As we approach the second quarter of 2013, and Apple’s stock price remains down in the dumps, you have to wonder what the company is preparing for its next act. So far this year, Apple product changes or refreshes have been relatively minor in the scheme of things. The MacBook Pro with Retina display may be cheaper, or at least a little faster. You can get a 128GB version of the full-sized iPad, and a more power efficient chip is being used on the Apple TV. The phrase” big deal” doesn’t even come close.
Through this period, there have been loads of predictions about the next major Apple product launch. Some suggested a new iPhone, perhaps an iPhone 5s, which will look much the same as the current version with new stuff inside, will arrive this summer. Last year, the iPhone refresh occurred in September. But inasmuch as T-Mobile will only start carrying the iPhone 5 in April, that would mean a short shelf life. With a new carrier and a new marketing scheme that allegedly frees you of carrier contracts and early termination fees, maybe Apple will move a few million more iPhones in the next quarter.
Besides, Apple has traditionally released new iPhones with a new version of the iOS. Unless something is announced real soon now, details won’t emerge beyond the rumors until the WWDC, which will probably happen in June. What’s more, Apple will want to give developers at least a few weeks to check the betas, so that still takes us to an August or September timeframe.
But since no Apple media events have been announced so far this year, speculation reigns supreme. I’m just trying to take a middle-of-the-road approach and look at what’s reasonable rather than delve into baseless analysis and predictions. At the same time, I recognize that Apple is under severe pressure to produce and produce big in light of growing skepticism about continuing record-shattering growth patterns.
An iPhone may be the least of it, whether a new one arrives this summer or a bit later in the year. Let’s skip all the talk about whether Apple can compete with other players in the smartphone space, such as the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Let’s move to the “lowly” iPad. About the only possible certainty nowadays is that the iPad mini has or will become the best selling iPad. But when is Apple going to add a Retina display to the mini? Inquiring minds want to know, but it’ll all come down to whether Apple can continue to deliver the tablet for the same price with the display enhancement.
One larger issue is that other companies continue to attempt to play defense about what Apple may be doing, and deliver products that attempt to address the anticipated competition. In 2010, a number of tablets, mostly prototypes, were in evidence at the Consumer Electronics Show amid expectations that Apple was poised to enter the tablet space later that year. When the iPad came out — and the form factor was fairly predictable in light of the iPhone — many of those products vanished in the haze.
As the result of a statement about discovering the secret of the best TV interface ever in the authorized biography of Steve Jobs, the tech industry was clearly spooked. More and more so-called smart TVs were introduced at the 2012 and 2013 editions of the Consumer Electronics Show. You even saw so-called 4K TVs, which is, I suppose, roughly the equivalent of adding a Retina display on a Mac insofar as improving picture quality was concerned. This is the natural evolution of the TV industry, of course, but it was also, in part, about anticipating Apple’s next move.
Other than continuing the Apple TV “hobby,” Apple hasn’t indicated yet how interest in the living room will reveal itself in new cutting-edge products. The “interest” has yet to be defined, so the media continues to suggest the form factor of the alleged Apple smart TV. The latest round of speculation has it that Apple is considering 4K, but without actual 4K source material from the usual content providers, it’s just one of those neat ideas that may take years to appear in an affordable product that people can really use. A 4K today from Apple would be as much a fancy toy for the one percent as the ones from the rest of the TV industry. Besides, at a normal viewing distance, picture quality may actually not be that much better.
I won’t get into the iWatch, except to point out that, yet again, such companies as Samsung are working on their answer to something from Apple that still doesn’t exist.
It doesn’t help that Apple has been relatively quiet on the new product front, despite tantalizing hints that great things are in the works. But the question is when the next media event will be scheduled. Will it be about OS X and iOS, new iPads, new iPhones, something in the watch or TV space? Or are we all looking for answers in the wrong place?