Can you use iPod sales figures as an economic indicator?

Analysts were hoping for Apple to report a growth in iPod sales of around 16%. Apple delivered a figure of 5%. Can this data be used to take the temperature of the economy?

Analysts were hoping for Apple to report a growth in iPod sales of around 16%.  Apple delivered a figure of 5%.  Can this data be used to take the temperature of the economy? I'm in agreement with my colleague Larry Dignan on this - looking at Apple's figures and hoping to draw some economic conclusions from them is laughable. 

Let's have a think about the iPod for a moment.  The iPod as a concept has been around since October 2001, and since then some 140 million units have been sold.   Over that period the iPod has continually been a huge success, especially over the Holiday period.  But last Christmas it was obvious that the iPod wasn't going to be the blockbuster hit that it had been previously (in terms of media attention and consumer attention).  Sure, massive numbers were sold, but you could feel that the consumer obsession with the iPod was over and that this had been replaced by an obsession for the Wii and DS Lite.  While Apple has done a good job of keeping the iPod line up fresh, but that doesn't change the fact that there are millions of iPods in circulation. 

So, what does this mean?  Well, maybe we are getting to the point where most people who want an iPod already have one.  It's certainly interesting that Apple is trying to rebrand the iPod touch as a mobile WiFi platform.  Many of Apple's products have a fixed lifespan thanks to the built-in battery but since even this gives the iPod a workable life of about three years then it's possible that existing owners aren't yet ready for another upgrade cycle.   It's also possible that new products (from both Apple and from other companies such as Nintendo) are overshadowing the iPod. 

Or maybe the problem here is that analyst goggles are a bit like beer goggles and offer a distorted view of reality.  Maybe there's nothing wrong with iPod sales and that it's analyst's expectations that are wrong.

Thoughts?

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