Fast Company

If It's Not iPhones, What's Apple's Extra Air Freight For?

While reporting its most profitable quarter ever yesterday, Apple's execs let slip a few nuggets of information about past and future products. The most intriguing is related to upcoming extra freight flights...but for what?

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Speaking at the earnings call in answer to an analyst question, Apple's COO Tim Cook let slip a slightly unexpected fact about an upcoming "abnormal" boost in air freight bookings. Such a boost is usually expected in the run up to the holiday season, as companies try to get their ducks in line in time for the sales rush, but Cook acknowledged "this increase is larger than usual. I'm sorry I can't be specific on the product but it's an abnormal sequential increase." As if that wasn't intriguing enough, he also added "the air freight is not related to the iPhone."

Hmmm. What on earth could this be for? It's definitely something new, especially when you reflect on Jobs' language in the release accompanying the official statistics: "a very strong lineup for the holiday season and some really great new products in the pipeline for 2010." It's not the iPhone. It's also not a new iPod--among yesterday's upbeat stats that's the product that underperformed--sales slipped 8% compared to last year's figure, despite the introduction of the new camera-toting iPod Nano. It's not likely to be a barrage of new iMacs or MacBooks, since even though these machines are selling better than ever before, the start of the academic year is over and everyone's bought their updated computer already. The hotly-rumored slenderized iMac redesign is likely to push a significant number of new units over the next several months if it surfaces today, but surely not enough to cause an "abnormal" air freight expense.

So that leaves...The new multitouch wireless Magic Mouse (a long-awaited Mighty Mouse replacement)? Nope. The strange desktop multitouch trackpad peripheral John Gruber teased us about yesterday? Nope.

Dare we let ourselves think about beginning to speculate on the merest possibility that this is the fabled iTablet?

[Apple via 9to5Mac]

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3 Comments

  • Tony Lindkold

    "It's not likely to be a barrage of new iMacs or MacBooks, since even though these machines are selling better than ever before, the start of the academic year is over and everyone's bought their updated computer already."

    Well, turned out is was a new line of iMac's after all. And one of them is heading my way come november...! ;-)

    br,
    Lindkold,
    http://www.lindkold.dk/

  • Scott Case

    As somebody who is in the international logistics business, I can tell you that along with everything else that has been cratering in demand and price, transportation by both air and sea have done the same. Containerized cargo rates are recovering through a mix of rate increases and laid up capacity. Traditionally, there is a run up in air freight rates through about mid-December and then the bottom falls out in January. For somebody of Apple's scope, it wouldn't be a reach to assume that they're chartering aircraft if they have the ability to generate the necessary volumes to fill a whole plane. Increased air freight costs sure won't be for spikes in fuel like we experienced last year, it sounds more like the fact that SOMETHING will be moved here to North America before the traditional lull post-Christmas. There is a short run-up again in the weeks prior to the Chinese Lunar New Year holidays, but not as significant as the pre-Christmas rush.

  • Tom Jr

    I had the same thoughts about yesterdays conference call. iMacs and MacBooks are due for an overhaul, but it seems likely these products are in the pipeline already. I am betting that Jobs has pushed up the release of a jumbo iPod Touch/iTablet, hence the need for more air freight. Netbooks continue to sell like hot cakes and the sales of book reader tablets is gaining steam. A 2010 rollout by Apple maybe to late for this product segment.