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Wow, Apple’s definition of a ‘runaway success’ has really changed

Airpods sold out

Earlier today, Apple CEO Tim Cook took his nephew on a tour of a noted tourist destination called the New York Stock Exchange. While sightseeing, he found the time to talk to CNBC about the new Airpods. We don’t have any sales data to speak of on the months-delayed Airpods, but Cook described them as a “runaway success,” saying they’re “making as many of them as we can.”

This reminds me of the last time Apple described something as a “runaway success.” That time, it was the iPad, which actually was a runaway success right after launch: Apple sold over half a million in the first week, and that’s not including pre-orders for the 3G version that were delivered later.

Unfortunately, we have no data from Apple on how Airpod sales are doing, so we can’t really judge against the benchmark of the iPad. But while it’s true that the Airpods are sold out virtually nationwide, that’s more likely to do with a lack of stock than it is overwhelming demand for $170 Bluetooth headphones. Some stores were rumored to have 8 or so pairs in stock, so it’s not really valid to compare the Airpod’s sold-out status to what happens after an iPhone launch.

And hey, even if the Airpods were selling in stupid numbers, I’m still not sure you can call the launch a “runaway success.” Apple demoed the Airpods alongside the iPhone 7 in September, and the October launch date felt like a cop-out even then. That launch date was pushed multiple times all the way to Christmas. Compared to Apple’s product launches that are normally run with military precision, I’d call the Airpods less runaway success, more abject failure.