Apple Trolls vs Fanboys: Fanning the Flames (Op-Ed)

apple-fans-and-trolls-who-is-keeping-the-newsApple trolls and fanboys alike are both fanning the flames of the publicity which keeps them in the news. For as long as Apple has been a major player in tech, no other tech corporation has provoked nearly as much conversation. But most flame wars have been focused on disinformation espoused by both sides, and as the saying goes, no news is bad news.

One of the most recent pieces of misinformation to trend on social media and news recently was Slice Intelligence’s report released a month ago. This is a perfect example of one of the primary root causes for these publicity generating viral articles. Apple has complete control of its distribution, and this is especially true with new products such as the Apple Watch. Sales figures are often a major cause of controversy when a company like Slice, who base their statistics on selected sales channels (specifically citing their own), release data like this which is leapt upon by every Apple hater as proof of their conviction that each product is a useless new toy. Once the haters have been baited, they become the bait of the loyalists who jump in to scoff at the statistics, often citing their own. As Apple keeps quiet, those stats tend to be those of entirely different product lines. Thus begins an ‘infinite loop’ of heated debate, with two not dissimilar arguments facing off against each other.

In reality, there’s very little basis for either argument. It’s easy to see why Slice got the stats so wrong — they’re monitoring third party sales channels, while Apple’s new products are sold exclusively through their own retail network until supply catches up with demand. During that period, sales through alternative channels are resales bought from Apple’s storefronts and sold at a premium due to lack of availability. As supply catches up with demand these sales decrease, and when it does Apple quietly points out that the figures reported by companies like Slice are completely inaccurate. At which point they allow other tightly controlled retailers such as Best Buy to acquire wholesale quantities for resale in their own stores.

On the Watch, our June sales were higher than April or May. I realize that’s very different than some of what’s being written, but June sales were the highest. The Watch had a more of a back-ended kind of skewing. – Tim Cook

Beyond Reality Distortion

The fact of the matter is that neither sources are absolutely trustworthy. Tim Cook is traditionally conservative in the number of products he has manufactured prior to launch, preventing financial losses in the event of unexpectedly low sales, while also causing product queues outside the stores that inevitably begin outside every Apple Store in anticipation. They then ramp up supply and a few months later they can amaze their audience by showing sales (based on product availability) increase month on month for the first quarter of a new product’s lifecycle.

At the same time we should keep in mind reported ‘sales’ figures are almost always not that. They are the number of products which reach the shelves of warehouses or retailers. So neither the figures of Apple nor those of third party sources who quite often find themselves stocking huge numbers of items which go unsold. That said, given how much history we have to go on since between iMac and Apple Watch it seems Apple are doing fairly well with this strategy. Prior to Apple’s huge growth, when Steve Jobs hired Tim Cook away from Compaq his first assignment was making their supply chain more efficient. Back then it was absolutely necessary to keep Apple afloat. Since they became the most profitable company on Earth we’ve seen how supply chain management has a whole host of extra benefits that can be derived through what began as cost-cutting and quickly became the free publicity we’re all generating for Apple – whether we like them or not.

These frequently occurring sales speculation dramas may be better news than any other for Apple. After all, I’ve not once commented on Apple Watch itself despite repeatedly referencing it.

John O'Mara is a writer of code and prose from London, UK