This week, Bloomberg sparked a number of headlines with reports that iPad mini demand was failing based on supplier Pegatron’s earnings numbers as revealed at an investor conference. Those claims were later refuted by Pegatron CEO Jason Cheng, who argued that Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan had misquoted him to reach his conclusion about iPad mini numbers.
The problem here is one that comes up repeatedly for Apple watchers, namely that of trying to divine from scattered sources what the future holds for the iPhone maker. Reports of slowdowns, layoffs or weak fiscal results from any number of supplier companies, including Pegatron, Foxconn and Sharp have bloggers feverishly pounding keys, predicting dire straits for Apple to come. The problem is, these have never been a very strong indicator of what’s actually going on with Cupertino and its products, and for good reason.
As Fortune’s Phillip Elmer-DeWitt learned from Cheng via email, Pegatron has a wide customer base and never breaks out how each of those are affecting its bottom line or its quarterly financial outlook. Pegatron has its fingers in all kinds of pies, including home video game consoles and e-readers, both of which are currently suffering badly in terms of consumer sales.
Here’s a look back at some equally dire reports from recent memory that also turned out not to have any relation whatsoever to anything Apple was doing, performance-wise.
- Apple’s Q2 Earnings Foreshadowed by Weak Foxconn Results – Disappointing results at Foxconn for its most recent quarterly results were seen as a bad sign for Apple’s progress, but it still filed extremely impressive results, despite a rare year-over-year earnings decline.
- Apple’s Suppliers Experienced A Very Weak February – Supplier reports indicated that Apple was having weak iPad sales, which obviously wasn’t correct as it blew expectations away in terms of sales of its iOS tablet devices.
- Apple iPhone 5 Sales Showing Weakness – Apple was seen as dramatically underperforming relative to Wall Street’s consensus estimates on iPhone sales for Q1 2013, and in fact they exceeded consensus by a fair number (selling 47.8 million iPhones).
- Exclusive: Japan’s Sharp cuts iPad screen output – Sharp shipping woes on iPad panels were seen as an indicator that Apple was having difficulty moving iPads, prompting one analyst firm to predict that Apple would ship only around 8 million iPads in Q1 2013, when in fact they shipped 22.9 million.
In the best of cases, supply chain reports offers some vague insight into the larger picture of Apple’s inventory channels, but when looked to for solid indicators of performance, they’re about as dependable as using a magic 8 ball. The iPad mini, by all reasonable accounts, looks to be a very strong performer for Apple, and it’s very likely we’ll see that trend continue.