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So if I read my friend Rick's original bearish argument correctly -- not to mention his latest rebuttal -- you're better off buying Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) than you are Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , because it's a faster grower and the market leader in smartphones?
Talk about cherry-picking!
Yes, RIM is once again the market leader. NPD Group reports that the BlackBerry Curve outsold the iPhone during the first quarter. What Rick isn't telling you is that Research In Motion benefited from garage-sale tactics that boosted its numbers. Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) offered Curve shoppers a "buy one, get one free" promotion in Q1.
More telling, I think, is that the BlackBerry Storm, a would-be iPhone killer, was nothing of the sort. The Storm was third behind the iPhone on NPD's list. RIM's BlackBerry Pearl ranked fourth, while T-Mobile's Android-powered G1 placed fifth.
And while we're talking numbers, let's set the record straight when it comes to the iPhone. While it's true that iPhone unit sales fell sequentially, revenue improved 22% over the same period. Year over year, iPhone unit sales doubled and revenue quadrupled.
You want growth? You got it
Consumers are buying iPhones as much as ever, in other words. But so are corporate customers. According to a recent survey of 127 large and midsize businesses conducted by Osterman Research, 44% said they planned to support the iPhone this year, up from 20% in 2008, BusinessWeek reports.
Meanwhile, the App Store grows at an astounding pace. Users have downloaded more than 1 billion software programs to their iPhones in the nine months of the Store's existence. That's not just growth, that's crazy growth that neither RIM nor Palm (Nasdaq: PALM ) are seeing right now.
So for as much as RIM has built a top franchise, coloring the iPhone as weak by contrast is worse than specious -- it's just plain wrong.
Attacking the Mac
Rick's swipes at the Mac are more appropriate. Rising sales of low-profit netbooks took a toll on Apple in its fiscal second quarter. Total Mac revenue fell 16% over last year's Q2. Unit sales declined 3%.
These aren't good numbers. But let's put them in context. First, Apple faced a difficult comparison. Mac sales were up 51% in last year's March quarter, thanks to the MacBook Air, which has proved popular with business users -- including our own David Gardner, an Apple shareholder and captain of the stock-picking pirate ship we call Motley Fool Rule Breakers.
Second, while Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , Acer, and Asus have been engaged in a race for the bottom, Apple has mostly refused to cut prices. Higher prices have translated into lower sales.
But is that as bad as it sounds? The rumor mill says yes. Various outlets, including AppleInsider, are reporting that Apple plans lower-priced editions of its entry-level MacBook and iMac computers to counteract new Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) ads that cast Macs as big-ticket novelty nice-to-haves.
I'm not convinced. Apple's gross margin -- the best measure of its pricing power -- rose to 36.4% in Q2 from 32.9% in last year's second quarter. To understand how powerful that is, look at the cash flow statement. Overall revenue improved just 9%, but cash from operations ballooned 20%.
Yeah, I'd like to see higher revenue growth, too, but no company gets a second shot at becoming a premium brand. Firms that go downmarket stay downmarket. Better it is for Apple to emphasize quality and innovation and cut prices slowly, as it has traditionally.
That's how you bring back the Mac.
Brrrrrriiiiiinnnng! It's related Foolishness calling: