Apple Reports Positive Q1 2009 Earnings

apple earnsMany retailers fell apart this holiday season, their registers ringing up far less of the holiday cheer than they’d have liked.  Companies were cutting staff. Cash was being conserved.  Spending, especially on premium products was way down.  Apple, despite the so called “Apple Tax,” the name sometimes spitefully applied to the higher pricing on Apple’s products, bucked the trend.   Earnings for the period ended December 27th, while shadowed with some elements of mixed quality, handily beat expectations. 

For the first quarter of Fiscal 2009, Apple reported its best revenue result of all time.  Total sales for the quarter crossed past $10 billion to $10.17b.  Year over year, the gain was 5.8% compared to last year’s sales of $9.6b.

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Breaking News: Steve Jobs Taking Medical Leave of Absense

jobs logo portrait metueEven as he denies it himself, Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook has often been billed as Steve Jobs eventual successor.  When Jobs was recuperating from pancreatic cancer in 2004, Cook ably took the helm.  Now, it seems, on another interim basis (albeit without a change of title) he’s being tasked to try on the role again.

Today, in a surprise announcement delivered by email to Apple staff (full text of the message along with Jobs 2004 treatment related email are reprinted below), Jobs said he is taking a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

While Jobs’ health is a personal matter, it has been the subject of recurring rumor and speculation since a June conference where he appeared noticeably gaunt and underweight.  Initially, the intensely private executive deferred most questions saying his health was a not a public concern.   That sparked many debates over the ethics and disclosure obligations that go with his obvious, and substantial, contribution to the company’s fortunes.

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Macworld Revealed: iTunes Set Free

macworld 2009When Steve Jobs gives a keynote, there’s a script.  His is a process that’s been polished through years of practice.  Usually, first comes a warm-up.  Steve baits the audience with facts and notable achievements.  Something to grab their attention.  Next comes a teaser where he hints at the things he’s about to mention.  “I have three quick things to tell you about” he’ll say.  “It’s really exciting.”  “We’re absolutely thrilled.”  Then the announcements and product demonstrations follow.  There’s experts and music, applause pauses, and where possible, even celebrity cameos.  Each announcement builds off the last until, finally, to cap it off, there’s “one more thing” seemingly (but not really) that was almost forgotten; the big cherry on top of it all.  That’s when he throws out the big ace up his sleeve. Then the music plays.  (And the press and pundits begin their critiques).

This morning at Macworld, before the music of Tony Bennett paved the way for his exit, Phil Schiller stood in for Steve Jobs and did his best to follow the same routine. 

Phil had his list of talking points.  He had his “oh, by the way.”  He had a captive audience.  He had his musical departure.  Click to Read More

Applevine Report: Macworld Rumor Recap

macworld 2009 rumorsMacworld has been going on since 1985, the same year Steve Jobs resigned from Apple.   Since  1997, the year he came back, Apple has used the show as a springboard to introduce new products and as a pulpit for Steve to evangelize. 

In 1998, Jobs took to the stage to introduce the iMac.  In 2001, he enthusiastically showed iTunes and Apple’s first widescreen notebook.  In 2005, it was the Mac Mini and the iPod Shuffle.  Two years ago, in 2007, the iPhone took the spotlight.  Last year, it was the Macbook Air.    

Tomorrow, a new page will turn.  It will be Apple’s last year at the event (Apple announced they were pulling out of Macworld in December) and Steve Jobs won’t be giving the keynote.  Marketing exec. Phil Schiller will do it instead.   No one’s sure what the changes mean.  Will Apple quietly part ways with the independently run Macworld show? Or will the company say goodbye blazing with a surprise announcement of something new and unexpected?

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Early Zune Owners Ring in the Year with Silence

zune clock crashIf you type “hate Vista” and “Microsoft” into Google, the search engine returns 91,200 results.  “Vista Sucks” and “Microsoft” returns 124,000.  It’s no secret Microsoft’s latest operating system offering has its critics.   Xbox and Zune owners are far less venomous.  Many, in fact, are fiercely loyal to the products that come out of Redmond.   This new year, however, the ranks of Zune faithful may thin by a few.

On December 31st, some owners of first generation 30gb Zunes were forced to ring in the new year with silence after a program error temporarily rendered their MP3 players into digital paper weights.

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Warner Music and YouTube Not Hearing the Same Tune

record-rights-issue-sm.jpgIf you missed the headlines, Warner Music Group, the first of the Big 4 record labels to partner with YouTube has pulled off the site.  Accounts and press releases differ over culpability – whether YouTube bailed or Warner Music punted – but the material fact is the same.  From Bad Company to the B-52’s, James Blunt to Jane’s Addiction, the videos are down.  The reason is simple: money.

For several months, the two companies have been trying to renegotiate their expired license agreement.   Under the prior terms, its reported that Warner received either a fraction of a cent per video play or a share of any ad revenue generated alongside their content, whichever was greater. 

Neither, it turns out, was great enough. According to the New York Times, in 2008 less than one percent of Warner’s $639m in digital revenues came from YouTube; that despite the fact that music videos are among the most watched content on the site. 

According to Ad Age “Forty-seven of the top 100 most-watched creators on YouTube are musicians or labels.”

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U2 Cashes out of Live Nation Stock

guitar moneyOver the past year, in an effort to establish exclusive, long term multiple-rights partnerships (so called “360” deals) with select A-list artists, Live Nation has dangled generous advance payments and equity as bait.  Some of music’s biggest names bit in to the lure.   Madonna, and Jay-Z, Shakira, Nickelback and U2 all signed up.  Now, it seems a couple of the deals may have been even more generous than Live Nation intended. SEC filings indicate U2 will be the first to cash in.

U2’s next studio album, “No Line on the Horizon,” is officially slated for a March 2nd  release. The band’s promotional and touring partnership with Live Nation won’t really pick up steam until then.  Still, before the revenue starts running, nearly $25mllion is going U2’s way now.

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