On Apple stock “Reality Checks,” iPhones, 2.2, and more

Inbetween some major (and “all good”) developments behind the scenes at iLounge, a few brief notes on recent developments in the Apple and iLounge worlds:

As noted by MacNN, Dow Jones’ MarketWatch has posted a “reality check” on Apple’s stock, which normally wouldn’t merit any sort of editorial response from iLounge’s staff, but really merits a comment in light of… well, reality. “iPod unit sales,” noted MarketWatch, “from a quarter ago, tumbled 5 percent—the second straight quarter of declines. And while iPod unit sales were up 32 percent year-over-year, that’s down from the prior quarter’s 61 percent year-over-year gain.”

I hate to have to point out the obvious here, but two quarters ago, Apple had its “holiday season” quarter – traditionally the year’s strongest three months for sales, and Apple’s best quarter ever – so it’s no surprise that there have been two straight quarters of “declines” in iPod sales afterwards. Consumers don’t burn cash in April the way they do in mid- to late-December, a fact which any retailer will glumly confirm, but iPod shipments have still remained at or above the 8-million mark for three quarters in a row. The mind-blowing thing here is that the worst “tumble” in sales MarketWatch can identify is 5% – a fraction off of the iPod’s historic sales highs, and 32% higher than last year’s numbers during the same months. That’s with no truly new iPods released in 6 months, save for the 1GB nano, and despite plenty of pent-up “I’m not buying a new iPod until the real video one comes out” sentiment still out there. Reality check, indeed.

iPhones: There have been dozens of rumors about Apple’s iPhones (aka iPod phones), and other than the ill-fated Motorola iTunes phones we’ve previously covered, there’s been no further comment on the subject from Apple itself. Motorola and others have suggested in no uncertain terms that an Apple-developed smartphone is coming, but no one knows when. Except Apple. Which doesn’t comment on unannounced products. Except when it does – typically, only a little while before it takes action. Like it did yesterday, during a conference call, when the company’s Peter Oppenheimer publicly told financial analysts that the company is already planning for the day when phones rival iPods as “the best music players.” You can guess for yourself whether that means Apple will continue to keep iPods ahead of music phones on features, or whether it’s planning a phone of its own, but good money is riding on the latter interpretation.

The Free iPod Book 2.2: Hope you liked it. It’s here if you haven’t seen it yet.

iPod Software Dissection: You’ve probably read this news story on hidden features in the latest iPod firmware updater already, but if not, take a look and note the reference to the game Simon. Sure, Simon could be played with an iPod Click Wheel and a central Action button. But wouldn’t it be better with… well, a touchscreen? We’ll see whether it ever appears, and if so, how you’re supposed to control it.

iTunes Movie Rentals: Think Secret claims it’s going to happen, and soon. The story falls into the “rumor and speculation category,” so as with the iPhone stories, discount it to your heart’s content. But would this be a great business move for Apple? Probably. Offer 10 or 20 million iTMS customers the chance to stop visiting rental stores in favor of 500-ish Megabyte downloads, and at the right price, Apple will make a killing – so will its partners. Anyone who thinks otherwise should be prepared to go on record right now and explain why not. But ultimately, as Apple already knows very well, consumers want the opportunity to buy, too. Rental is a great option, but not a replacement for ownership, and in my view, the iTMS really needs to offer consumers that choice. What do you think?

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