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  • Any Show Stoppers from Tim Cook?

    May 30th, 2013

    It’s fair to say that Apple CEO Tim Cook has the ability to imply much while saying little. As the result, he can generate plenty of headlines about what Apple might be planning. And by parsing the sentences and phrases, you might find room to speculate about a forthcoming product.

    So there’s Apple’s “hobby,” the Apple TV set top box that was never promoted beyond simple announcements at media events, but still managed to sell some six million copies in 2012, for a total of 13 million since the product was originally launched in 2007. It may not be so much different from the competition, but Roku and the rest are hardly mentioned. It’s all about Apple TV, and where Apple hopes to take it.

    During his interview at the D11 conference sponsored by AllThingsD, Tim Cook spoke of Apple’s “grand vision” for conquering the living room. Well actually that’s pretty much what he said, that he was dissatisfied with the current state of the TV experience, there was a “grand vision,” and that’s it. Will it be a souped up Apple TV set top box, an Apple smart TV, or something altogether different isn’t certain. When Apple is ready, you’ll know, or at least the run-up to the product’s introduction will be heralded by the usual spate of rumors and possible press leaks. The marketing plan will be carefully calculated to attract as much interest as possible.

    But it’s a sure thing it won’t happen at the WWDC, which doesn’t cater to a strictly consumer audience.

    What will happen, however, is that there will be new versions of iOS and OS X, and it appeared Cook was paying more attention to the former, since that OS powers Apple’s largest cash cows. Yes, designer Jonathan Ive is working on both software and hardware these days, so there will be many changes, and most may be visual. Maps is also getting better, but Cook admitted more work had to be done. But that’s nothing that isn’t obvious from using it and comparing the performance and accuracy to the train wreck that debuted last September.

    During the interview, Cook explained why it takes a year to make an all-new iPhone, but didn’t dismiss the possibility of other models, at different prices. His comments on the subject at D11 began with the fact that the iPod is available at different price points to satisfy different users and different needs. The closest he came to an admission of additional iPhone variations was the statement that they haven’t done it up to now, but “that doesn’t shut off the future.”

    A smokescreen, or an admission that more than one iPhone model will arrive by fall? Consider that Apple’s usual “we don’t comment on future products” stance was loosened ever so slightly, which will keep the speculation coming. But I’m sure that was Cook’s intention.

    Unfortunately, most of the questions asked at such sessions are predictable, which no doubt gave Cook and his team plenty of time to devise the right answers, and reveal just the amount of information they cared to disclose. Sure, there was a brief Q&A session after the interview ended, but it’s not as if you might have learned much that was new. If you’ve followed Apple pretty closely, there were few surprises.

    As expected, Cook isn’t enamored with Google Glass, but doesn’t dismiss the prospect of wearable devices in general and what purposes they’d fulfill. That tells you that something is afoot, but it’s not at all certain if it’ll be an iWatch or something else.

    My personal take on all this is that, yes, there is an Apple connected TV and even an iWatch in Apple’s development labs. There are no doubt products that we can’t even suspect, and perhaps some will undergo preliminary production runs. Supply chain leaks will fuel the rumors and there will be growing expectations about this or that product. However, that doesn’t mean any of them will really be launched.

    So it’s a sure thing that the transcript of Cook’s presentation at AllThingsD will be carefully scrutinized, and the text carefully parsed to see if he revealed something unexpected. Cook is smart enough to make it seem as if he’s telling you something, but when you actually examine the words, you find that there is little or no solid information.

    I suppose, however, that the interview serves as a suitable preview for the WWDC keynote. You know that there will be new operating systems to talk about. It’s also quite likely that there will be upgraded MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, and possibly a Mac mini, since it uses similar parts. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear word about a major refresh for the aging Mac Pro lineup at long last, and I expect that the redesign will be more severe than a simple parts swap.

    Sure, Cook didn’t promise any major product intros until the fall, so maybe the Mac Pro won’t ship for a while. But if you were expecting word of the next iPhone, the next iPad, or an “incredible” new product, keep waiting.



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