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Apple’s New Product Doublespeak

Based on what Tim Cook said at Apple’s last quarterly conference call with financial analysts, the conventional wisdom has it that the company isn’t going to release a single new product until the fall. That perceived product draught is one reason why the stock price, and media expectations, have been suffering in recent weeks, and why some complain Apple lost it. But what’s really going on?

While it’s not always easy to figure out what Apple is really up to, there are signs that at least some new gear may not be so far away after all. Take a published report from AppleInsider that the inventory of the MacBook Air appears to be dwindling. While it may not be evidence of anything more than a supply shift, you would expect that Apple would be cutting shipments in the weeks ahead of a product refresh. The timing is just too perfect.

Intel’s latest and greatest chips, known as Haswell, are due for release in June. The new processors are predictably faster, more power efficient, and have better integrated graphics. There’s little doubt that Apple will install those chips into Macs as soon as it makes sense, which is when they are shipping in reasonable quantities.

The next WWDC is slated to begin June 10, and assuming there are no delays in shipping those processors, you should expect to hear a brief announcement during the keynote address about refreshed MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros. There are some who suggest Retina displays may take longer to arrive, assuming they are harder to obtain in decent quantities. But if Apple can meet current demand without difficulty, and the displays are essentially the same, it shouldn’t make a difference. The real question is whether Apple will begin to phase out conventional displays, and even introduce a MacBook Air with the higher resolution screens. Regardless, expecting new Mac note-books in June may be a given.

But since it will just be a simple product update, it doesn’t mean Cook was necessarily lying about the new product timeframe. The iPhone and iPad refreshes, expected in the fall, are most likely going to be more significant. The rumors suggest that the iPad mini will inherit a Retina display and the regular iPad will be thinner and lighter. And if there is a new Apple TV, or an Apple smart TV set, you would expect the fall to be ideal times for their introduction, probably at special events in October. The same would hold true if there is an iWatch in our future, or something that the media has yet to predict.

When it comes to that updated Mac that will be built in the good old U.S.A., it might be announced at WWDC, but not ship till maybe September. I still think it will be a Mac Pro, but some suggest that the Mac mini is a more suitable candidate, since it also does not require especially complicated assembly schemes, and may better justify a $100 million investment because of far higher potential sales. But don’t forget that the Mac Pro sells for a whole lot more, even for the entry-level model, with fully-outfitted boxes selling for upwards of $10,000. Yes, it really makes a lot of sense, right?

Besides, Apple is also preparing to unveil OS 10.9 and iOS 7 at the WWDC. But clearly the two OS upgrades won’t ship then. Developers will have a couple of months or so to play with them before the final releases, which may happen by August or September. If they do ship before fall, Apple can simply boast of beating expectations, as if it’ll matter.

Regardless of what Apple does, the media will probably be disappointed. The product refresh won’t be refreshed enough. The OS upgrades won’t be sufficient to keep Apple from being overwhelmed by the competition. The degree of those changes seldom matters. It can’t be enough unless Apple introduces a revolutionary product that totally upends a market. Of course, when that happens, you can be sure that the usual offenders will tell us how Apple cannot possibly succeed entering a market they know absolutely nothing about.

Just think back to the original iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. They were not good enough, or irrelevant to Apple’s perceived focus. Of course, with Tim Cook in charge, maybe Apple has no focus, since some believe that Steve Jobs micromanaged every little element of a new product, including preparing blueprints and specifying the chip layouts, and thus the rest of the staff did nothing but send the plans to Foxconn to build in massive quantities.

I suppose, however, there will be some industry analysts who will actually think about what they are saying, and engage in reasoned evaluation of the prospects for Apple’s upcoming products. They will continue to realize that what the competition usually produces is not really so innovative after all.