The 31st annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicks off this coming Monday, June 2nd.
In honor of the event, and rumors that Apple is prepared once again to bring an entirely new genre of mass-market goods—those for home automation of various kinds—we thought we'd take a look at how Apple is doing on eBay.
Apple and Consumer Technology
There's little question that Apple sits at the top of the technology world today, but this certainly wasn't always the case. For many years, the Apple-versus-the-world motif placed Apple somewhere near the bottom of the technology pile in terms of sales and market share.
Steve Jobs' 1997 return to Apple, however, marked the beginning not only of a turnaround for the company, but of a remarkable string of successes that would lead it to the position of dominance that it has enjoyed over the last decade.
In some quarters these days, however, there are whispers that Apple is slipping—that the Cupertino company has lost its touch, soon to be overtaken by others like South Korea's Samsung or even a soon-to-be-resurgent Microsoft.
Others have certainly commented on Apple's position in particular industries or product categories, but at Terapeak we're uniquely positioned to look at the technology market overall across disparate categories. We're also able to use actual transaction data to see things from the consumer's point of view, including sales of used items as well as new one to measure demand more clearly.
How We Measured: Tablets, Phones, Desktops, and Laptops
To conduct our survey, we used a combination of product and category research on Terapeak for eBay to look at what are arguably the four most iconic high-technology products of the last quarter-century—tablets, mobile phones, desktop computers, and laptop computers.
Our approach was simple. We pulled eleven months of weekly dollar volume data, going back to June 8th, 2013, for each of these product categories. In each case, Apple sales volume went into one column, and into the other column went...everyone and everything else.
Here's what we found.
Apple began with a significant head start in the tablet market, bringing the first broadly successful tablet computer to consumers in the form of the iPad in mid-2010. Since then, other products—notably those based on Google's Android operating system—have surged. Even so, Apple remains the biggest player in the tablet game, remaining neck-and-neck with all other manufacturers combined in terms of dollar volume.
The iPhone, introduced in mid-2007, has been on the market for even longer than the iPad has, and with some of the same effects in evidence. Other phones now outsell the iPhone in dollar volume terms, but it takes a combination of dozens of other manufacturers and several other software platforms to make this happen.
It's in the desktop computing market that the original "Apple against everyone" motif emerged, as Apple stubbornly followed its own path while the rest of the industry adopted Microsoft products as the basis for desktop computing. In recent years, Apple has gained some ground here, but the desktop computing market continues to belong to Windows—for what it's worth. The desktop market is, of course, also the smallest of the four on eBay, a rapidly aging category in which used sales are increasingly important.
In laptop sales, the tables have turned. Apple laptops consistently move nearly three times the dollar volume of all other laptops combined; to the extent that laptops are the last bastion of traditional personal computing growth, Apple is well-positioned to be the market leader on eBay.
When the four categories of goods are totaled, the resulting chart is startlingly clear—Apple sales across these iconic high technology products are the week-by-week equivalent of everyone else combined.
Here's that comparison presented another way, as the total dollar volume for the last eleven months across all of the product categories we studied.
How big a high-tech giant is Apple right now? Since June of 2013 Apple products have combined for some $1.11 billion in sales in these categories on eBay. And all other manufacturers of high-technology consumer products combined? $1.19 billion.
In these categories, Apple volume on eBay lags the universe of all other manufacturers together by just over three percent.
Apple Still in the Driver's Seat
These numbers show that in rubber-meets-the-road terms—in actual dollars spent by actual consumers on eBay—demand and regard for Apple products remains very high indeed.
Whether or not forecasts of an Apple slide eventually become true, for the moment Apple's performance remains shockingly strong—particularly considering the routine pronouncements of Apple's impending death over the 1980s and 1990s during the first technology and dot-com boom, and periodic reports of Apple's "cool" being gone over the period since then.
Next week we'll learn whether Apple is preparing to open the book on yet another category of consumer goods. If they do, will home automation products follow in the footsteps earlier legendary product launches from Apple, most recently those of the iPhone and iPad?
Time will tell—but for the moment, the game appears to be Apple's to lose.