When Apple announced last month that iPhone sales weren't quite as high as Wall Street expected in the June quarter, the stock price took a huge dip, pushing it back in the upper 500s. Well, that would be amazing for any other company, but Apple has to walk on water. Perhaps a little reality took over, though, as the stock price began a fairly rapid ascent to levels never before achieved. Apple's market cap soared to levels higher than Microsoft achieved in its heyday in the late 1990s.
Well, not if you factor in inflation, which puts Apple in second place. But it hardly matters, except to show the heights from which Microsoft has descended over the years.
Clearly investors believe Apple will hit a huge home run when the next iPhone is announced. It is very much accepted that the new iPhone -- expected to be called the iPhone 5 -- will be announced at a media event on September 12, and will go on sale the following weekend. This will give customers ample opportunity to preorder online and clog Apple's sites, along with those of various wireless carriers and independent retailers.
The spec sheet for the iPhone 5, and I don't think Apple will call it "new iPhone," has already been fleshed out by both rumor sites and the mainstream media. There's plenty of talk, and alleged prototype photos, indicating a four-inch display, and a new case design that's longer but not wider. The presence of LTE seems a given, since all new high-end smartphones support the latest and greatest cellular standards. From there, the specs become hazier. Maybe the rear-facing camera will have a higher resolution, maybe a 9-pin dock connector will replace the 30-pin dock connector, and perhaps there will be a surprise feature or two.
The "one more thing" is said to be a smaller iPad, dubbed the iPad mini. Most of the published reports speak of a 7.85-inch form factor that may be closer to the iPod touch in basic design, with the same 4:3 aspect radio as the regular iPad. It would have the same resolution as the iPad 2, but images would be sharper on a smaller display. This basic similarity means that existing apps will work fine on the supposed iPad mini, although changes will probably still have to be made because of the iPhone 5's alleged larger display.
The retail price of this iPad mini may be in the $249 to $299 range, not so much above the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Google Nexus 7 as to give Apple a competitive disadvantage. Don't forget that the iPad mini, and that name isn't a given, would tie into the huge iOS ecosystem. Everything you have installed on a regular iPad will run great on the iPad mini, so how can it miss?
Another factor fueling the higher stock prices is the possibility of other fall product introductions. The iMac and Mac mini are overdue for refreshes, so Apple might spruce up the product lines in the next couple of months. While some suggest that the next iMac must have a Retina display, in the fashion of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, that seems questionable. Even if Apple could get enough displays to meet the expected demand, the price would be unacceptably high. What's more, since you will be sitting farther away from a 27-inch display, the benefits of Retina may not be quite as obvious. Yes, there may be a decent redesign of the iMac case, possibly thinner without an optical drive, but it may just be a simple upgrade with newer components.
And don't forget that a new Mac Pro isn't promised until next year.
The one unknown as the Apple TV. Will there be a newer version, or will Apple deliver a smart TV of some sort? There are some rumors that Apple is already building TV sets, but it may just be product samples, and no final production decision has been made.
The other possibility is a new version of the Apple TV that will support existing cable and satellite systems, although the present model, with software updates, ought to be sufficient. According to the Wall Street Journal, DVR capabilities will be passed on to the cloud, so you won't need a large local hard drive to store the shows you've flagged for time shifting.
While the reality of any of the new products, other than an iPhone 5 and an iMac and Mac mini refresh, are very much speculative, it may well be that Apple will have a busy fall. All that anticipation may well explain why Apple's stock price has soared. As a passing note, if Apple is victorious in the current patent lawsuit against Samsung that's playing out in Northern California, you can bet that Apple's stock price will get an even bigger bump, in anticipation of possibly higher sales if Samsung faces the possibility more products will be banned. Samsung might even have to pay huge royalty.
Or maybe that case will just be appealed and appealed again, and not be settled for years.
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