Apple gets leakier--and even more profitable.
FORTUNE — The facts and figures are all out from the iPhone 5 launch on Wednesday. The consensus: Apple didn’t change anyone’s world. But they’re going to make a lot of money!
Here are some additional thoughts:
Apple’s secret-keeping abilities are being challenged. Nick Bilton of The New York Times quoted me in a brief post suggesting Apple AAPL isn’t any good at keeping secrets anymore. His evidence is that photos of the new iPhone 5 and the date of Apple’s event itself leaked many months ago. True that. I’d quibble with a couple strains of the argument, though. First, though the meat of the event leaked, there were elements that didn’t. I heard no chatter that the event would include new iPods and a refreshed iTunes Store. On the other hand, the rumor mill also had Apple releasing a smaller iPad, which didn’t happen. More to the point is how much this matters. I devoted a chapter in my book to secrecy, and there’s no question it’s an integral part of the Apple culture. Still, as I told Bilton, with Apple becoming a massive global company, the relevance of product blogs declines in relation to the size of Apple’s customer’s base. The vast majority of Apple’s customers will be basing their decisions on their reactions to the typical Apple marketing maneuvers that ground into gear Wednesday, not to fanboy analysis of Apple product sites. I have asserted that Apple’s ability to enforce its code of silence will degrade as a natural result of its size and increasing complexity. The unanswered question is how much it matters.
Expectations for Apple are sky-high. The consensus is that Apple’s presentation was, in the words of Breakingviews.com, a “snooze.” But that’s largely because incremental improvements are never as exciting as earth-shatteringly new products. Still, it will be easy to measure if Apple lives up to the demanding business expectations everyone has for it. For example, Maynard Um, a research analyst with Wells Fargo, told clients he expects sales of the iPhone 5 will exceed those of the iPhone 4S last year because Apple is launching with more cell-phone companies around the world and in a shorter time frame. Apple announced that it sold 4 million units of the iPhone 4S in the first three days it was available, thus setting up a high bogey for itself to beat.
Sweating the details. Apple also unveiled new headphones, or EarPods, and revamped “Lightning” connector cord, which is smaller and reversible. Wells Fargo’s Um noted that accessories typically carry high margins for Apple. This is hum-drum, of course, but it also points to how Apple rakes in the cash. Greg Joswiak, an Apple product marketing vice-president, told me after the event the adaptor Apple will sell to help connect your old cords to the new devices will cost $29. If you’re like me, at some point, you’re going to need a few of those.
Fanboys yawn, investors applaud. Wall Street liked Apple’s incrementalism, especially after having an opportunity to digest it. By midday Apple’s shares were up 2% Thursday, or about $14 a share. That’s about $13 billion in additional market value. Ho-hum. At $684, Apple’s shares remain laughably cheap. They are worth about 13 times what investors expect Apple to earn in its 2013 fiscal year, a low multiple for a company growing as fast as Apple. Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi raised his price target on Apple’s shares to $800 from $750.