Apple Computer today reported a $US195 million net loss for its first fiscal quarter because of sales falling far below expectation -- a performance emulated by other major PC vendors.
Apple had warned early last month that first-quarter revenue would likely fall about $US600 million short of its original projections. Total sales for the quarter, which ended December 30, came in at $1 billion, matching the revised estimate disclosed when the warning was issued.
The revenue figure was down 57 per cent from the level reported for the same period a year earlier. "We took our medicine last quarter," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a statement, while voicing optimism about a reduction in channel inventories, the planned release of new systems and the Mac OS X operating system.
Fred Anderson, Apple's chief financial officer, said as part of today's announcement that the company plans "a return to sustained profitability" beginning with its current second quarter. Apple has more than $4 billion in cash on hand and expects to report revenue of about $6 billion for fiscal 2001 as a whole, Anderson said.
Figures for the Australian market won't be released until the end of January, when IDC publishes its report on vendor sales and performance. However, at a retail level, Apple's poor performance has been no worse than any other PC vendor, according to Adam Steinhardt, director of Apple reseller Next Byte.
"The slowdown has been consistent across the whole IT industry. It's been a pretty ordinary year for everyone and Apple is simply following a worldwide trend," he said.
PC maker Gateway last week announced plans to lay off 10 per cent of its workforce after reporting a $94.3 million loss, and other vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and NCR said their latest financial results will be below earlier expectations. HP, in particular, cited a slowdown in IT spending by corporate users as a major contributing factor.
Like Jobs, Steinhardt harbours great hopes for the Mac OS X operating system, due for release in a couple of months. "OS X is created for the year 2000 as opposed to Windows, which is back in the 80s," he said.
He refutes the suggestion that Apple is losing its 4.3 per cent grip on the PC market, touting the recently released titanium encased G4 PowerBook as an example of the vendor's superior style, price-competitive and high-performance range.
"Apple is a romantic company -- it's a bit like our relationship with Shane Warne," says Steinhardt. "When he's on the pitch and doing a great job we all love him, but when he steps onto the street and does one thing wrong we condemn him straight away. Apple's had one bad quarter in 10."