Stephen Foley: Japan may yet weigh on Apple's results


Outlook Apple's insistence that it was seeing no disruption from the problems in Japan strained the credibility of some of the listeners to its conference call with analysts.

Not only was there no dent in its latest quarterly results – which blew every profit forecast out of the water, as they do every three months – but the impact on the next financial period will also not be measurable, said Tim Cook, the operational guru standing in for Steve Jobs at the top of the company at the moment.

Apple is no doubt telling true that its staff have worked around the clock to ensure that the iPad, iPhone and iPod components it needs get through, either from Japan or from suppliers elsewhere.

But iPad sales were the one disappointment in an otherwise stonking results statement, as Apple failed to keep up with demand. It is making the tablets as fast as it can sell them, and news of new shipments still generates queues out the door at its stores, so one explanation for the sluggish performance would be parts shortages. More importantly, the timetable for launching the next version of the iPhone appears to have slipped, as Apple gets its ducks in a row for another hype-blitz.

The supply-chain disruptions caused by the earthquake have sent flash-memory prices up 13 per cent, to name just one area where Apple margins will be squeezed. Of course, with customers still falling over themselves to get the latest of the company's gadgets, these issues are not acute ones for Apple's bottom line, but to dismiss them entirely, particularly while the situation in Japan remains so uncertain, seems unwise.

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