If All Else Fails, Blame Apple ?!?
by Matthew Russell
Normally, I try to post about topics that have contemplative intellectual value of some form or another, rather than just ramble out personal commentary. This time I couldn't resist being a commentator, although there is definitely a thing or two that must be pondered here.
You know those experiences where every once in a while you run across a webpage and you just think to yourself, "Is this for real?" Well, I just had one of those, and here it is. It's a news blurb where the CEO of Creative makes some pretty pathetic excuses about how they're going to run short on their 1GB flash MP3 players around the holidays -- and it's all because Apple is hogging up the market.
Umm. Does anybody see anything wrong with that logic? Let's see if we can make it a bit clearer in case you missed it the first time through:
if Creative can't stay competitive then
Whine, complain, and blame it on Apple // ?!?
Oh, and I guess it's worth mentioning that this activity took place amid a conference where Creative announced a bigger than expected loss. What message exactly does this send to the shareholders? To just go ahead and invest in Apple (who will apparently be doing quite well over the holidays) until Creative can get its act together? If I owned any Creative stock (Nasdaq: CREAF), I'd be pretty ticked right now.
Here's a couple of interesting quotes from the story. They're from the Chairman and CEO of Creative himself, Sim Wong Hoo:
Industry demand for high-capacity flash memory currently outstrips supply and this will impact availability of our 1GB flash MP3 players for the holiday quarter...The shortage of flash memory ... is primarily a result of a special deal that Apple has secured from a key supplier
Excuse me? Isn't a "special deal" the kind of leverage that makes or breaks a company when it comes to supply and demand? Apparently, what this means is that people who would otherwise (possibly) be buying Creative MP3 players won't be able to, because they just won't be available. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see their players going on eBay for hundreds of dollars because of a shortage spawned by a "special deal." Rather, they're just going to have a particular part of their body handed to them and Apple is going to continue scoring big. Here's the way I see it:
if Creative has less players in the store then
Apple probably makes more money // fine by me
Would Steve get up on stage and whine like that, or would he make things happen? Or at least cleverly divert our attention by pushing another product for a while instead? Probably neither of those things: he would have used his uncanny ability to deliver and would have secured a "special deal" to make sure that Apple didn't get into this predicament. Oh, wait a minute -- he actually did that already! Whew, and to think I was getting concerned for a moment.
Thus saith Sim Wong Hoo once more:
...a number of competitors in the MP3 space have been forced out of the market because of the competitive pressure that Apple is applying.
Hmm. That's deep. I could spend the next hour or two trying to unravel the mystery behind it, but I'd rather hear from you.
Am I being a bit harsh here, or should a chairman be derailed for making public comments like that?
Whine vs. wine
Whine vs. wine
Let's try that again -
Long term contracts generally get better pricing because it is a hedge for the manufacturor against wild fluctuations in demand and allows for efficient planning and use of facilities. Creative and others could certainly have taken the plunge before Apple did, and then they would have a guaranteed supply too. The didn't, because they didn't want to be holding the bag if their products didn't sell as well as they hoped or if another supplier came along. That's their fault.
Its not like there is no way to increase supply of Flash ROM. If demand is a great as all that, other chip fabricators will be interested in getting some of that money, and even Samsung will be interested in increasing capacity. Certainly it will not happen tomorrow, but that's why CEO's get the big bucks to make decisions on when to make those long term commitments. Looks like Creative was backing the wrong horse, and maybe invested more on that speculation than they could afford.
Finally, Apple made a commitment to a single supplier. Just like personal relationships, your more likely to get special preference when you give special preference. If other manufacturors weren't hoping some better supplier would come along, they might not have been afraid to make that commitment.