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Inside Apple's iPhone subscription accounting changes

post #1 of 26
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Apple's April 2007 Q2 earnings call announced that the company planned to book revenue for its new iPhone and Apple TV using the "subscription method of accounting," a decision that startled analysts and left many users confused. Here's what resulted and why the company is working to reverse the decision.

At the time, Apple's Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer explained that the reason for subscription accounting was that the company had big plans to aggressively deliver a series of rapid software updates for the upcoming new iPhone. However, rather than planning to make money on these updates, the company wanted to deliver them to users for free to help ensure that users would actually install and use the latest updates rather than balk at upgrade fees.

It had already been proven that smartphone users were not quick to upgrade their software. In fact, few mobile software vendors had ever delivered regular new software updates to subscribers before. Instead, most vendors simply reserved new updates for the latest phones. RIM's BlackBerry OS, the Palm OS, and Nokia's Symbian OS occasionally delivered upgrades for users, but in many cases end users only got the latest update when buying a new phone with that software installed.

Microsoft had somewhat uniquely attempted to set up its Windows Mobile platform to deliver regular new upgrade releases that users could pay for because unlike Nokia, Palm, and RIM, Microsoft didn't directly make any money on hardware sales. But this plan didn't work out as expected. Few users opted to buy upgrades, and in many cases every new major release of Windows Mobile advanced its requirements to the point where it couldn't really run on any existing phones anyway.

Having surveyed the historical smartphone software landscape, Apple plotted out a series of major OS updates it planned to deliver for the iPhone along with minor update releases that would be issued in between. This strategy was patterned after the company's Mac OS X releases, although by 2007, Apple's desktop operating system had matured to the point where its annual pace of new reference releases was being relaxed to about every year and a half (at the request of third party developers who were breathless from trying to keep up with the rapid-fire updates Apple had been releasing, below).

While Apple had long charged $129 for its major new reference releases of Mac OS X, it did not expect to be able to charge anything significant for its iPhone OS updates, in keeping with what it had observed with other mobile platforms. Instead, the company determined that it would be better to offer free software updates, which would help ensure that the iPhone's user base would upgrade to the latest release as quickly as possible.



Enron and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

Apple's plan to sell the iPhone and then deliver free updates for it throughout its two year lifespan brought the company under relatively new American accounting rules that had been signed into law five years earlier: the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. This law had been put into place in response to high-profile corporate fraud involving Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldCom and Tyco, which had erupted around 2000 in tandem with (and helping to cause) the dotcom bubble burst.

One of the problems that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act attempted to address was "mark to market accounting," which Enron had adopted in the early 90s to record its natural gas profits. Instead of recording its actual costs and revenues at the time of selling its gas (as it had previously), Enron convinced the US Securities and Exchange Commission to allow it record estimated profits for long term contracts at the current value of net future cash flows. Essentially, Enron was counting chickens before they hatched.

This accounting scheme allowed Enron to meet or exceed investors' expectations by simply signing new contracts. It became so easy and addictive to report fantastic profit projections that Enron applied the scheme to other types of business as well. For example, in 2000 Enron partnered with Blockbuster Video to sign a twenty year agreement to provide on-demand TV services. While analysts were skeptical of the deal, its technical viability and consumer demand for the services, Enron estimated it would make over $110 million and immediately began booking these future estimated profits. Even after things fell apart and Blockbuster pulled out of the deal, Enron continued to book those future profits that would never materialize.

This scheme, along with a variety of other accounting tricks, was blessed by Enron's Anderson auditors, who also worked to silence any criticism of the tactics. Once the SEC began investigating, Anderson scrambled to shred all the evidence. While some of the principles involved were sent to prison over the scandal, it resulted in a disastrous impact upon Enron's investors, including former employees who had pensions held by the company. Enron alone lost $74 billion in stock valuation over four years, $45 billion of which was attributed to fraud.

Based on research into what allowed this to happened, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was instituted to require certain minimum standards of financial accountability. Among its many rules is a provision that states that companies can't immediately book revenue for a product if the complete product has not yet been fully delivered. If a software upgrade materially changed the features of the product, the vendor would have to charge extra for that upgrade because delivering it for free could result in Enron-style accounting games where companies would sell unfinished products and simply promise to finish them in a later upgrade that might never be delivered, falsely inflating their reported revenues as Enron had.

On page 2 of 3: Apple, 802.11n, and Sarbanes-Oxley.

Apple, 802.11n, and Sarbanes-Oxley

The first products Apple delivered that were impacted by the new rules were MacBooks with 802.11n WIFi hardware features. Apple sold the notebooks and recognized revenues at their time of sale, but it did not advertise the equipment's latent capacity to support the higher speed wireless networking because the technology was still undergoing the final stages of its draft specification.

Once the final draft for 802.11n was completed at the end of 2006, Apple released new AirPort base stations and MacBooks with faster 802.11n WiFi features and offered its existing MacBook users the ability to activate the secret feature on their own notebooks for a $5 fee (later reduced to $1.99), citing Sarbanes-Oxley regulations.

The company was assailed for charging the nominal fee as lots of accountants lined to testify that the law does not specifically require payments for such upgrades, but only forces companies to estimate the value of any post-sale upgrades and withhold the booking of that revenue, something that Apple had not done when it first sold the MacBooks with better hardware than advertised.

The iPhone and subscription accounting

In response to the heated imbroglio that erupted in the tech press over Apple's $2 fee for its optional 802.11n software driver upgrade, the company decided to account for new hardware it expected to upgrade over time on a subscription basis instead.

As Oppenheimer explained in Apple's FQ2 2007 conference call, "Since iPhone customers will likely be our best advocates for the product, we want to get them many of these new features and applications at no additional charge as they become available. Since we will be periodically providing new software features to iPhone customers free of charge, we will use subscription accounting and recognize the revenue and product cost of goods sold associated with iPhone handset sales on a straight line basis over 24 months."

This decision invoked the wrath of shareholders, who suddenly realized that the massive revenues Apple would be earning on iPhone sales would not show up immediately in the company's revenue reports. Instead, the revenues would slowly appear over time, delaying their ability to make short term profits. Had Apple instead recognized this revenue immediately, its stock would be expected to rise rapidly as iPhone revenues poured in immediately.



Apple blows a reverse revenue bubble

There was nothing extraordinary about Apple's subscription accounting; magazine publishers similarly accept annual subscription fees and then book monthly revenue as they deliver each issue to their readers. This results in the exact opposite of Enron's scandalous "mark to market accounting." Rather than booking lots of future revenue that may or may not appear, subscription accounting results in a company sitting on collected revenues that it does not immediately recognize (and therefore does not show up in the company's reported earnings).

While Apple announced blockbuster sales of iPhones, its reported revenues (and related metrics such as its profit to earnings ratio and earnings per share) only reflected a eighth of that quarter's revenue. This problem would eventually work itself out as Apple sold enough quarters of iPhones to begin adding up these fractional quarters' earnings together. However, because sales of the iPhone kept expanding so dramatically, the fractional installments of earlier quarters simply didn't add up fast enough.

The result was that by the end of 2007, Apple was realizing that subscription accounting was hiding vast millions in revenues from investors, the exact opposite problem of Enron. That encouraged the company to introduce the iPod touch using normal accounting, and to simply offer those users the ability to upgrade later at a nominal fee. The idea of charging $9.95 per year for an optional OS upgrade for the iPod touch again invoked the outrage of bloggers and pundits who found this outrageous.

Mr Jobs goes to Wall Street

In 2008, Apple really began paying for its decision to use subscription accounting on the iPhone. As the US dipped into recession, pundits began identifying Apple as a likely casualty of the sour economy because the company sold higher priced, premium computers and gadgets like the new iPhone and iPod touch. Additionally, they began to identify legacy iPod sales as weakening rather than simply being converted into iPhone sales, both in terms of units sold and in booked revenue.

This panic resulted in Apple's stock diving from nearly 200 to 113 in just two months ending in February 2008. Once it became clear that this fear was irrational, Apple again climbed back up to 188 in May 2008, followed by a second precipitous drop that drove the stock down into the 80s throughout the end of the year and into the first quarter of 2009.



This insanity drove Chief Executive Steve Jobs to make an uncommon appearance in the company's Q4 earnings call in October 2008 to implore investors and analysts to look at Apple's valuation based on its sales, not simply upon its officially recorded revenue under GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) rules. The company for the first time presented non-GAAP figures that showed what Apple's revenues would look if the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting rules weren't hiding $3.78 billion of the $4.6 billion in iPhone revenue from that quarter alone.

"I would like to go back and talk about the non-GAAP financial results because I think this is a pretty big deal," Jobs explained. "In addition to reporting an outstanding quarter, today we are also introducing non-GAAP financial results which eliminate the impact of subscription accounting.

"Because by its nature subscription accounting spreads the impact of iPhones contribution to Apple's overall sales, gross margin, and net income over two years, it can make it more difficult for the average Apple manager or the average investor to evaluate the companys overall performance. As long as our iPhone business was small relative to our Mac and music businesses, this didnt really matter much. But this past quarter, as you heard, our iPhone business has grown to about $4.6 billion, or 39% of Apple's total business, clearly too big for Apple management or investors to ignore."

Jobs also outlined that in terms of revenue, the company had become the world's third largest phone maker in just 15 months, behind Nokia and Samsung, but ahead of Sony Ericsson, LG, Motorola and RIM.

On page 3 of 3: How the new rules will affect iPhone users.

There's an app for that

Beyond the iPhone itself, Jobs also drew attention to the new App Store by saying, "Weve never seen anything like this in our careers. There are now over 5,500 applications offered on the App Store in 62 countries around the world and the rate of new applications being submitted is increasing every week. Competitors are scrambling to copy our App Store but its not as easy as it looks and we are far along in creating the virtuous cycle of cool applications begetting more iPhone sales, thereby creating an even larger market which will attract even more iPhone software development."

Unstated was the fact that a significant element behind the App Store's success was that the vast majority of the 13 million iPhones sold up to that point were all running iPhone 2.0 firmware and therefore capable of accessing the iTunes App Store, because Apple was able to offer the new OS upgrade for free because of subscription accounting. Had Apple tried to charge any nominal fee for the 2.0 update, it would no doubt have resulted in complaints that would have overshadowed the App Store launch itself, in addition to preventing many users from even considering upgrading.

Subscription accounting was both helping and savaging Apple. Everyone knew it, nothing cold be done, and yet analysts kept assailing the company and its prospects as the recession deepened. The only thing the company could do is plug away at its business until the naysaying was proven wrong by a series of blockbuster quarterly earnings reports. And in time, the record breaking iPhone sales would add up to the point where even the fractions that were being reported under subscription accounting would make an undeniable impact on the company's officially stated performance.

That began to happen earlier this year, despite efforts by rival investors to portray the iPhone as dead and soon to be vanquished by the new Palm Pre. By the middle of the year, when it became apparent that the Pre was not going to damage the iPhone, and that Apple had not been idle in its own software development plans either, investors began to see the benefits of subscription accounting at least in terms of encouraging large numbers of iPhone users to upgrade to the latest 3.0 software release. The number of iPod touch users who chose to pay a fee to upgrade turned out to be much lower.

Subscription accounting gets a makeover

In the company's most recent earnings report, a full year after Jobs appeared and begged the world to give Apple a fair shake, the company reported that it had successfully worked to convince regulators to change the rules so that it could begin to recognize the majority of iPhone revenue, and yet still provide users with free updates going forward by deferring a small part of each iPhone sale's revenue.

"On September 23, the Financial Accounting Standards Board ratified EITF 09-3, which will change the way that we account for iPhone and Apple TV today," Oppenheimer announced. "Under EITF 09-3 only the estimated sales value of future upgrade rights to iPhone and Apple TV software are required to be deferred at the time of sale with the balance of the iPhone and Apple TV sales price being recognized immediately as revenue.

"The deferred amounts will be recognized over the 24-month estimated lives of the product, similar to the way we have applied subscription accounting to these product sales today. We dont know at this time the specific amount of revenue deferral for each iPhone and Apple TV sold under EITF 09- 3, but we do believe that a substantial portion of the revenue will be recognized for these products at the time of sale.

"We are very pleased with the FASB adoption of this new rule as we believe it will enable us to more closely align our reported results with the economics of the iPhone and Apple TV sales. We will be required to adopt the new accounting rule no later than the first quarter of our fiscal 2011, a year from now, but we do have the option of adopting earlier than that some time in our fiscal 2010. We are currently assessing the impact of the new rule on our accounting and reporting system and processes. Making this change will be complex and as of now we are uncertain as to the timing of our adoption. Therefore, we dont have anything more specific to discuss with you today about this change.

"The guidance for the December quarter that we are providing today is based on a subscription accounting treatment that we have applied to-date for the iPhone and Apple TV sales. In other words, it is based on the assumption that the full amounts of revenue and product costs for past and future iPhone and Apple TV sales continue to be recognized ratably over the estimated 24- month lives of the product."

How the new rules will affect iPhone users

While the accounting changes will not immediately affect Apple's reported earnings, it will eventually allow the company to stop being penalized for subscription accounting while still being able to offer free updates so that users continue to upgrade promptly and maintain satisfaction with their smartphone without having to pay anything extra. This also helps third-party developers confidently target the latest version of the iPhone OS without fear that there is a large population of potential users that haven't and won't upgrade.

And of course, it also simplifies the buying experience of the App Store, as users don't have to check to see if their apps are compatible with their operating system version. Instead, Apple can force developers to certify their apps against the latest version and simply delist them from the App Store if they fail to do this, as it did in the upgrade to 3.0.

This provides the company with a competitive advantage over other mobile software platforms, where many users simply can't upgrade to the latest version because of compatibility issues with their phone. For example, Microsoft only certifies its latest Windows Mobile 6.5 to work on new phones introduced this year, despite being characterized by the company as a relatively minor update.

T-Mobile/HTC's original G1 phone similarly has hardware limitations that Android developers have warned will prevent it from being upgraded to the latest software update at some point in the future, but likely before its two year life span is up. It is believed that its early adopters will not even be able to upgrade to Android 2.0.





Daniel Eran Dilger is the author of "Snow Leopard Server (Developer Reference)," a new book from Wiley available now for pre-order.
post #2 of 26
hahaha thats a mouthful
post #3 of 26
I thought it was mark-to-market accounting, not "market to market" accounting.
post #4 of 26
The phrase is "mark to market," not "market to market".

It means marking your accounting numbers to the perceived market value. It is sometimes misunderstood as "market to market" because the phrase sounds like that when the words are slurred, but the correct phrase is "mark to market".
post #5 of 26
Great article. Thanks for explaining what had been going on these past few years.

My only question is: When these new "rules" are adopted by Apple (2010 or 2011), will they be able to change how they report iPod Touches, and provide those updates for free to customers from then on? I bet a lot of iPod Touch owners would like to know.
post #6 of 26
Thanks. Great article.
post #7 of 26
Yes, the phrase is "mark to market." And really, it applies to valuing current assets. For instance, a company might have bought a building for $5m in 1985. In the US, without mark to market, that building would sit on the balance sheet at $5m until it's sold. In the EU and UK, the company would mark the building to market value, recording an increase in that asset (either via income statement or not, depending on place). There's a lot of debate about this because, obviously, neither method is really accurate.

And while the Enron and SoX stuff is interesting enough, it's pretty irrelevant here. The GAAP rules for subscription accounting were in place before SoX and the Enron mess, and Enron (being a US company governed by GAAP) couldn't engage in GAAP. Their fraud with Blockbuster was similar to Worldcom's fraud: they put assets on the book based on hypotheticals ("our agreement with Blockbuster is an asset worth $x"). There's a revenue recognition angle there, but I don't see the mark to market one.

It's also worth noting that GAAP still requires Apple to create deferred liabilities for reasonable expectations of warranty costs, product returns, and so on. So you may book (say) $400 in revenue for an iPhone sale but create $60 in offsetting deferred liabilities which would expire over some period. That's normal, but if we're talking Enron and stuff, that's still a way to game the system -- underestimating future liabilities has about the same efect as overestimating future revenue.

On the whole, the change in GAAP rules makes a lot of sense, though for a company as conservative as Apple and with so much cash in the bank, I don't think they're sweating the difference between recognizing immediate revenue versus staggering it to even out future earnings.
post #8 of 26
My hat gets tipped to Apple's bean counters dealing with this issue the past quarter and getting the numbers out so timely. Must have been a nightmare.
post #9 of 26
At last a story that actually explains the reason behind the free updates / paid updates.

I was sick of reading people 'blaming' it on AT&T contract subscriptions, which it clearly is NOT.

Excellent work!
post #10 of 26
Well written article!

One question: "That encouraged the company to introduce the iPod touch using normal accounting"

So, since charging for iPod Touch updates was received so badly by the Apple community, why do they still do this?
post #11 of 26
Very nice to see this addressed finally. Many folks have tried to explain it, but most have been financial folks who assume a good bit of financial experience and knowledge. Generally their explanations have been esoteric, obtuse, incomplete, and totally without effective visual aids.

I particularly like the graphic that shows regular and subscription accounting of revenues over time.

It looks like now that the change has been made there will be a big bump in total revenue and then a gradual decline as the subscription revenues that are already in place slowly disappear over the next 2 years. Looks like an opportunity for some kind of options play (although it seems like this residual bump will be just a drop in the revenue bucket as Apple continues to grow.)
post #12 of 26
Thanks for a great article Daniel.

Does this mean Apple could do this with OS X? It seems they are already headed in that direction. They are moving to selling products instead of HW and SW. Why not sell a Mac and then give free updates to that product by pushing out OS updates like on the iPhone.

This would be great for users and would drive the cost of the OS to zero. Not so good for those other companies that just sell their OS. -D
post #13 of 26
OS X upgrades are actually a small but significant source or revenues for Apple.
I think the cheap Snow Leopard upgrade was a onetime deal designed to incentivize, ease, and harmonize the user and developer transition to an all Intel/Cocoa platform while putting a bit of pressure on Microsoft.
Quote:
Originally Posted by parkdn100 View Post

Thanks for a great article Daniel.

Does this mean Apple could do this with OS X? It seems they are already headed in that direction. They are moving to selling products instead of HW and SW. Why not sell a Mac and then give free updates to that product by pushing out OS updates like on the iPhone.

This would be great for users and would drive the cost of the OS to zero. Not so good for those other companies that just sell their OS. -D
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by rwilliams View Post

At last a story that actually explains the reason behind the free updates / paid updates.

That's simply not true. Ever since they came out with the deferred revenue for the N upgrade, and then announcing subscription services for the iPhone, we in AI world have known why they did it.

That is to say, we know the reason as to why Apple believes they had to do it. Whether or not they needed to do that, versus deferring a percentage for the potential upgrades is a valid questions, but there was never any question as to the intent that Apple had.
post #15 of 26
Wow. I hate to be the skunk here, but this is a lot of 'ink' for very little insight.

(i) As has been pointed about above, people can say what they want about SOX and such, but that's a red herring; it was Apple's decision, and one that was bending over backwards to please some obscure accounting Gods on a 'just-in-case-it-ever-becomes-an-issue' basis. Apple got totally shaken by its options backdating scandal, and wanted no more whiffs of anything similar. (Although their handing of SJ's illness landed them in another pickle, but that is a different story).

(ii) While short-hand metrics such as EPS and P/E ratio are used as rules of thumb, any part-way decent valuation would necessarily look at the company for its free cash flow, and not accrual-accounting based metrics. Free cash flow is simply the actual cash that comes into your business from operations, net of cash that is used for investing needs (i.e., capex and operating working capital).

(iii) Given Apple's financials, it takes a couple of minutes to calculate that number, and a semi-literate analyst can and should (and, in all likelihood, did) do that. Free cash flow did not change one iota because of this revenue recognition principle being adopted, and will not change an iota if/when it is discarded. It is a 'neutral mutation.'

(iv) If anyone believes this stuff matters for Apple's valuation, I'd like to do business with them...... there's some beachfront property in AZ that I have in mind....
post #16 of 26
As long as I don't have to pay for an OS update for my iPhone, I don't care how they make their money and report it.
post #17 of 26
This article lost credibility at "market to market." But to keep it simple, as another poster pointed out, as long as my updates are free, it's all good. Apple realized it's better to encourage updates than extract $1.99.
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Wow. I hate to be the skunk here, but this is a lot of 'ink' for very little insight.

(i) As has been pointed about above, people can say what they want about SOX and such, but that's a red herring; it was Apple's decision, ...

(ii) While short-hand metrics such as EPS and P/E ratio are used as rules of thumb, any part-way decent valuation would necessarily look at the company for its free cash flow, ...

(iii) Free cash flow did not change one iota ...

Welcome to another article by D.E.D. / P.M. / S.L. / L.I.S.P.
post #19 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Wow. I hate to be the skunk here, but this is a lot of 'ink' for very little insight.

(i) As has been pointed about above, people can say what they want about SOX and such, but that's a red herring; it was Apple's decision, and one that was bending over backwards to please some obscure accounting Gods on a 'just-in-case-it-ever-becomes-an-issue' basis. Apple got totally shaken by its options backdating scandal, and wanted no more whiffs of anything similar. (Although their handing of SJ's illness landed them in another pickle, but that is a different story).

(ii) While short-hand metrics such as EPS and P/E ratio are used as rules of thumb, any part-way decent valuation would necessarily look at the company for its free cash flow, and not accrual-accounting based metrics. Free cash flow is simply the actual cash that comes into your business from operations, net of cash that is used for investing needs (i.e., capex and operating working capital).

(iii) Given Apple's financials, it takes a couple of minutes to calculate that number, and a semi-literate analyst can and should (and, in all likelihood, did) do that. Free cash flow did not change one iota because of this revenue recognition principle being adopted, and will not change an iota if/when it is discarded. It is a 'neutral mutation.'

(iv) If anyone believes this stuff matters for Apple's valuation, I'd like to do business with them...... there's some beachfront property in AZ that I have in mind....

I get SOx, that is well known. But I dont get the pricing. $5 for 802.11n driver. $20 for 5 apps that would have had to have been removed from iPhone OS X in order to make the build for the iPod Touch. The charge for the next version of the iPhone OS seems reasonable as its wasnt available when the Touch came out and the dropping of the price of the price months later to get more buyers is commonplace, but the other stuff doesnt makes sense to me.
Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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Dick Applebaum on whether the iPad is a personal computer: "BTW, I am posting this from my iPad pc while sitting on the throne... personal enough for you?"
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post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I get SOx, that is well known. But I dont get the pricing.

\\

Greed, masquerading as accrual accounting?
post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by parkdn100 View Post

Thanks for a great article Daniel.

Does this mean Apple could do this with OS X? It seems they are already headed in that direction. They are moving to selling products instead of HW and SW. Why not sell a Mac and then give free updates to that product by pushing out OS updates like on the iPhone.

This would be great for users and would drive the cost of the OS to zero. Not so good for those other companies that just sell their OS. -D

If they do end up starting an app store side for the Desktop OS then who knows, may be a possibility. I doubt it though, I think a ton more development costs go into the Desktop OS so not sure they can make enough money back that way. Who knows, guess we'll see.
post #22 of 26
Here's to hoping Sarbanes-Oxley is finally repealed at some point soon. It's harmful to American business and puts us at a competitive disadvantage.

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

Reply
post #23 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Wow. I hate to be the skunk here, but this is a lot of 'ink' for very little insight.

(i) As has been pointed about above, people can say what they want about SOX and such, but that's a red herring; it was Apple's decision, and one that was bending over backwards to please some obscure accounting Gods on a 'just-in-case-it-ever-becomes-an-issue' basis. Apple got totally shaken by its options backdating scandal, and wanted no more whiffs of anything similar. (Although their handing of SJ's illness landed them in another pickle, but that is a different story).

(ii) While short-hand metrics such as EPS and P/E ratio are used as rules of thumb, any part-way decent valuation would necessarily look at the company for its free cash flow, and not accrual-accounting based metrics. Free cash flow is simply the actual cash that comes into your business from operations, net of cash that is used for investing needs (i.e., capex and operating working capital).

(iii) Given Apple's financials, it takes a couple of minutes to calculate that number, and a semi-literate analyst can and should (and, in all likelihood, did) do that. Free cash flow did not change one iota because of this revenue recognition principle being adopted, and will not change an iota if/when it is discarded. It is a 'neutral mutation.'

(iv) If anyone believes this stuff matters for Apple's valuation, I'd like to do business with them...... there's some beachfront property in AZ that I have in mind....

You make a lot of assumptions that are not compatible with reality.

Apple is not the only company using subscription accounting. Palm did the same thing with the Pre for quite obviously the same reasons. To suggest that Apple did this purely to piss off a bunch of Mac users or because the company went stupidly overboard in conservative accounting is so simplistic that it strains credulity.

Quite obviously, while "any part-way decent valuation would necessarily look at the company for its free cash flow," that DIDN'T HAPPEN, as Apple's roller coaster stock price makes blatantly evident.

"If anyone believes this stuff matters for Apple's valuation" right, so ignore all the evidence that Apple's stock price was manipulated by false information and continue talking about the price of tea in china and other meaningless cliches.

I'm sure the douchebag AI trolls will congratulate your prescience. Where's techstuck when you need him?
post #24 of 26
I don't believe that accounting issues were the only ones in Apple's decision. Apple didn't know how successful the iPhone might be, nor what its margins would be. I think that they wanted to be as secretive as possible with their revenue reports. Subscription accounting facilitates this, especially when the numbers are mixed with non-subscription earnings and reported in aggregate.

The figure on p. 2 illustrates the point. The reason that unit sales are used instead of revenues is that Apple never reported revenues for the iPhone. The numbers that they report to this day are insufficient to determine iPhone revenue per quarter. To say that Apple wants the rules changed so that they be more open is wrong. Nothing prevents Apple from reporting iPhone revenues, MacBooks sold, margins on MacPros, costs of components for iPods. Apple chooses not to report any of these.
post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Glockpop View Post

You make a lot of assumptions that are not compatible with reality.

Apple is not the only company using subscription accounting. Palm did the same thing with the Pre for quite obviously the same reasons. To suggest that Apple did this purely to piss off a bunch of Mac users or because the company went stupidly overboard in conservative accounting is so simplistic that it strains credulity.

Quite obviously, while "any part-way decent valuation would necessarily look at the company for its free cash flow," that DIDN'T HAPPEN, as Apple's roller coaster stock price makes blatantly evident.

"If anyone believes this stuff matters for Apple's valuation" right, so ignore all the evidence that Apple's stock price was manipulated by false information and continue talking about the price of tea in china and other meaningless cliches.

I'm sure the douchebag AI trolls will congratulate your prescience. Where's techstuck when you need him?

I know someone who once said: "You make a lot of assumptions that are not compatible with reality" (see bolded portions).
post #26 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


This decision invoked the wrath of shareholders, ... delaying their ability to make short term profits.

My heart bleeds.
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