It was bound to happen: forecasts of poor sales of Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) new smartwatch early on after is launch. This is according to a preeminent observer of Apple numbers. The negative comments came from wildly regarded UBS analyst Steve Milunovich. If he is correct, Apple faces its first trouble in a very long time
Quoted in Barron’s, Milunovich said:
Apple has somewhat botched the Watch introduction. First “early” in the year was defined to include April. Then supply issues pushed back availability for most early buyers. The buzz has been reduced by requiring appointments and by the inability for now to take Watches home from Apple stores. However, Apple is right to go slowly as the Watch represents a new category. Word of mouth will be important, so training users is needed.
The last time an important Wall Street analyst used the word “botched” regarding Apple is beyond remembering. Milunovich’s pessimism may not be long-lived. He wrote that Apple Watch was in the early part of what will be a long development curve. He also maintained a Buy rating on the stock with a price target of $150. Since Apple shares recently traded at an all-time high, just above $134, Milunovich’s Buy rating is modest praise.
Among the primary questions about Apple’s next few quarters is whether a surge in iPhone sales will continue, which would eclipse almost any disappointment in Apple Watch sales. Apple’s management has said the greater China market will soon represent the largest among all markets, passing the Americas. Greater China revenue last quarter was $16.8 billion. Revenue from the Americas was $21.3 billion, out of $58 billion. Should Greater China sales pass those of the Americas in the next quarter, almost any stumble on Apple Watch will be forgiven.
Apple Watch early results, if Milunovich is correct, could mean that wearable devices, particularly smartwatches, have come to market too soon. That could be the first result of a product launch to take Apple’s share price down, and down fairly hard.