John versus Joe: iPhone earnings smackdown edition

Apple naysayers are a dime a dozen these days. I keep a few in my garage just so I can laugh at them when I wave my iPhone in their general direction and they all cry in unison, "The Zune phone is so totally going to be an iPhone killer. You know, if and when it comes out. Just wait and see."

Rarely do Apple naysayers come with more unintentional hilarity than Joe Wilcox from Betanews, who, alone among reporters everywhere, uncovered a media conspiracy on a scale not seen in recent memory. Namely, contrary to what literally everyone else has reported, Apple was in fact NOT more profitable with the iPhone compared to all of Nokia's cellphone business during the recent financial quarter.

John Gruber from Daring Fireball saw Joe's post, and with his response laid the smackdown on Joe's analysis.

Gruber's post boils down to castigating Wilcox for ignoring Apple's statement of non-GAAP earnings. Basically, Apple's subscription-based accounting for the iPhone spreads its revenues out over several quarters, which it expresses in GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) earnings. These are the earnings Wilcox looked at and said, "Wait a minute! Apple didn't make that much money at all! Murder most foul!" If you want a real idea of what Apple actually made with the iPhone over the quarter, you have to look at the non-GAAP earnings. This is something I figured out back when I edited earnings press releases for PR Newswire, and something anyone who reports on financial matters really ought to double-check before protesting to one and all that something foul is afoot.

Wilcox updated his post after Gruber's response, but his rationale is almost as funny as his initial post:

I chose to use the GAAP figures because a) Again, that's what Apple is supposed to report; b) It made for a simpler analysis; c) Apple recognizes previously deferred revenue with the quarterly results; d) According to Apple SEC filings, deferred revenue is for more than just iPhone and Apple TV. The last two points are paramount.
In other words, a) It's the SEC's fault, not mine; b) like Gruber said, I didn't bother reading past the first paragraph of the press release; c) I also didn't bother parsing through the reams of financial tables that come with every quarterly financial press release; d) Gruber is wrong and Apple TV is totally selling like hotcakes.

I showed Wilcox's post to the Apple naysayers I keep chained up in my garage, and they just kind of turned away scratching their heads awkwardly. I don't think that's a good sign for the supposed "misreporting" of Apple's iPhone profits that Wilcox thinks he's uncovered.