It's Good News (We Think) (12/2/03)

Perhaps you recall back when Apple first announced its intention to open its own retail stores, and a fair number of armchair CEOs (not to mention those pesky analysts) immediately proclaimed the move to be a Bad Idea™. We seem to remember more than a few predictions that, just because Gateway was forced to close a bunch of stores, sales in Apple's boutiques would flop and after a couple of years the whole wacky scheme would be abandoned as a failed experiment. Well, that was two and a half years ago, Apple's up to over seventy stores, and it just opened its first one overseas-- and even if the stores weren't breaking even, they'd still be an invaluable asset to Apple in terms of pure visibility and mind share.

The thing is, though, they are breaking even (finally), and faithful viewer eric even notes that, according to Reed Business Information, Apple has finally clawed its way onto the TWICE Top 100 Consumer Electronics Retailers list: "For Apple, a 471.6% sales surge born of a near doubling in store count (to 51 units) delivered the Macmeisters to 34th place on the TWICE rankings with $383 million in volume under their belt." An increase of 471.6%? Clearly someone's been eating his Retail Wheaties.

Now, to be perfectly honest, we really haven't a clue as to what these numbers really mean. Are these guys counting all products sold by each manufacturer, or just "consumer electronics"? Does a Mac count as "consumer electronics"? What if it's a Power Mac instead of an iMac? What if it's an iMac (a "consumer" electronic device) but it's sold to a business instead of a consumer? And do these numbers only count sales through retail outlets?

After staring at the article for a while, we think we've got some answers. For one thing, despite the fact that the list is called the "TWICE Top 100 CE Retailers," evidently "retail" isn't a requirement-- hence Dell's fourth-place ranking. We're still a little fuzzy on whether computer sales are counted or not, since Dell's sales for purposes of this list-- $5.3 billion-- represent about a seventh of its total revenue last year, and since it sells mostly to business, apparently direct computer sales to consumers do count. (We seriously doubt it made $5.3 billion only selling "MP3 players and digital cameras," examples of the "non-computer" items that qualified it for the list in the first place.)

But then look at Apple's numbers versus Gateway's; Gateway is in 13th place with "$2.1 billion in sales," whereas Apple is only 34th with "$383 million in volume." Yet Gateway's total revenue was $4.17 billion and Apple's was $5.74 billion. If they're only counting retail sales, which might explain the discrepancy (indeed, the article flat out said that Apple's 471.6% increase in qualifying sales stemmed from its "near doubling in store count"), then why the heck is Dell-- who has no retail presence at all, save for a bunch of mid-mall kiosks as "try before you buy" stations-- on here in the first place?

We're probably just missing something really obvious and it all makes sense somehow, but if so, please don't tell us-- we've stared at these numbers for so long, their seeming incomprehensibility has taken on Zen characteristics and we're this close to achieving Enlightenment. Listen; it's the sound of one hand clapping!

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The above scene was taken from the 12/2/03 episode:

December 2, 2003: Things get ugly (and more than a little surreal) at Disney, as CEO Eisner allegedly calls Steve Jobs a "Shiite Muslim." Meanwhile, Apple's retail initiative puts the company on the TWICE Top 100 Consumer Electronics Retailers list, and the next big version of Windows is selling in Malaysia two years early for a buck and change...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4364: Name-Calling Gets Weird (12/2/03)   Oh my oh my oh dinosaurs, things sure are getting mighty heated down Disney way, aren't they? Sure, the situation may not be directly relevant to Mac fans right now, but given that seasoned Apple-watchers know that Disney will be buying out Apple any minute now (looks quizzically at watch, shakes it, holds it to ear, shakes it again, realizes that it's not a watch at all but a bottle cap taped to a rubber band), it's good to stay on top of any Mickey-related drama...

  • 4366: Tomorrow's Junk... Today! (12/2/03)   Say, you know how Microsoft's next major version of Windows, dubbed "Longhorn," is supposed to have us Mac fans quaking in our boots? Because, you know, it's totally going to blow Panther away-- which might actually be a concern if, say, the company had ever released an operating system that was more than marginally better than "good enough" in the first place.....

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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