High Point of Apple Event: Upgraded CEO

Published on September 10, 2009
by John Paczkowski

Phil-Schiller-Steve-Jobs-iCEOAfter nearly a year out of the public eye, Apple CEO Steve Jobs returned to it yesterday at the company’s annual music event. It was his first public appearance at an Apple gathering since Oct. 14, 2008, when he uncrated the company’s new unibody MacBooks, and it far overshadowed the new products he was about to announce.

In fact, it could be argued that public confirmation of Jobs’s health since his return to the company was truly the most significant announcement of the day. As Morgan Keegan analyst Tavis McCourt quipped in a research note issued after the event, “Aside from a lack of a camera on the iPod Touch, everything announced was generally in line with expectations, although it all tends to sound much more revolutionary when Steve Jobs is spinning the story. It was clearly a positive to see him back on stage.”

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster felt similarly: “There was some debate over whether Steve Jobs would deliver the presentation at [the] event,” he said in a note to clients. “He did, and we see this as a sign that he has returned to work at near-full capacity following his health-related leave of absence. We continue to believe he is the primary spokesman and active leader of Apple.”

Munster went on to note that the event was otherwise a bit of a disappointment. Certainly, the lack of a new iPod touch with a built-in video camera, which was viewed by many as almost a sure thing, was a bit of a letdown.

“We were expecting a new iPod touch model with a video camera, which Apple did not announce,” Munster said. “The lack of a camera may be due to last-minute quality issues, or it may also be a strategic decision to differentiate the nano from the touch, and the touch from the iPhone. Ultimately we see the lack of a camera in the touch as a move to push users toward the iPhone and drive purchases of multiple devices per customer by segmenting the product lines.”

Or to position the iPod touch as a truly competitive portable gaming device. Certainly, that’s what appeared to be going on yesterday as Apple (AAPL) brought out Ubisoft, Tapulous, Gameloft, and Electronic Arts (ERTS) in quick succession to demo their upcoming new games. And then, there were the data points. Consider these:

  • 20 million iPod touches sold to date
  • Over 100 million iTunes accounts
  • Over 1.8 billion apps downloaded to date. Impressive given that Apple passed one billion apps downloaded just last April
  • Over 75,000 apps available
  • 21,000 of those 75,000 are games and entertainment apps

So nearly one third of all iPhone OS apps sold to date are games and entertainment apps. Clearly, Jobs was on to something when he told The Wall Street Journal in November 2008, “I think the iPhone and iPod touch may emerge as really viable devices in the mobile games market.”

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