Apple Has Record Year, But No New News on Apple Music

Apple CEO Tim Cook on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

Apple CEO Tim Cook on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015.

Annual sales rose 28 percent to $233.4 billion. Fourth quarter revenue jumped 22 percent to $51.5 billion.

Apple's strong fourth fiscal quarter and record-setting fiscal year reiterated the company's dominance in personal technology and presence the entertainment streaming business.

Revenue was $51.5 billion and net profit was $11.1 billion, or $1.42 per diluted share. Gross margin improved to 39.9 percent from 38.0 percent in the prior-year period. Apple exceeded expectations at both the top and bottom of the income statement. Analysts expected fiscal fourth quarter revenue of $51.1 billion and earnings of $1.88 per share, according to Thomas Reuters.

The quarter marked the end of Apple's fiscal year in which revenue rose 28.0 percent to $234 billion. Annual net income increased 35.1 percent to $53.4 billion.

Nothing new was learned about Apple Music in Apple's earnings call Tuesday afternoon. CEO Tim Cook provided previously known information: the new subscription service has over 15 million individual and family accounts and over 6.5 million paying customers. He added two more music notes: Apple Music will be added to Apple TV this week and mentioned its launch in China.

Music gets little attention in Apple earnings; it adds to the Apple brand but represents only a tiny part of the overall business. Consider that Apple's annual revenue is nearly 35 times greater than the world's largest music company, Universal Music Group. Apple's $13.9 billion growth in its fiscal year net income approaches the value of the entire global recorded music industry, which hit $15 billion last year.

Because it represents nearly two-thirds of Apple revenue, the iPhone receives most of the attention when Apple releases earnings. In the latest quarter, iPhone shipments rose 22 percent to 48 million units representing revenue of $32.2 billion. Cook described demand for the iPhone 6 and 6s as "very strong" across the quarter and said demand for new iPhones exceeding supply at the end of the quarter. He added the iPhone will grow in the current quarter aided by people switching from Android and upgrades by previous iPhone users.

Demand for its smartphones would indicate that Apple should have a greater ability to sell its Apple Music subscription service. Music streaming services are most commonly used on mobile devices rather than in the home -- where they can also be used with portable speakers and digital systems. Of the many streaming services tracked by Triton Digital -- Apple Music is not included -- 73.8 percent of total listening in August was on mobile devices

Less positive for Cupertino's biggest company are shrinking iPad shipments, which tumbled 20 percent to 9.9 million, representing $4.3 billion. Mac sales rose a modest 3 percent and accounted for $6.9 billion. Revenue from services such as AppleCare rose 10 percent to $5.1 billion. Revenue from the "other products" category, which includes the Apple Watch and Beats products, rose 61 percent to $3.0 billion.

The forecast for the traditionally strong fiscal first quarter -- which includes Christmas -- is revenue between $75.5 billion and $77.5 billion and operating income between $6.3 billion and $6.4 billion.