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« Quick notes on phone market: Android/Google and SonyEricsson quarterly data | Main | Apple to thank Year of Tiger for China Surprise in iPhone strong quarterly sales »

April 20, 2010

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Comments

otoburb

Tomi, this is what makes you continue to stay relevant -- the ability to publicly address flaws in your previous arguments and opinions and be solidly based on data. Bravo.

WickedEast

Kudos!

This is what makes your opinion/analysis credible.

(I'm a new "follower" of your blog/tweet.)

Scott Hughes

Tomi, I saw your initial comment on iPhone sales and came back to see what you thought now. I'm mostly intrigued as to why you thought sales were so bad and what caused the difference in actual vs projected.

Thanks.

Chris Book

Nice work Tomi. Can you get your hands on UK specific sales data for Smartphone? I would love to know what the smartphone market share in Q12010 in the UK was. As I have mentioned to you before anecdotally Nokia is having a really hard time competing with Apple, RIM and Google in the UK Market. I believe this to be an indicator for other developed markets in Europe and North America and something that Nokia really needs to address with a great MeeGo based device soon.

Ron Barr

Hi Tomi,

Your devotion to the data is admirable. Your apparent glee at a likely decline in iPhone share didn't stop you from acknowledging the facts and moving on. Good stuff.

One point on your previous posts: Apple doesn't obsess about market share the way many other companies do. Years of profits at <10% share in the Mac business taught Apple that profits trump market share, Apple is making decisions, such as aggressive pricing, that are share-oriented but they can also build a nice business with less than market domination.

HCE

For all his insight into smartphones, it doesn't look as if Tomi gets the appeal of the iPhone. There's no point in comparing it to traditional smartphone vendors like Nokia etc. Apple went after a segment of users who traditionally do not buy smartphones - this group is far larger than the traditional smartphone users that the other vendors have been going after. Apps are really the key for this segment and Apple has a huge advantage here. The only other platform that even begins to compare is Android - and they are far behind. Of course all the other vendors have begun to target this segment but they are even further behind than Android.

In fact, it seems to me that none of the others (Palm apart) have a competing platform ready yet. Palm, of course has a completely different set of problems. As far as the rest are concerned, their modern smartphone platforms will not be out until sometime later this year. Nokia should get Symbian^4 and MeeGo out by the end of this year, Microsoft should have Windows Phone 7 out at about the same time and RIM should get Blackberry OS 6.0 out a little earlier than that. As far as I am concerned, 2011 is the year when all of these vendors start to challenge Apple but even then, they'll still be handicapped because even though they have a comparable platform, they'll still be far behind on apps and mindshare. Still, if there is any dip in Apple's market share, it will be in 2011 or 2012 - now this year.

- HCE

Richard Spence

Great Stuff Tomi ... thanks for keeping the stats coming.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi all so far

Wow, thats a lot of comments in almost no time, haha. Thanks guys. Numbers are my buddies, they have guided me in the past and I always trust my numbers to give me the truth haha..

About Apple - first, this is really strong performance, they surprised everybody not just me obviously. The Wall Street analysts several dozen major financial analyst houses with full-time professional mobile industry analysts -were all projecting at least a million fewer sales, some projecting 2 million less than what Apple has done. This is a 'monster' quarter for Apple, a major 'comeback' from a lackluster Christmas quarter (I say lackluster because they did not grow market share in what is every year their best quarter)

Secondly, I have now found the 'missing million' its the gift-giving season of China, the Lunar New Year (Year of the Tiger started on Feb 14, 2010) which by my analysis of Apple data out today suggests almost exactly one million extra unit sales of iPhones in China in the first quarter. This means 1 - iPhone has finally broken through in China and 2 - obviously - future years the Jan-Mar quarter and the Chinese New Year gift-giving will now contribute to iPhone first quarter sales, so its likely the iPhone unit sales pattern has been permanently altered.

Third - recognize, its very likely that every quarter from now on in 2010 will result in growth in actual unit sales for the iPhone. The April-June quarter includes the launch of the next iPhone. The July-Sept quarter has the big sales pattern for the new iPhone, and then the peak sales of the year is the Christmas sales in the Oct-Dec quarter. We will very likely see sequential growth quarter-on-quarter for every quarter this year (never before happened obviously for iPhone).

The unit sales growth (and the flat sales this past quarter) do not mean market share growth. The market share will of course depend on the rest of the smartphone market ie how Nokia, RIM, HTC, Samsung etc will sell smartphones. But the pattern is very strong for Apple now. We will have much more insights after Nokia reports on Thursday.

And what of this new China Syndrome? Who else may gain from it? RIM and HTC are not traditionally strong in China. But Nokia and Samsung are. If the Chinese consumers felt happy and confident enough in the recovering economy to buy very expensive 600 dollar iPhones - a million extra units - for New Year gifts this year, then it would bode very well for less-expensive smartphone and touch-screen feature phones by Samsung, and of the far more wide product range from high-end smartphones to low cost smartphones to far cheaper dumbphones by Nokia. It will be very interesting to see if other makers see a China effect.

I will return later to respond to each of you individually. Thank you for commenting

Tomi Ahonen :-)

kevin

Tomi, you say data and numbers are your buddies but when it comes to Apple, you keep using bad numbers. I love numbers too and it bugs me to no end that you keep doing that.

You wrote "I say lackluster because they did not grow market share in what is every year their best quarter"

Here are Apple's results from the very beginning (referenced by calendar quarter not Apple's fiscal quarter):
2Q07: 270K
3Q07: 1.12M
4Q07: 2.32M 4Q is best in 2007. iPhone launches in Europe.
1Q08: 1.70M
2Q08: 717K
3Q08: 6.89M iPhone 3G launches in 38 countries beyond the first 6, including Asia for the first time.
4Q08: 4.36M 4Q is NOT best in 2008. Apple LOSES market share. iPhone 3G launches in many tiny countries plus Russia.
1Q09: 3.79M
2Q09: 5.21M iPhone 3Gs launches in last week of quarter in 8 countries, including US and Europe.
3Q09: 7.37M iPhone 3Gs launches in 73 countries.
4Q09: 8.74M 4Q is best in 2009. Apple loses market share. iPhone 3GS launches in 3 small countries, plus China and S.Korea.

There is no pattern that the 4Q is the best quarter. It is heavily altered by launches. In 2009, Apple does much better in the 4Q than it did in 2007 or 2008.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi otoburb, WickedEast, Scott, Chris, Ron, HCE, Richard, kevin

Thank you all for the comments. I will respond to each individually by name

otoburb - thanks!

WickedEast - thanks to you too! and happy you're following on Twitter. Wait until we get a 'busy day' in mobile and one that is a 'slow day' for me, and I'll blast Twitter with 200 comments, we'll see if you still enjoy it haha.. Happy to meet you also here, and I will be following you on TW when I get to it too. I'm a couple of hundred followers behind but will follow you back for sure, just give me time.

Scott - good questions. Why did I expect bad sales - primarily because of a seasonal sales pattern that Apple (seemed to have) created before. With one new iPhone model releaesd in June, and at the enormous pace by which this industry moves - the average replacement cycle is only 17 months and many heavy users replace their phones every year - means that Apple sales start very strong, then decline sequentially until in May of the next year they are almost non-existent as customers await the new model about to be released. And the one exception was Christmas sales, which tends to be the best period for all handset makers. The evidence to me seemed compelling - about 20% drop in sequential unit sales on average for the two years 2008 and 2009 January-March quarters, compared to the previous Christmas quarter sales. kevin here has kindly reproduced the quarterly sales numbers for you to see the pattern.

I also had several positive and negative case studies of how one model phone will not generate a years-worth of solid sales - and how spreading a phone model range to multiple models means rapid increase in sales. Consider Blackberry spreading from one model to eight in just two years, and their global sales exploded.

Those were mainly the reasons why I thought iPhone sales were sure to fall for Q1 of any year, and in particular this year 2010.

Now on actual vs projected. I already said (but posted after your comment) that I 'discovered' where the 'missing million' is. That it is due to China Lunar New Year gift season sales. See the next blog posted today (you probably have read that already since you posted your comment).

It may not be 100% accurate, but I think it fits very well the total 'problem'. It was not just me who was wrong - all forecasters and analysts got it wrong and many were far more off than I was - I posted my expectation here as 7.4M unit sales, the 'Street average' was 7.1M so mostly US based tech and telecoms analysts came with a far smaller level than I did. But we all got it wrong. Thats unusual.

China New Years sales makes sense because we know China Unicom sales had been very low in 2009, of levels from 100,000 units to 300,000 units of iPhones quarterly. Yet Apple Quarterly data suggests something like 2 million iPhones were sold in the past 2 quarters. If China Unicom sold 300,000 in Q4, we'd have about 1.7M for Q1, ie a growth of 1.4M - explaining very 'neatly' the missing number. The real number won't be that big, because Apple's China Region includes hong Kong and Taiwan, and their 1.3B dollar revenue figure includes Macs and iPods, but 1M unit sales added in Q1 is very reasonable.

The Chinese government was reporting in January that they were emerging from the economic recession, this would have boosted Chinese consumers' willingness to spend. And recently especially in Shanghai, Beijing, here in Hong Kong etc, Chinese nationals who are in the new middle class, have taken to giving luxury gifts at New Year. All fits the pattern.

Finally, it also helps explain why we all missed it. China is very closed and secretive. US based analysts find a far easier job of estimating sales in Britain or Australia or South Africa than China...

Chris - sorry, I don't have national breakdowns like that for all countries. You might look for UK regulator data which often has very deep data. There are also several UK consumer surveys of the mobile industry so look for say Carphone Warehouse etc. Sorry..

Ron - great point (profit trumps market share) which is indeed both a mantra at Apple and Nokia too. It is also why I made such a point at the end of the 'iPhone has peaked' blog article, that Apple is laughing all the way to the bank = their strategy is very solid and they are the most profitable phone maker on the planet. That is a good place to be. But it is not compatible with total market share growth. Therefore if Apple decides they will take profit over market share, their market share growth will peak at some point inevitably. And as I said, its quite possible still, that my forecast turns out to be true. We don't even know yet from this quarter if Apple was able to hold onto market share, inspite of their record-breaking quarterly results.

HCE- you make many good points. I'll give you an individual answer next, hold on.

Richard - thanks!

kevin - thanks for posting the numbers. I think you've misunderstood me at this point (at least about this current situation) - I was saying the unit sales decline after the Christmas period - which is a clear pattern through 2007 to 2009. Very clear pattern, always January quarter sales decline after Christmas sales. Now that we have 2010 numbers, obviously the pattern is broken. Thanks for the data

On 'lackluster' - iPhone had their best quarter but were not able to raise market share in Q4 odf 2009. That was where several rivals including Nokia, RIM and HTC - the other 3 of the 4 biggest smartphone makers - all increased market share. Nokia very strongly. So that was why Apple was lackluster - a rising tide raises all boats, Apple's great quarter was more because the world was buying smartphones, not because the iPhone did well in that quarter. Its rivals gained on it.

Tomi Ahonen :-)


Tomi T Ahonen

Hi HCE

Ok, you made several points and I am a bit confused first about your statement that Apple went after customers who traditionally do not buy smartphones. If you mean consumers as opposed to business/enterprise customers, then that was not an Apple idea, Nokia's whole N-Series division was set up selling millions of N-Series smartphones aimed at consumers not business customers long before the iPhone had been announced or sold. If you mean internet surfing phones - the world's first phone with full internet access was also a Nokia a decade before Apple's first iPhone appeared - and that Nokia Communicator had a wide VGA width screen etc. And NTT DoCoMo in Japan brought the whole Japanese market into the mobile internet, so much so, that if you ask a Japanese internet user today would they want to have email on a PC (they use email on their phones) - they will first say - oh, I didn't know its possible - and then they add - why would you want to have email on a PC. Finally if you mean doing apps and the app store, that also was invented in Japan and Nokia's first app store and gaming oriented smartphone was the N-Gage total eco-system. While the N-Gage was a total market flop (so too have been many Apple innovations like the Lisa PC and the Newton PDA) - it established the market opportunity that the iPhone now addressse. Morgan Stanley pointed out that iPhone is now the planet's most widely used portable gaming platform and obviously the biggest part of iPhone apps - both free and paid - are games.

So when you say Apple was so brilliant to go after a segment that traditionally did not use smartphones - I beg to differ. What Apple was able to do - was to bring this kind of experience to the US market, where indeed internet surfing, consumer oriented smartphones and premium phones were not known. And with the app store, Apple has made a globally viable, vibrant business out of something that was very poorly performing in any market before Apple. But Apple did not bring any of these to the industry. What part of "Apple went after a segment that traditionally didn't do smartphones" did I not understand about this industry, when I mistakenly compared Apple's performance in these market segments to the industry?

You say there is no point in comparing Apple to traditional smartphone vendors like Nokia. Ok. Thats a fair opinion. But Apple itself identifies itself as a 'mobile' company now. And clearly Apple does not provide mobile telecoms services like traditional operators/carriers (ie AT&T, T-Mobile, Vodafone, China Mobile etc) so we can't fairly compare Apple to say Verizon or Telefonica or NTT DoCoMo. It would be as wrong as comparing Delta Airlines with Boeing.

So the fair comparison for Apple the mobile company, against its new peers (no longer the PC makers like Dell, HP, Lenovo etc) is to other mobile phone handset makers (Nokia, Samsung, LG, RIM, HTC etc) and to other smartphone operating system makers (Symbian, RIM, Microsoft, Google etc). Or should Apple really be considered in isolation? When a consumer walks into a handset store, the consumer will be considering handsets next to each other, and an Apple iPhone may be compared to a Google Nexus One or Motorola Droid or Nokia N97 etc. That is Apple's competition. If I provide analysis on the mobile industry and its competition, I have to pit Apple against someone?

But you are very correct, that Apple is famous for changing the game it enters. It did that with PCs with the Mac, and with portable musicplayers with both the iPod and iTunes. Now its doing that with the iPhone and perhaps also with the App Store. That is what marketing theorists call 'creating a new market space' and in the signature book to this blog, Communities Dominate Brands (my 4th book) we celebrate the iPod specifically for this achievement - I believe we were the first authors to attribute iPod's market space creation in a book.

You say that 'apps are a key to this segment' and you may be right in that. Here is a point where you and I have a clear disagreement. I believe there is a significant, but relatively minor economic opportunity in apps. I believe the big opportunity in mobile phones is like it is on the PC side as well - in web enabled services. I believe all apps hysteria of today will be looked at some years into the future as similar to the 'dot com' hype a decade ago. Tons of developers building apps hoping if they build it, some money will come. And most will go bust in the process. It doesn't mean that there is no money. But my view is that the 'web enabled services' side is ENORMOUSLY bigger than apps. Consider the numbers today. Apple's iPhone App Store was measured worth about 740 million dollars last year by Morgan Stanley. But mobile data services were worth 250 Billion dollars. I am confident that as various news and media and advertising giants from CNN to Disney to Ogilvy learn that SMS, MMS and WAP can be used to deliver compelling, entertaining, 'engaging' interactive media content to over 80% of the phone owners on the planet (SMS reaches over 99.7% of all phones today) - and iPhones are in the pockets of under 1% of the planet - the media will shift their dollars to SMS, MMS and WAP (and increasingly also Java and Web both of which reach over half of all phones). That is where the big opportunity is. But this is an honest disagreement between you and me. There are many reputable analysts and experts who share your view, it is as valid as mine. We'll have to see in a few years how the app opportunity develops. You may be proven right haha..

You say Apple has the most advanced platform for apps and as an OS. And you say Google's Android is the only realistic rival. You suggest Symbian for example is apparently outdated until the next edition comes out. Well, what of multitasking? Apple OS/X for iPhone has gone through four editions since 2007 until it got limited multitasking to work. And that OS cannot be upgraded to old iPhones. Meanwhile that 'obsolete' Symbian? Its had multitasking for most of this decade, long before the first iPhone. I am not a programmer (anymore) and cannot comment on the intricate details of the different OS's but there are benefits to each platform. I do admit and say so always - that Apple's is the most user-friendly OS out there, by a mile.

One could argue that open source software is the global trend and open systems will always trump closed systems. But that closed and tightly controlled systems like the iPhone are easier to deploy new innovations on. So if you subscribe to the openness trend, then Android and Symbian and MeeGo are all fully open source OS's and Apple's iPhone OS/X is by far the most restricted and controlled environment (and obviously Apple's OS is not on any other handset brands by other makers, where Symbian is supported by half a dozen handset makers and Android by over a dozen. And MeeGo has commitments by a dozen major brands.)

But good points. You said the dip in Apple market share could come next year of 2012. Lets see, please come back in January 2011 to see if I was right, and we'll re-visit these competing forecasts..

Tomi Ahonen :-)

kevin

"So that was why Apple was lackluster - a rising tide raises all boats, Apple's great quarter was more because the world was buying smartphones, not because the iPhone did well in that quarter. Its rivals gained on it."

Wrong, you still don't get it. True, its rivals gained on it in the 4th quarter, but that's because Apple's 3rd quarter was a blow-out because it was in a full-fledged major launch. Its 4th quarter launched in only 3 very small countries, plus slow-starting China and S. Korea.

So using IDC numbers, at the end of the 2nd quarter, Nokia had 44.3 share of global smartphone market, RIM 20.9, and Apple 13.7. At the end of the 4th quarter, Nokia is at 38.2, RIM 19.6 and Apple 16.0. Which of the three grew over the last 6 months?

Putting so much emphasis on one 4th quarter data point while ignoring what happened in the 2nd and 3rd quarter before is incredibly dumb, especially when you say (and I agree) that for Apple, one must look at the full year because they only launch one model. So if you talk that talk, then walk the walk.

HCE

Tomi,

I'm sorry but you are still not getting my point. When I say, non-traditional smartphone user, I mean people who really did not feel like wrestling with the crop of smartphones that were around pre-iPhone to get the most out of them. These people did not have a billion meetings to schedule, weren't always on the move and hence did not need to carry around a mobile computer. I am a perfect example of such a person. I am very tech-savvy (I work in high-tech) but I never felt the need for a smartphone. Every time I tried one, I was underwhelmed. The biggest obstacle was the UI. They were clunky and hard to use. Now, if I really **needed** to have the functionality, I'm sure that I would have figured it out but since I didn't, I never bought a smartphone.

The iPhone's UI was a quantum leap in terms of usability. It made using the phone a pleasure and I ended up buying one - not because I needed one but because I wanted one. Around three quarters of iPhone users I know have a story that is pretty similar to mine. As a contrast, most Blackberry users I know, got their phones through work - because they needed to have them. Most of the ones that didn't, got them because RIM was giving them a good deal on the phones. That's the big difference. People buy the iPhone at full price because they want them.

People in my situation far outnumber the people in the other situation. I know a lot more people who have never used a smartphone (they all currently have basic featurephones) who are probably going to pick up their first smartphone sometime this year and without exception it is either going to be an iPhone or and Android phone.

This is the demographic that Apple is going for and while they may not be the first to go for this demographic (as you say, Nokia tried earlier with the N-series phones) but they have done a far better job of figuring out what appeals to this demographic and meeting those requirements. And here's the primary thing you don't get. Features are **not that important** to this demographic. Each time you reel off a list of features that Nokia implemented first, I have to shake my head. I'm not saying features don't matter at all - far from it. However, a lot of people like me are willing to compromise somewhat on features if the ones that do exist are well implemented and easy to use.

The ease of use and slick UI were the first things that attracted people like me. The next was applications. Not just any old applications but rather ones that were as slickly implemented and easy to use as the UI itself. With iPhone 2.0, that is what Apple provided. Pretty much every iPhone user I know has several pages of applications. I never thought of myself as a bug app user but I seem to have accumulated a couple pages of apps myself - most of which I use on a somewhat regular basis.

So, in order to effectively compete with Apple, smartphone vendors need the following things.
1. The need a powerful OS and slick, easy-to-use UI.
2. They need an SDK and development tools that allow for the rapid development of great apps.
3. They need to attract developers to the platform to develop these apps.
4. They need to grow mindshare among the general public (not just the geeks).
Points 3 and 4 above are something of a chicken-and-egg problem. It is not easy to grow mindshare without the applications and it is not easy to get developers to write apps without the mindshare.

Right now the only other platform, in my opinion, that has these things lined up is Android. Pretty much everyone else is in retooling mode. Nokia needs to get its Qt-based SDK out (which if I am not mistaken will come out at year-end with Symbian^4 and MeeGo). The current Blackberry OS has a clunky UI and its web browser is terrible. From what I can see, Blackberry OS 6.0 drastically improves things and it is probably going to come out sometime in fall. Microsoft is completely rebooting its Windows Mobile platform and the new version does not come out till year-end. So, if these guys are going to halt the iPhone's market share growth, it will be in 2011 or 2012 - not this year.

Finally, don't look only at market share. As someone else pointed out in the comments, Apple does not care that much about it. Look instead at the following
1. Profit share - See what percentage of smartphone industry profits go to Apple as opposed to other platforms.
2. Web access share - See what percentage of web accesses come from the iPhone as opposed to other platforms. This is where the advertising dollars are.

If I haven't made my views clear after this post, I never will :-).

Cheers,

- HCE

kevin

To add on to HCE's excellent post which I would say is also my experience: just go to http://www.apple.com/iphone/gallery/ads/ and watch the Apple ads. It's not about phone features but about using Apps on the phone to carry out everyday tasks (obviously, those Apps use many of those phone features, but geeky features isn't what is being highlighted). Apple highlights things that everyone can easily imagine/wish themselves doing with ease.

In the US, I watch TV ads from Blackberry (stuff flying around), T-Mobile MyTouch (celebrities standing around), Sprint (counts off a million statistics), Palm (just weird), and Verizon (buy one get one free) and I shake my head.

Charbax

Android phones shipments are just about to overtake the global amount of iphone sales. This is BEFORE the arrival of the truly cheap Android phones.

Stop and think for a minute, the true cost of a smartphone like iphone or Android is currently over $3500 over 2-years in the USA. Excluding cost of subscription plans is stupid, especially since apple and the Android phone makers have their handsets subsidized by the carriers.

Now listen to this, Android phone and iphone now cost less than $150 to manufacture. This means, if Google really wanted to, they could sell the Nexus One unlocked for $150 tomorrow. The reason Google was not yet selling the Nexus One for $150 is to not disrupt the whole telecom industry too fastly. HTC would not allow such cheap prices and the carriers don't want such cheap prices.

But cheap Android phones cannot be stopped. This year, there will be unlocked Android phones sold below $200, without contract, pre-paid plans only. The performance will be about the same as an iphone. With only a $200 or less out of pocket expense instead of having to sign up for a $3500 expense on contract.

Cheap Android phones and tablets will destroy apples profit margins and revenues, as consumers will only want to pay a certain price, below $200 and NOT be tied by contracts anymore.

Jody

@HCE "Nokia needs to get its Qt-based SDK out"

You can write QT based applications for Symbian and Maemo right now.

HCE

@Jody

As per the Symbian roadmap, the full touch-based SDK is not going to be available until Symbian^4.

- HCE

Bob

Google needs to sell nexus one for 250 dollars. Hardware costs make up around 175 dollars and since google's goal is to get more people online and using their services, they should operate the nexus one at breakeven or even a slight loss. Google can change the game forever if it sells it for 250 dollars. Apple and all other hardware vendors will struggle.

Tomi T Ahonen

AS a final comment to this thread - now July 27 CNBC has confirmed that China Unicom has passed 2 million iPhone sales. They were at under 400,000 by January 1, 2010. And as Apple's international sales numbers declined 14% from Q1 to Q2, its safe to assume most of China Unicom's 1.6 million new iPhones sales were in Q1, not in Q2.

So my thesis that the surprising 'missing million' sales were due to Chinese New Year celebrations was proven true. Thank you to all who so vocally doubted me haha..

Polly

AS a final comment to this thread - now July 27 CNBC has confirmed that China Unicom has passed 2 million iPhone sales. They were at under 400,000 by January 1, 2010. And as Apple's international sales numbers declined 14% from Q1 to Q2, its safe to assume most of China Unicom's 1.6 million new iPhones sales were in Q1, not in Q2.

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I was reading something else about this on another blog. Interesting. Your position on it is diametrically contradicted to what I read earlier. I am still contemplating over the opposite points of view, but I'm tipped heavily toward yours. And no matter, that's what is so great about modernized democracy and the marketplace of thoughts on-line.

Henry Peise

The white iphone 4 hardware design hasn't changed from the one we already knew about. It uses the same materials as the prototype: Black glass and stainless steel rim.

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