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Apple and a Finger Snap

It appears to be a common theme these days that Apple is in a huge pickle if a few markets aren’t overturned on a monthly basis. It doesn’t matter that six years passed between the introduction of the iPod and the iPhone, and another three before the iPad came to be. Resting on one’s laurels isn’t good enough.

However, it’s also true that Apple’s competitors aren’t upsetting markets. Samsung may be doing well, but they used the iPhone as an inspiration for the Galaxy S series. Yes, the newly-released S4 may sell out. It has gotten decent reviews, but many of the pundits are also saying that Samsung is just throwing stuff at the wall, hoping some things will stick. At least there’s an “Easy Mode” in the S4, so you can turn off the junk and actually use the thing without app overload getting in the way.

Tablets? Well, Microsoft did tell you that tablets were the future of personal computing, but nobody listened till the iPad came along and created the blueprint for others to follow. For better or worse, except for the Surface, what has come since is heavily influenced by the iPad. Anyone seriously believe Amazon’s Kindle revolutionized the tablet market?

So is Apple the only company that’s supposed to upend the tech industry on a regular basis? Where are the innovations from all the rest? And packing on loads of junk features onto a gadget isn’t innovation. It’s all about bloat and having useless stuff to promote in ads. It’s not whether the iPad mini will eventually get a Retina display, but that the form factor exists in the first place because of something Apple did.

But I can see where the media and the financial community are disappointed because of what Tim Cook said during the quarterly call with financial analysts, that Apple’s new stuff wouldn’t begin to arrive until the fall, meaning in September. Why not earlier? Isn’t there something Apple could toss together to demonstrate that they haven’t lost their cool?

Well, what about the next versions of iOS and OS X? They will apparently be on display at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June (where tickets were sold out in three minutes flat, a record). It makes sense to show late betas, with perhaps a promise to introduce both before the end of September. Sure, OS 10.9, the presumed version number, will be arriving a couple of months later than some expected, or hoped. But it may also deliver some fundamental changes to the interface — ditto for iOS 7 — as the result of Jonathan Ive assuming control of the human interface section. Clearly it would take a little extra time to bake in critical changes. It wouldn’t serve anyone to release buggy products and put up with the abuse just to allow Apple to get something out earlier.

Remember what happened with Maps for iOS 6. If Apple had another three months or so to clean up the worst defects, or maybe even called it a public beta from the get go, maybe the fallout wouldn’t have been so severe. Certainly it fueled the meme that Tim Cook’s Apple lost sight of releasing good products, forgetting the defective stuff that appeared with the stamp of Steve Jobs all over it.

Don’t forget the Power Mac G4 Cube, or the various failed iterations of Apple’s online services under the regime of Jobs. Even iCloud isn’t quite there yet, although there are some 300 million users, according to Apple. However, far too many commentators don’t want to be bothered by facts.

But I do understand why Cook mentioned fall as the start of Apple’s major product intro season. If he hadn’t done so, the media would have been clamoring for immediate revelations about the next great product introduction, and why everything has been delayed. This way, the rumor mill won’t be fully activated until a few weeks before the new gear is announced, but that doesn’t mean Apple can’t do a fast refresh.

Take the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. One report has it that note-books featuring Intel’s new Haswell chips could be in production by May, and perhaps go on sale around the time of the WWDC. It wouldn’t merit more than a press release, but it could boost Mac note-book sales for the June quarter and keep a Mac sales upturn going until fall. Apple might also announce the next generation Mac Pro, or whatever it’ll be called, for release in September. Sales impact to existing product will be minimal, since not that many Mac Pros are being sold these days anyway. A Haswell-based iMac refresh could occur by September or October. Since the 2013 iMac will be otherwise the same as the 2012 model, except for perhaps more powerful graphics engine, production bottlenecks should not occur.

Another question: Will Apple relent and deliver an iPhone with larger screen sizes? Cook referred to the trade-offs of larger displays during the quarterly conference call. That’s step one towards stating that the trade-offs have been resolved, paving the way for a supposed iPhone 5X, with the larger display.

Those hoping for instant gratification will remain disappointed, and the stock market is still digesting the news.