iPod growth slowing...unless you count the iPhone

iPod unit sales aren't growing as quickly as they used to be, but the iPhone is making up the difference.

Apple's earnings report today was stellar for the company and its shareholders--the 67% increase in profits over the year-ago quarter was particularly noteworthy. But I noticed that iPod sales came in short of some financial analysts' expectations. Looking back at recent Apple earnings calls on iLounge, I noticed that this was the case in Q2 and Q3 as well. (Apple's fiscal year begins Oct. 1, so this was Q4.)

iPod Touch and Steve Jobs
Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod Touch in September. Ina Fried/CNET News.com

More generally, iPod unit sales aren't growing as quickly as they used to. Here's year-to-year iPod unit growth for the last five quarters, again reported by iLounge:
Q4: 17%
Q3: 21%
Q2: 24%
Q1: 28%
Last year's Q4: 35%. It was this stellar result that caused one analyst to predict that iPod growth could continue around 30 percent.

At first glance, this appears to be the law of large numbers kicking in. But wait: there's a new product since last year--the iPhone. (You might have heard of it.) Apple sold 1.1 million of those, bringing the iPod-plus-iPhone total to 11.3 million. Which makes for unit growth of--you guessed it--30 percent.

Another caveat: the iPod Touch didn't become available until Sept. 28, almost at the end of the quarter. That should goose sales even further. Point being, the iPod juggernaut may be slowing, but if you include the iPhone, Apple's device business is as strong as it's ever been.

An interesting side note: Microsoft reports earnings on Thursday, and in its last earnings call, it predicted quarterly revenue of $12.4 billion to $12.6 billion. If it makes those numbers, that means Apple's now approximately half the size of Microsoft in terms of quarterly revenue. That's a stunning development for anybody who's familiar with the companies' positions five or ten years ago.

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About the author

    Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.

     

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