched. By comparison, Samsung mobile phone sales only represent 36.6% of its total revenues. Wearables by Apple are not taking off either – and the company is not monetising its platform business by selling customer data to the same extent as digital rivals such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.

苹果是一家单一产品的公司,这让我担心。在其他收入中,iPad的销量是iPhone销量的十分之一,尽管平板电脑已经推出了8年。相比之下,三星手机的销售额仅占其总收入的36.6%。苹果的可穿戴设备也没有起色——而且该公司也没有像谷歌、亚马逊和Facebook这样的数字竞争对手那样通过销售客户数据来实现平台业务的货币化。

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Author
Arturo Bris
Professor of Finance, IMD Business School

作者
Arturo Bris
瑞士洛桑管理学院金融学教授