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iPocalypse now?: iPad sales "collapse" and the Web freaks

John Cox | March 7, 2013
Based on one market researcher's estimate of a one-month fall in 9.7-inch tablet display shipments, a range of tech news sites and bloggers are announcing, if not trumpeting, the apocalyptic "collapse" of Apple's iPad sales.

He believes it "strongly hints" at collapse because he believes that display shipments, by manufacturers to OEMs, are a reliable indicator of future shipments of the finished tablets. But the question here is whether a one-month decrease is a response to crashing iPad retail sales, or one of a multitude of possible tweaks to Apple's complex supply chain.

Every "estimate" of cannibalization - which means in this case the number of people who opt for buying an iPad mini when, without that product, they would have bought a full-sized iPad - is just that: an estimate, based on a set of assumptions about how tablet buyers will behave.

Regarding the "iPad collapse," Matthew Panzarino, at his RobotTuxedo blog, quotes Apple CEO Tim Cook, who commented on the January speculation about collapsing iPhone sales: "I'd also stress that, even if a particular data point were to be factual, it would be impossible to interpret what that data point means to our business. Our supply chain is very complex and we have multiple sources for our components. Yields can vary...supplier performance can vary. There's an inordinate list of things that would make any single data point not a great proxy for what's going on."

What's missing now is exactly what was missing then: more comprehensive, not to mention reliable, data about inventory, about changes in suppliers or supplier relationships, changes in manufacturing processes or yields, or changes or adjustments to display technologies, to name just a few.

Hsieh follows with his statement about display shipments with this: "As we noted in December, Apple had planned to sell 40M iPad minis (7.9") and 60M iPads (9.7") in 2013. However, the reality seems to be the reverse, as the iPad mini has been more popular than the iPad. We now understand that Apple may be planning to sell 55M iPad minis (7.9") and 33M iPads (9.7") in 2013."

But Panzarino adds in his own blogpost an important qualification to Hsieh's assertions.

"Only one problem: Apple never announced any such plans of any sort," he writes. "I'm sure that Apple planned to sell a certain amount of both models, but it never reveals those estimates publicly. In fact, it has become even more conservative in its forecast reporting in an endeavor to halt projection inflation."

Since the release of iPad mini in Fall 2012, Apple so far has reported "iPad sales" without breaking them down by screen size.

VentureBeat's John Koetsier read Singh's post, and then posted his summary of it. He, too, used the word "collapse" in his headline.

"Obviously, this is potentially a shocking and catastrophic event for Apple," he wrote.

But maybe not. Koetsier says there could be two other reasons that these display shipments are "vastly down."


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