Apple's Jobs: 'There are some customers we choose not to serve'

"While [our customers] may postpone purchases in tough times, they're unlikely to abandon the quality and seamless integration which they have personally experienced and become accustomed to with Apple's products," said Apple's CEO.

During Tuesday afternoon's quarterly conference call to close out Apple's fiscal year, CEO Steve Jobs made an uncharacteristic appearance -- along with CFO Peter Oppenheimer and COO Tim Cook -- ostensibly to allay fears that Apple would suffer any significant dips in growth as a result of the current global economic crisis.

But while there, Jobs made some remarks -- including unscripted ones during the Q&A session -- that reveal his personal strategy for Apple during the coming hard months: He believes that Apple products typically sell to Apple customers, and stated so explicitly. They may choose not to purchase Apple products in the coming months, but that choice, he said, will be a postponement of a purchasing and loyalty decision that customers have already made.

About Apple's ability to predict the economic future, Jobs said (as part of his scripted comments), "We do know a few things. First, we have the best customers in the world. I wouldn't trade our customers for any other company's customers in the entire world. They are some of the smartest, most product-aware customers in the market, and they have chosen Apple's quality, hardware, and software products.

"While they may postpone purchases in tough times, they're unlikely to abandon the quality and seamless integration which they have personally experienced and become accustomed to with Apple's products. So if the economic downturn does affect them, they are more likely to delay than switch," the Apple CEO said.

Later during the Q&A session, Jobs made an outright admission that could be prophetic for the company, although its most ardent supporters would most likely agree: Apple may never be a top-tier supplier of computers, and may not want to be, specifically because it cannot and will not appeal to the low-cost segment of the market.

"I think what we want to do is deliver an increasing level of value to these customers," Jobs told one analyst. "There are some customers which we choose not to serve. We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk. And our DNA will not let us ship that. But we can continue to deliver greater and greater value to those customers that we choose to serve. And there's a lot of them. And we've seen great success by focusing on certain segments of the market, and not trying to be everything to everybody. So I think you can expect us to stick with that winning strategy and continue to try to add more and more value to those products in those customer bases we choose to serve."

As one analyst pressed Jobs, does the company intend to continue what appeared to be its strategy during last week's unveiling of new MacBooks and MacBook Pros? "Well, we like to attract new customers," responded Jobs, "but you'll just have to wait and see."

Among the many outstanding performers in the Apple CE repertoire, right now, Apple TV is not one of them. This afternoon, Jobs cast one of his prophetic epitaphs on the on-demand TV market as a whole, blaming the entire market sector for Apple TV's lack of dominance.

"I think the whole category's still a hobby right now," Jobs told one analyst. "I don't think anybody's succeeded at it, and actually, the experimentation has slowed down. A lot of the early companies that were trying things have faded away. So I'd have to say that, given the economic conditions, given the venture capital outlook and stuff, I continue to believe it will be a hobby in 2009."

Next: Is there (still) a netbook in Apple's future?...

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