5th Ave Apple Store stays open during Nemo winter storm

The 5th Avenue Apple Store in New York City stated open and received customers as winter storm Nemo pounded the northeast:

“The storm struck Saturday night with 60 mph winds and officially left 11.4 inches of snow in Central Park, which is adjacent to the store’s glass cube entrance. Inside, maintenance personnel mopped the occasional water dripping from the glass cube onto the stone floor. Outside, a crew successfully used a mini-snowplow to keep ahead of the snowfall.”

ifoAppleStore has some photos of the snowy store and the crews working to keep it open. You people are crazy!

Microsoft musn’t want to sell the Surface Windows 8 Pro

The Surface Windows 8 Pro will be available on Feb. 9 (U.S and Canada) starting at $899 for the 64-gigabyte version. The new Touch Cover will sell for $129.99, and the Wedge Touch Mouse will run you $69.95. Buy all three for a grand total of $1098.94.

Or, get a 13-inch MacBook Air for $1.04 more. You could even install Parallels and run all those Windows apps1. I’m not sure why you’d choose the Surface in this scenario.

  1. For a couple hundred dollars more, of course.

iPhone sales are strong

Brian X. Chen, for the New York Times:

“Reports last week suggested that people might finally be tired of Apple’s iPhone, citing sources that said sales were weaker than expected. But the latest numbers do not support that conclusion.”

Chen cites Verizon’s latest earnings report, in which the company noted that nearly half of the phones it sold last quarter were iPhone 5s. Of the 9.8 million phones Verizon Wireless sold, 6.2 million were iPhones. AT&T has not reported its quarterly earnings yet, but has suggested that sales were strong, including the “best-ever quarterly sales of Android and Apple smartphones.”

I’m very eager for Apple to share its FY 13 first quarter results on Wednesday, if only to silence the “Apple is doomed” crowd.

Doomed.

How book stores foster ebook sales

bordersclosedA post by Dennis Johnson for Melville House bemoans the mass closings of Barnes and Noble (B&N) stores across the US. Within the last 30 days or so, Johnson points out, B&N locations in Los AngelesSan FranciscoPhiladelphiaWashington, DCSeattleChicagoDallas (two), Austin, and Manhattan have shut down. Ebook sales likely had a significant role in B&N’s decision to close those locations, which is interesting as brick-and-mortar book stores foster ebook sales.

The practice of “showrooming” — seeing a thing before buying it — affects buying behavior. Specifically, customers are more likely to buy an ebook after seeing its physical counterpart in a store. David Streitfeld noted this behavior for the New York Times in December 2012, in reference to the shutdown of Borders:

“Another, more counterintuitive possibility is that the 2011 demise of Borders, the second-biggest chain, dealt a surprising blow to the e-book industry. Readers could no longer see what they wanted to go home and order. ‘The print industry has been aiding and assisting the e-book industry since the beginning,’ said [Michael Norris, a Simba Information analyst who follows the publishing industry].”

Another survey suggested that 40% of the people who buy books online looked at them in a bookstore first.

Ebooks might become my “old man sticking point.” The appeal of a toting a library on a device the size of a magazine isn’t lost on me, but I’d rather read a paper book any day.

Apple App Store tops 40 billion downloads

Apple has announced that it has delivered 40 billion downloads from the App Store. Almost half of those downloads came in 2012. That’s an amazing statistic.  The iOS App Store was launched on July 10, 2008. That means customers downloaded as many apps in 2012 as they did in the previous three years combined. Wow.

Apple notes that these numbers reflect unique downloads, not re-downloads or updates. Congratulations to everyone involved with this incredible performance. It’s amazing to think that the App Store did exist just a few years ago.

Apple vs. Microsoft Black Friday retail numbers

AppleInsider shares Piper Jaffray’s  data on the performance of Apple retail stores vs. Microsoft retail stores on Black Friday. AppleInsider uses the headline “Apple trounces Microsoft in Black Friday retail traffic, purchases” and notes that “A comparison of Apple and Microsoft retail stores on Black Friday found that nearly 5 times as many items were purchased per hour at the Apple Store.” That’s impressive until you look at Piper Jaffray’s (PJ) data.

We can’t look at the data directly, unfortunately, as it’s in an unpublished client memo from PJ. However, the information AppleInsider shares makes me question its validity. AI notes that “Gene Munster and his team at Piper Jaffray conducted 8 hours of observations at Apple retail stores in Minneapolis last Friday.” Also, “In comparison, two hours spent outside a Microsoft Store” produced data of its own. There are a few red flags here.

  1. First, PJ’s team spent eight hours observing Apple retail stores but only two hours outside a Microsoft Store. How can you compare eight hours of data collection to two hours?
  2. Why observe multiple Apple Stores but only one Microsoft Store?
  3. Did the same group of observers gather data at all locations? If so, then they reached each store at a different time of day. Which store(s) was visited during peak shopping time, and which at a lunchtime lul or end-of-day slowdown?

How was data gathered? Looking at shopper’s bags, interviewing customers, or what? Also, AI notes that the observers were outside the Microsoft Store, but did not say where they were positioned at the Apple Stores.

The study goes on. AI notes, “Time spent at the Apple Store found that an average of 17.2 items were purchased per hour. In comparison, two hours spent outside a Microsoft Store found that 3.5 items were purchased per hour — and none of those were of the new Surface tablet. In fact, all but two of the purchases from the Microsoft store were games for its Xbox game console.”

Again, how can you compare an average number of purchases made per hour across locations if none of these variables are controlled for? Same time of day, same amount of time, same observation method, same observers, duration of observation, same data collection method. Also, was inter-observer agreement employed as a safeguard against human error? Were flagship stores visited or shopping mall locations? The former is certainly surrounded by fewer distractions than the latter.

As for the note that no customers purchased a Surface, what if sales picked up in the unobserved third hour? Or fourth? Fifth?

Finally, the study compares this year’s data to last year’s. Unless this comparison is of the same retail locations recorded at the same time of day, it’s to be questioned.

As an Apple fan, I’d like to chalk this up as a win for the home team. Unfortunately, I cannot.