TV-PGMay 6, 2004: Apple's 10-Q is now available, and it says more layoffs are on the horizon. Meanwhile, Roy Disney thinks Steve Jobs would do a better job running Disney than Mel Gibson, which may be why Steve is Premiere's "most influential person in Hollywood," and Apple's retail guru reveals all sorts of fun facts about those black 'n' white 'n' steel 'n' wood boutiques you love so much...
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A Refreshing Change Of Pace (5/6/04)

Attention, Apple Doom-'n'-Gloomers: once again it's your time in the, er, lack of sun. We know things have been a bit tough on you recently, what with Apple doing so well over the past several months and everything; as if the blowout Christmastime sales of the iPod weren't bad enough, the company actually sold more units in the subsequent non-holiday-frenzy quarter, and that combined with double-digit revenue growth, a $4.6 billion cash pile, and zero debt makes for some pretty challenging times for the Apple pessimist. But c'mon, this should cheer you up: Apple just filed its 10-Q with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and that's always good for a grin.

For the uninitiated, the 10-Q is a form that Apple has to file with the SEC every quarter, which generally discloses all sorts of exciting and not-so-exciting financial info about the company. And while MacGoths who read it will have to shield their eyes from the sunny news about Apple's rising sales and retail profitability, the great thing about the 10-Q is the section called "Factors That May Affect Future Results and Financial Condition," because in it Apple is required to list just about anything it can think of that might possibly go wrong and tank the company's earnings. It's like the Murphy's Law "What-If?" comic of corporate failure.

All the old standbys are there, of course, such as "general economic conditions," "political uncertainty," war, terrorism, public health issues, heavy market competition, the difficulty of juggling multiple product launches, reliance on third-party components, the possibility that Apple's headquarters might fall through the earth's crust and be pillaged by those pesky subterranean Mole People, etc. But there are a couple of listed factors that are a little more specific to Apple's current situation. Take, for example, Apple's caution that "the Company relies on third-party music content, which may not be available to the Company on commercially reasonable terms or at all." In other words, the record labels could simply decide not to renew Apple's license and the iTunes Music Store would crumble into dust overnight. Ouch!

And consider this one: "The Company's products, from time to time, experience quality problems that can result in decreased net sales and operating profits." Between PowerBook Leprosy, iBooks suffering logic board flakiness, and, most recently, those miniPods that wind up going all staticky after a few weeks of use, yeah, we won't be terribly surprised if this one kicks in several times this quarter. Oh, and are you concerned about flagging Power Mac sales, even after the advent of the G5? Then this one's right up your alley: "Unit sales of the Company's professionally oriented desktop systems have declined over the past several years... if future unit sales of Power Macintosh systems fail to partially or fully recover, it could be difficult for the Company to improve its overall profitability." Meaning, buy a G5 or the cafeteria at One Infinite Loop will soon be serving the very best generic dog food money can almost buy.

So that's the dismal gold mine known as the "Future Events Factors" section, and guess what? If you're trolling for bleakness, you aren't limited just to those nine solid pages of worst case scenarios, rich in material though they may be. CNET points out that, elsewhere in the 10-Q, Apple reveals that more heads are gonna roll: "a reorganization of its sales and marketing efforts will result in 148 job cuts" between now and the end of September-- and those are in addition to the 200 pink slips that accompanied Apple shutting down one of its plants a few weeks ago. How's that for a refreshing icy pall cast upon the company's mostly-sunny outlook? Mmmmmmmm... depressing!

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"Spielberg, Get Me a Mocha" (5/6/04)

Care to check in with what's shakin' in Walt's World? After all, it's been a while since the Jobs 'n' Eisner show came to a dramatic climax with 40-something percent of Disney shareholders expressing "no confidence" in Mr. Eisner's leadership and the guy being stripped of his Chairman of the Board title. Meanwhile, we're pretty sure that Steve was chortling merrily to himself at the time, since his highly-public decision to end negotiations with Eisner about renewing Disney's contract with Pixar did a lot to turn shareholder sentiment against the man. The thing is, though, Eisner's still CEO, and Roy Disney is still making noises about trying to get Steve Jobs to take over in his place.

That's right, faithful viewer bo tipped us off to a Studio Briefing at IMDb which reports that "Jobs is [Roy's] and Stanley Gold's favorite candidate to replace Michael Eisner as chairman of Disney." (Chairman? We'd heard CEO. Either way, it's pretty cool.) And as if to underscore Steve's possible stint running the House of Mouse, reportedly Premiere magazine has now ranked him (along with his Pixarian "creative sidekick" John Lasseter) number one on its list of "the 100 most influential people in Hollywood," knocking last year's top dog Steven Spielberg down to the second spot. Hear that? Premiere thinks Steve-o has more influence in Hollywood than Steven Freakin' Spielberg. How scary is that?

Now, Pixar's kicking mucho tail with the movies and all, fine-- but even so, we can't imagine Jobs supplanting Spielberg as Hollywood's ginchiest Power Baron just because of that. So either he finally got that orbiting death ray satellite up and running, or Premiere honestly thinks that Steve might be accepting a third CEOship in the near future. While that would certainly clinch him for next year's "CEO of the year" kudos, if Steve were to take over Disney, we imagine he'd more likely fold Pixar into the Magic Kingdom as its official computer animation department just so he could keep his list of CEO positions down to a modest two. (No, he wouldn't give up his post at Apple. Of course not. Stop crying.)

Of course, none of this is even remotely certain yet, and if you want an idea of just how far in the other direction this whole Disney coup may slide, apparently the New York Post "Page Six" gossip column just reported that "a 'consortium of mysterious European investors' is planning a takeover of Disney and wants Mel Gibson to head the company if it succeeds." Now, while the Post isn't exactly an unimpeachable source, whether it's true or not, somebody behind this story is on some serious drugs. Although, you know, we always felt The Passion of the Christ would have worked a lot better as an animated feature. Maybe starring Goofy. Toss in a few musical numbers and that's exactly the kind of family entertainment that good ol' Walt was all about.

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Retail Is All About Patience (5/6/04)

Now, we know that the wild and wacky world of Apple retail stores is neither as wild nor quite as wacky as it once was, but while we'll never recapture the giddy thrill that crackled in the air when the very first few stores were opening, there's still a fair bit of mystery to be probed in Apple's ongoing initiative, provided you know what questions to ask. Like, how does Apple choose the sites for its stores? Why did it take so long to open one in San Francisco? And why don't the stores sell Goober Grape, which is an immensely popular sandwich spread because it combines the peanut butter and the jelly in the same jar, thus reducing the labor involved in the sandwich construction process by at least 35%? These are indeed riddles wrapped in enigmas covered in fudge and a raspberry glaze.

But while nothing can provide all the answers, Think Secret has posted a fascinating glimpse into Apple's retail planning process, by way of a keynote address recently delivered by Ron "I'm Too Retail For This Shirt" Johnson at a design conference in Providence, Rhode Island. Did you know, for example, that Apple's stores are "the fastest retail operation in history to reach the $1 billion sales mark"? No foolin'! The Gap had done it in four years; Apple did it in three. And yet Apple somehow managed to pull off that astounding feat without rushing its stores to open.

See, apparently Apple only wants to stick stores "in the best malls or shopping districts, and only in the best spaces," and presumably also in spots not built over ancient Indian burial grounds haunted by vengeful poltergeists. (That is so often the dealbreaker.) So the company's willing to wait for the perfect spot to open up-- sometimes over two years, as was the case for the San Francisco location. Reportedly Apple is currently scouting 100 potential spots, and has been searching for a suitable storefront on Paris's Champs Elysees, where we have it on good authority that they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese a "Royale with Cheese," because they got the metric system over there. Our sources have not, however, been able to establish with any certainty whether or not the Parisians have discovered the time-saving joys of Goober Grape.

As far as more Tales from the Retail Trenches are concerned, on the subject of hosing Apple's resellers, Ron claims that third-party resellers "do better" after Apple's own stores move into the area than they do beforehand; whether or not that assertion will appease resellers concerned about the ten more stores Apple plans to open before this fall remains to be seen. Regardless, the stores will open, followed hard upon by at least 17 others (as revealed by Apple's shamefully indiscreet job postings), and the retail juggernaut will continue in its mission to bring upscale shoppers all over the world a chance to test-drive Apple technology, a space in which to explore without pressure, and a really classy place to go to the bathroom. That's a recipe for success if we've ever heard one. No wonder Gateway's stores all folded; did you see the johns in there?

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