Why? Because several major considerations could lead to wildly different results. Now that the iPhone makes up a significant chunk of Apple’s revenue, moreover, these considerations could also materially affect Apple’s broader sales and profits for 2009.
What are these considerations? They include:
- Whether Apple will cut the iPhone’s wholesale price so that AT&T/other carriers can subsidise it down to $99 or less.
- Whether Apple will release a low-end ‘nano’-like iPhone or other, different iPhones.
- Whether Apple will start selling iPhones in China.
- Whether Steve Jobs will make any major iPhone announcements at Macworld in January.
- How terrible the consumer recession will get.
That’s why the predictions for next year’s unit sales already vary by more than 3x.
- RBC’s Mike Abramsky reiterated yesterday that he expects Apple to ship 14 million iPhones next year, but warns that his outlook “does not reflect possible boost to momentum (and possible lower margins) from iPhone price cuts or launch of lower priced versions.”
- Meanwhile, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster still thinks Apple will ship 45 million iPhones next year. He assumes Apple will sell multiple iPhone models.
Obviously unit sales don’t correlate directly with revenue (more, cheaper iPhones might generate the same revenue as fewer, expensive iPhones), so units aren’t the only consideration here. Also, since Apple accounts for iPhone sales using “subscription accounting” that spreads the revenue over 24 months, the unit sales in a given period won’t have a major impact on its P&L. But investors will still be watching them closely.
The good news: Few people outside of Apple have any idea what’s actually going to happen. So we’ll all be able to change our predictions together as Apple begins to reveal its plan
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